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LBJ's Mistake Was Promising to "Win" the War on Poverty

Roundup: Media's Take
tags: LBJ, War on Poverty



Jonathan Cohn is a senior editor at The New Republic.

Many conservatives are marking the War on Poverty’s 50th anniversary with a predictable mix of contempt and distortion. A case in point is “The Fifty-Year War,” an article by the editors of National Review, which declares “the number of Americans living in poverty is higher today than it was in 1964, while the poverty rate has held steady at just under one in five.”

Are more Americans living in poverty today? Sure. But in 1964, less than 200 million people lived in the U.S. Today, more than 300 million do. In other words, the population as a whole has increased by more than half.

Has the official poverty rate hovered around one-in-five since that time? Yes. But it has fluctuated. And, as most experts will tell you, the official poverty rate fails to account for safety net supports like food stamps, housing vouchers, and the Earned Income Tax Credit program. An alternative poverty measure, developed by Columbia University researchers and designed to capture these effects, shows that poverty has indeed fallen. See the graph below, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Note that even this measure understates the progress, because it does not count the impact of government-provided health insurance, particularly Medicare and Medicaid, both of which took effect in 1966....

Read entire article at The New Republic


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