In 1964, President Lindon Baines Johnson introduced a new plan for our society in his “State of the Union” address. He put together a plan that on the surface would end poverty, and would also end most of the discriminatory issues of our time. It was called the “Great Society” and it was one of the most comprehensive plans ever to be put before congress and the American people. As a society we embraced the plan, and we endeavored to make our country a fairer and more accommodating place for all Americans. Most Americans were hopeful that this plan would be the panacea to end poverty and discrimination, and the majority of Americans were hopeful that this would do the trick. Every good deed has a downside, and so did the “Great Society”. Unintended consequences became evident as the plan was rolled out, and the plan aimed at the black community, and made them slaves to entitlements. “Many of the liberal social policies instituted as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” inadvertently hurt African American families.”(Ohio State News, Feb. 29, 2004)
The plan was very comprehensive:
Banned poll taxes in federal elections.
Banned discrimination and segregation in schools, the workplace, and public accommodations based on race, color, sex, religion, and national origin.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Provided financial aid for urban mass transit systems.
Urban Mass Transportation Act
Authorized Head Start, Job Corps, Work-Study programs, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Neighborhood Youth Corps, and Community Action Programs (CAPS).
Economic Opportunity Act
Strengthened the agricultural economy and provided an improved level of nutrition to low income families.
Food Stamp Act
Banned commercial use in over nine million acres of national forest.
Wilderness Preservation Act
Established Medicare, a health insurance plan for people 65 and older, and Medicaid, a health insurance plan for the poor.
Social Security Acts
Enacted to guarantee enforcement of the 14th and 15th Amendments by eliminating voter literacy tests and discriminatory practices that kept minority populations from voting.
Voting Rights Act
Abolished the National Origins Formula that gave preferential status to immigrants from Northern Europe. Allowed equal immigration status, yet continued to restrict the number of immigrants per year.
Immigration and Nationality Act
Provided federal scholarships, low-interest loans, and financial aid.
Higher Education Act
Provided equal access, high standards, and accountability for primary and secondary education.
Elementary and Secondary Education Act
Administered federal housing programs, commonly referred to as “HUD.”
Department of Housing and Urban Development Act
Enacted the “Model Cities” program to rehabilitate urban areas facing increased violence and poverty through the funding of improvement projects.
Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act
Truth in Packaging Act
Set standards for labeling consumer products( Evaluating The Success of The Great Society, Washington Post, 2014)
We are going to concentrate on the elimination of poverty in this essay, but the plan was one
of the greatest that were ever considered in the history of the country, and it did pass with bi-
Poverty was addressed in a very aggressive manner. Welfare was increased exponentially.
No longer did most underprivileged people go hungry in our country. Food stamps and food
banks took care of that. Health care was afforded to people through the Medicare and
Medicaid. Public housing was afforded for people that would otherwise be homeless. Financial
Aid was afforded for both education and housing. In effect, poverty was eradicated in the USA,
and no one that wanted to have a place to live, food to eat, or in need of healthcare needed to
worry in our country. (The Great Society at 50, Tim Worstall) In effect, the “Great Society” did
what it was designed to do.
It eliminated poverty, and the poverty level, when considering both monetary dispersions and
non-monetary benefits, today our poverty level has gone down from 25% to 12%.( Evaluating
the Success of the Great Society, The Washington Post, 2014)
Our poor, with government benefits, were going to the movies, living in housing with
furniture, heat and air conditioning, had adequate diets, even owning cars. They were in effect,
more prosperous than many in other countries were that were productive members of those
societies. There is the problem in a nutshell. Our people that we have taken out of poverty,
were taken out without any requirement for them to be productive. They did not have to work
another day in their lives, and their basic needs were guaranteed. “Welfare dependence is at an
all-time high and by all indications set to climb in the years ahead.”( The Great Society at 50,
Nicholas Eberstandt) We missed the mark!
We solved poverty, but we did not consider productivity! We also put into place a system
that systematically destroyed the black family, making it impossible for an intact family to
collect benefits if a man was part of the process. Our plan to eliminate poverty, created a social
rather than an economic poverty that to this day is one of the biggest social issues of our time.
“We still live in the shadow of the Great Society”. (A Not So Great Society, James Pierson 2016)
We have spent a lot of money on the Great Society. In fact, more money than most people
“It has been estimated the the War on Poverty has cost $22
trillion since its inception. That’s three times the combined
cost of every war this country has ever fought – from the
Revolutionary War until the present day – according to
Roughly another $1 trillion dollars is added to that amount
each year and the cost will continue to increase unless we
address welfare reform in a serious manner.”
(A Not So Great Society, Jame Pierson, 2016)
To get people off the welfare rolls, and to get them prepared for the job market today is most
important. We need to train our people for the present and the future job markets. It is
imperative that welfare programs are modified in order to ensure that minority families can stay
in-tact. A father figure for minority boys is most important, and that needs to be addressed.
In our society today, we are going under a revolution in economics. We are fast going to a
post-industrial economy to an economy that is leaning quickly to one that embraces artificial
intelligence. This means that skill sets need to be centered around technology, and the
manipulation thereof. In order to insure economic growth that will support our population
long-term, we need to educate our people for the present and the future. With the exception
of production jobs that require a close ended distribution channel and elimination of high
transportation costs, people need to be trained for the technology of today and the future. In
addition, others need to be trained in tradesmen jobs that are now and will be in the future
high earning professions. Educating our people for the present and the future is a much better
outcome than simply creating a sub-class of people dependent on the government for their
basic needs. We need to ensure that all of our citizens are given the opportunity to succeed, not
just to subsist! Once we do that, we will truly have in our hands the “Great Society” that our
forefathers dreamed of! A wise person in ancient China once said “Give a man a fish, and you
feed him for one day. Teach a man to fish, and he will have food for a lifetime!” We will never
solve the poverty issue entirely. Even Jesus spoke on this subject. “The poor will always be
with you”. (NIV John 12:18) We can, however, create an environment where everyone in our
society who wants to succeed will be given the tools to achieve that lofty goal!
NIV bible, John 12:18 “The poor will always be with us”
A Not So Great Society, James Pierson, Weekly Standard, Sept 30, 2016
The Great Society at 50; Yes, It Has Abolished Poverty, The Weekly Standard, Tim Worstall, May 22,2014
The Great Society at 50, The Weekly Standard, Nicholas Eberstandt, May 20, 2014
Federal Programs To Help African-American Families Have Ultimately Harmed Them, Ohio State News, February 29, 2004
“Why the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer” by Robert B. Reich
“What College Means to the Other America” • W.E.B. DuBois excerpt from
Souls of Black Folk