The war on Poverty transcends politics, or at least it should.
55 years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the “Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. It was the major legislative piece of his “War on Poverty.” It devoted over 1 billion dollars to creating programs such as Title I, Medicare, Medicaid, Job Corps, Head Start and Food Stamps to help the many in this country whose opportunities were limited by economic disadvantage.
There is ample disagreement to be sure on the success of President Johnson’s “War On Poverty.” Five decades later, there is no question that it has helped many. Others might say that it has hurt many by increasing the American tax burden, and making people lazy and dependent on government aid.
Can we all agree on one thing? We should be working to reduce the amount of people living in poverty in this country.
You might approach it in the spirt of compassion and kindness. You might say that a country in which three quarters of the people claim to be Christian, what would Jesus want us to do? Turn our backs? I don’t think so. If you don’t think we should be working to help the least fortunate amongst us, please stop calling yourself a Christian.
You might approach it from a business stand point. Wouldn’t it be better for your business if more people had money to spend? Wouldn’t your business do better if there weren’t homeless people living in front of it? Wouldn’t it be better to help the less fortunate become succesful so you wouldn’t have to spend so much of your tax money taking care of them?
Think about poverty in terms of what it has cost us in ways harder to define and measure. Is it possible that some of the world’s greatest minds which could have been used to heal, cure, teach, and lead were never allowed to flourish because they couldn’t afford education. Or how about if they could never do well in school because they were always hungry or constantly moving from place to place? We will never fully realize the potential and promise that we missed out on because they were left unrevealed by the shackles of poverty.
Do you fear crime? When people have food, safety, security and a reasonable place to live, they are a lot less likely to commit crimes. Wouldn’t it be much easier to prevent someone from becoming a criminal than trying to fix them once they’ve gone down that path?
Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” didn’t work out as well as he had hoped. You don’t have to look too hard to find people living in crippling poverty any where you go. But, I commend him for trying. It would be great if more of our leaders put fighting poverty at the top of their priority lists. Of all the mistakes a leader might make, I don’t mind the ones that are meant trying to help people.
Poverty is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It is a human issue. What are the solutions? I don’t know. The questions on how to fight poverty are many, long, and complex.
But…..shouldn’t we be asking them?
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