It's Politically Dangerous to Talk About Poverty
It's even more dangerous to try to do something about it.
President Johnson had "a way" with his Congress. This Texan was famous for corralling a recalcitrant Senator up against the wall in the Oval Office and "reading him the riot act." Aside from being able to endlessly extend the Central Asian war in Vietnam, Johnson accomplished an astonishing number of other rather impressive, rather progressive, objectives during his administration -- but still, many of the techniques he employed to this end were unquestionably "meat handed" in a way that only a towering Texas politician could muster.
|Lyndon Johnson left office in 1969. [image WP]|
It must be noted that during this period many of the Republicans in Congress were still somewhat stable; FOX hate radio had not yet been invented; and, over 20% of the US population was in the throes of dire, more or less permanent, poverty. Although it took a prolonged, agonizing, political bloodbath to put Johnson's "Great Society" anti-poverty programs into law, we can see the effect in the chart [right].
By 1970, ten years after Johnson left office, the national poverty rate had declined from over 20% to less than 12%. It remained at this lower level until the "poverty creating" policies of the Reagan era policy of upward wealth redistribution boosted it back up to over 15% -- roughly where it is now. 
The Great Society at 50
LBJ's unprecedented and ambitious domestic vision changed the nation.
Half a century later it continues to define politics and power in America
By Karen Tumulty
May 17, 2014
[Excerpted. Read the entire article here The Great Society at 50/Washington Post]
One day shortly after starting his new job as presidential adviser and speechwriter, Richard N. Goodwin was summoned to see the boss. Not to the Oval Office, but to the White House swimming pool, where Lyndon B. Johnson often went to ruminate.
Goodwin found the leader of the free world naked, doing a languorous sidestroke. Johnson invited him and top aide Bill Moyers to doff their own clothes: “Come on in, boys. It’ll do you good.”
It was an unorthodox manner of conducting official business. As they bobbed in the tepid water, the president “began to talk as if he were addressing some larger, imagined audience of the mind,” Goodwin later wrote in his memoir.
The 32-year-old speechwriter forgot his chagrin as he was drawn by “the powerful flow of Johnson’s will, exhorting, explaining, trying to tell me something about himself, seeking not agreement — he knew he had that — but belief.”
This happened in early April 1964, just a little more than four months after a tragedy in Dallas had made Johnson the 36th president of the United States.
“I never thought I’d have the power,” Johnson told Goodwin and Moyers. “I wanted power to use it. And I’m going to use it.”
“We’ve got to use the Kennedy program as a springboard to take on the Congress, summon the states to new heights, create a Johnson program, different in tone, fighting and aggressive,” he said. “Hell, we’ve barely begun to solve our problems. And we can do it all.”
Johnson’s vision would come to be known as the Great Society — the most ambitious effort ever to test what American government is capable of achieving. And in doing so, to discover what it is not.
In laying it out, LBJ even set out a specific time frame for it to come to fruition — 50 years, a mark that will be reached on Thursday. Johnson launched his program with a University of Michigan commencement address, delivered on the clear, humid morning of May 22, 1964, in Ann Arbor.
Today, the laws enacted between 1964 and 1968 are woven into the fabric of American life, in ways big and small. They have knocked down racial barriers, provided health care for the elderly and food for the poor, sustained orchestras and museums in cities across the country, put seat belts and padded dashboards in every automobile, garnished Connecticut Avenue in Northwest Washington with red oaks.
“We are living in Lyndon Johnson’s America,” said Joseph A. Califano Jr., who was LBJ’s top domestic policy adviser from 1965 through the end of his presidency. “This country is more the country of Lyndon Johnson than any other president.”
MeanMesa encourages visitors to read this entire article. It is fascinating on its own merit, but in the context of today's desperate politics, Johnson's energetic risk taking approach makes it an almost esoteric encounter. Even though it may appear to a remnant of the distant past, it isn't.
Getting Used to Perpetual Poverty
Welcome to the oligarchy. Borrow some money to regain your standard of living.
The Banksters need your business.
No one is any longer looking to the Congressional millionaires currently in control of the government for any relief from the gnawing factors sustaining these high levels of poverty. Sooner or later, even Republican voters may finally realize that these politicians are not working for anyone who isn't financing their re-election campaigns.
"Fleshing Out" Republican "Leadership"
- They hate science and education. Both represents threats to their political careers.
- They hate infrastructure. If tax money is spent for any project which might be used by the "non-contributing class," they consider it theft.
- They love tax cuts. They have no concern for the long term damage they cause as the hollow out the economy. They have given no thought to the collapse of their "export to low wage workers then import to the domestic market" business plan. Soon enough, none of us will even be able to afford the after market Chinese goods.
- They consider poverty an acceptable price to pay for the creation of their oligarchy.
- They have no concern about the inevitable rise in violence as more and more Americans careen below the poverty line. For them law enforcement and corporate prisons are nothing more than "minor issues" associated with establishing the oligarchy.
MeanMesa sees no evidence that the current unacceptable level of suffering will relent any time soon -- or, perhaps, ever. There is now an eerie silence on the topic from the Democrats.