|Source:American Experience- Presidential historian Robert Dallek, talking about President Lyndon Johnson and his Great Society.|
From American Experience
I've been blogging a lot about poverty in America the last month or so, at least once a week. And with the State of The Union address coming up this Tuesday I will be blogging about past State of the Union speeches. And Lyndon Johnson will be one of those speeches because like him or not he certainly made a mark about how we think about these issues in this country especially as it relates to the role of government especially the Federal Government and what we should do to help the needy in this country.
Robert Dallek Lyndon Johnson's historian may be correct that President Johnson's vision or goals for what he called the War on Poverty, ( I don't like that term myself but thats a different subject ) but Dallek might be right in the sense that maybe what President Johnson wanted to do with the safety net and this broad expansion of it was to empower poor people to be able to live the American dream like the rest of the country. And that all they needed was an education, job training to go along with financial assistance in the short-term to make that happen.
But the problem with the Great Society was similar to the New Deal: these programs weren't really designed that way. But instead designed to help people survive as they live in poverty. My position on public assistance is pretty clear: make it as effective as possible so it becomes obsolete. Meaning its no longer needed and that people won't want to live on it and be comfortable collecting from it.
Public assistance to me is so the people on it only have enough financial assistance to pay their bills, place to live, enough food to eat, enough clothes, basic healthcare. But that they would be under contract, that the way they pay back the country, is by bettering themselves. Getting an education, job training and getting a good job so they can pay back plus interest the financial assistance. They received from people who work for a living.
But for the most part thats not what we got out of the New Deal and Great Society. The basic design was that we have all of these poor people who lack the skills to be able to take care of themselves. "Let's take care of them for them so they don't not only have to starve and so forth. But also so they don't have to take responsibility for their own decisions and for their own lives. Because the Federal Government meaning the tax payers are going to do that for them." And forty seven years later we are still fighting if you want to call it that, this so called War on Poverty.
The Great Society had some good things in it that has helped reduce poverty in America. Early education, Head Start, the Job Core for young people from low income neighborhoods. Medicare and so-forth, but the basic design of it which I biggest problem with welfare state economics or democratic socialism was that most of these programs were designed to take care of people. Rather than empowering these people to be able to take care of themselves.