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Robert Rector: Losing the War

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Posted on March 18 2010 12:00 pm
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by Robert Rector

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the War on Poverty. On March 16, 1964, Pres. Lyndon Johnson announced a new government mobilization that he claimed would yield “total victory” against poverty in the United States. Johnson promised his “war” would be an “investment” that would “return its cost manifold to the entire economy.”

The War on Poverty sparked an astonishing growth in what is called “means-tested” welfare — that is, programs targeted exclusively toward poor and low-income Americans. (By contrast, programs such as Social Security and Medicare are not means-tested and provide assistance to the elderly across the entire population.) The means-tested welfare system today comprises more than 70 federal programs, including food stamps, public housing, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Medicaid.

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