The 50th Anniversary of Johnson's War On Poverty

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Peniel Joseph, professor of history, founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, and author, discusses poverty today, 50 years after President Johnson famously declared a "war on poverty" in America.



Peniel Joseph

Comments [15]

ellenote from Manhattan

I wish WNYC had given more time to this segment, thanks to your guest Professor Joseph. While it good to bring in the debates around "undeserving poor" and its racialized origins, it must also be made clear the face of poverty is primarily single mothers with kids -- white, black or hispanic. It would of been more informative if Prof Joseph would of made mention of this in his discussion of transformation of welfare (formerly Aid to Families with Ddependant Children, or AFDC) to workfare under Clinton Administration (known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, TANF).

Jan. 08 2014 12:05 PM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

@BK from Hoboken

The fact that 47% of American taxpayers do not earn enough money to have a Federal tax liability is a sign of the bad distribution of income that I am speaking of.

"...we can't tax our way to eliminating poverty or inequality"

Agreed, but current tax policy is making things worse rather than better. We need to tax with far more progressive rates. We could possibly step back from taxing income as much, if we taxed wealth a little more. We need to close tax loopholes and keep them closed.

Our current tax policy, esp. the differential between capital gains and savings needs to be reformed.

Jan. 08 2014 11:57 AM

BL -- "There is no lobby against the poor."

There may not be a toll free number, but the goal by many Americans, especially in NYC, is not to be well off or wealthy. To many, being rich means one thing: having ALL the money.

Your neighbors, your workers, former classmates, parents of your children's friends, your waiters, drivers, teachers, ALL POOR. Best to have a decent number of them without legal papers as well, so they can't even vote your lapdog politicians and judges out.

Jan. 08 2014 11:49 AM
Andrea from Manhattan

Apart from the merits and problems with the Affordable Care Act,it has as a key metric for formulating benefits your household income relative to the U.S. Poverty Level. That a complex program was built around this notion, says that the poverty level is well-entrenched and not a priority for eradication. A very sad commentary about our rich nation.

Jan. 08 2014 11:44 AM
Bob from Westchester, NY

@ jgarbuz: Antisemitism is the historical norm, too. Doesn't mean we should accept it as inevitable.

Jan. 08 2014 11:39 AM
BK from Hoboken

@RUCB- I understand your concern about the data you present, but I can't imagine that tax policy would have much impact here. Not to get all MittmRomney on you, but when 47% of taxpayers already pay no federal income tax, you can't lower their taxes any more (obviously on a local/state basis there is some wiggle room). Just like the Fed cant lower interest rates below their current levels, you need to find new ways to change the situation. Initiatives like the many minimum wage ones would help. Tying minimum wage to job levels as well (if a job has a GED requirement, employer has to pay $10/hr, but if the job officially requires BA/Bs, employer must pay $15/hr or something). Just throwing stuff out there, but we can't tax our way to eliminating poverty or inequality.

Jan. 08 2014 11:37 AM
LouiseM from North Brunswick NJ

Don't say that Democrats are representing the "poor" - say that they are representing the *aspirational." Then politics can concentrate of programs that increase access to education, to jobs, to the mechanics of government itself...instead of programs viewed as "handouts."

Jan. 08 2014 11:37 AM
The Truth from Becky

Never conjured up an image of "poor Black people" to me...guess because I know the truth is that the majority of welfare recipients are white.

Every road leads to race, tired of that.

Jan. 08 2014 11:36 AM
Estelle from Brooklyn

For the Tea Party at least, the war on poverty is now a war on the poor.

Jan. 08 2014 11:35 AM
Estelle from Brooklyn

For the Tea Party at least, the war on poverty is now a war on the poor.

Jan. 08 2014 11:35 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Coercive force is also the historical norm - slavery, feudalism, peonage - but that does not make it just.

Jan. 08 2014 11:28 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Was Dr. King's shift to poverty an extension of his pursuit of racial justice; was he pursuing redress for the effects of 400 years? Would love to hear Mr. Joseph's thoughts on this.

Jan. 08 2014 11:27 AM

All the way with LBJ — 2016!

Jan. 08 2014 11:24 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Poverty is the historical norm; wealth is the exception.

Jan. 08 2014 10:59 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

As anyone who has read more than three of my posts in this space knows, average income has tracked CPI while GDP has grown at least TWO PERCENTAGE POINTS per year faster than that. [Wages double every 16-18 years, the economy every 10-11.] The overall effect has been to edge the middle tier earners closer to POOR than ever before.

The tax policies and attitudes that let us give more to that segment that already has enough are still in place. Until that changes I'd say the war on poverty has been lost.

Jan. 08 2014 10:35 AM

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