The Common Good

Want To Win The War On Poverty? For The Sake Of The Most Vulnerable, Let's Work Together

Date: January 10, 2014

The only way to win the War on Poverty is for liberals and conservatives to make peace -- for the sake of the poor. That would be the best way to mark the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, declared by President Lyndon Johnson in his January 1964 State of the Union address. Making peace means replacing ideologies with solutions that actually solve the problems of poverty. With both Republicans and Democrats speaking out on poverty this week, and the recession slowly receding this should be an opportunity to find the focus, commitment, and strategies that could effectively reduce and ultimately eliminate the shameful facts of poverty in the world's richest nation.

For any proposal, the basic question must be whether it helps more people and families rise out of poverty and realize their dreams. This means setting aside political self-interest and thinking beyond our too often inflexible ideologies.

It's certainly impossible to celebrate a victory over poverty in America with our poverty rate still at 15 percent -- 4 percent lower than it was five decades ago -- with 46 million Americans still poor in America. The poverty rate fell by 11 percent in the first 10 years after Johnson's declaration with several new federal programs put into effect, but success dropped off as attention drifted and federal spending shifted to the Vietnam War. Programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, have helped to significantly decrease the poverty rate among the elderly to 9 percent, from 28 percent in 1964. But large numbers of children remain impoverished -- one out of every five kids are poor in America. For black or Hispanic children, that number is one out of three.