WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – It was 50 years ago Wednesday that then-President Lyndon B. Johnson proposed a war on poverty in his 1964 State of the Union Address.
After five decades of programs like Medicare and Medicaid, while poverty hasn’t ended, the programs launched as part of the Great Society have helped hundreds of millions of people improve their lives.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, after adjusting for inflation, between 1967 and 2012, overall poverty fell from 26 percent to 16 percent. In addition, the CBPP found that poverty fell over the same period of time for children from 29 to 19 percent and in the elderly from 47 percent to 19 percent.
Wednesday, Senator Marco Rubio gave a speech declaring that the War on Poverty had failed. Senator Rubio also said the government shouldn’t spend more money “on these failed programs.” Additionally, Rubio declined to support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Rubio said he wants to replace the earned income tax credit with a federal subsidy to help people “take a job that pays, say, $18,000 a year, which on its own is not enough to make ends meet – but then receive a federal enhancement to make the job a more enticing alternative to collecting unemployment insurance.”
Among the influential program that the War on Poverty helped launch are: Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Head Start, and other community building programs.
By almost every measure, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Head Start and the expansion of Social Security have benefitted all aspect of society. The Census Bureau reported that today’s social safety net in the U.S., expanded by the War on Poverty, kept 41 million people, including 9 million children, out of poverty.
The Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure finds that if government benefits are excluded, the poverty rate today would be 29 percent. Adding in government benefits from the social safety net programs, the Census Bureau said today’s poverty rate is 16 percent.
Still, the war on poverty has been chipped away at in the past two decades. While Medicare has been largely untouched over the years, Medicaid and Food Stamps have been targeted in recent years for major cuts.
In 2013, the Farm Bill proposed by Congressional Republicans sought to cut tens of billions of dollars in aid through food stamps. Social Security, which was originally instituted in the 1930’s, has been called a Ponzi scheme by some and others have tried to privatize the social safety net program.