Bloomberg’s Promise of a New ‘War on Poverty’ Echoes Past Government Failures

“There has to be a war on poverty,” says Michael Bloomberg. Does he know how the last one turned out?

by Steven Greenhut

During his first inaugural address in 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared a no-holds-barred federal “war on poverty” that promised not only to improve poor people’s economic conditions—but to address the fundamental causes of their despair. “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty,” he said, “but to cure it, above all, to prevent it.”

LBJ promised to help poor Americans become self-sufficient, but mostly touted an array of familiar-sounding proposals—hiking the minimum wage, investing more money in public schools, building public-housing projects and creating new or expanded income-support programs. His economic-development ideas promised to uplift African-Americans in urban slums, Native Americans on reservations and whites in Appalachia.

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