Lyndon Johnson's Programs
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President Lyndon Johnson implemented programs in 1965 that were designed to eliminate poverty. Known as the Great Society, Johnson's social programs aimed at assisting America's poor were effective in many ways. This essay will discuss why Johnson's policies during the Great Society era were successful, the specific programs he implemented, and the main policy initiatives of the Great Society. This examination will demonstrate that Johnson's Great Society owed its success to many factors, including a thriving U.S. economy, its policy of assisting the poor in gaining a level of self-reliance and preparing them for economic opportunities, and a widespread appeal that provided assistance for many groups of American citizens.
Lyndon Johnson's policies were successful for many reasons, but its acceptance by the American public was largely due to its aim to prepare able-bodied, economically disadvantaged people to go to work. A key element of Johnson's war on poverty was his announcement that "the days of the dole in this country are numbered" . In other words, Johnson's Great Society was designed to provide short-term assistance to the able-bodied poor in order for them regain enough economic stability and escape poverty. This belief was supported by the New York Times, which claimed that the ultimate benefits of Johnson's policies would be gained through "the long-term reduction of the need for government assistance".
While many conservatives have declared Johnson's war on poverty and its policies a failure in terms of eliminating poverty, others point to its clear success. For example, from 1963, when Johnson became President, until 1970, when the impact of his Great Society programs were most apparent, the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 22.2 percent to 12.6 percent, which was the largest decline in poverty in America during the twentieth century. Based on poverty levels prior to the implementation of Johnson's anti-poverty policies, there would be 24 million more Americans living below the poverty level in 1999.
Another reason for the success of Johnson's policies was his administration's effort to change the role of the federal government for millions of Americans. During his administration, Congress enacted more than 100 major proposals, changing the public's perception of government from to neither a "bad man to be tarred and feathered nor a bag man to collect campaign contributions, but an instrument to help the most vulnerable in our society" . However, the strong state of the U.S. economy also played a major role in the success of Johnson's anti-poverty policies. Because the thriving economy offered many people excellent opportunities, including a 1964 tax cut, which made many Americans willing to share the wealth.