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Johnson’s ‘War on Poverty’ still a political battlefront
SOCIAL WELFARE » 5 decades later, President Johnson’s programs are still a political battlefront, and, while poverty has not disappeared, supporters say it might have been worse without initiatives.


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"In those areas, kids grow up thinking they don’t have any economic prospects," Steagall said. "You get a psychological thing coming into play. They don’t think they can share in the American Dream."

Without education and economic opportunity, poverty can prevail from generation to generation despite government programs, said Paul Schvaneveldt, chairman of Child and Family Studies at Weber State. He is among researchers working with Workforce Services on how to break the cycle of "intergenerational poverty."

At a glance

LBJ’s War on Poverty goals:

Accelerate economic growth, maintain high employment, fight discrimination, improve regional economies, rehabilitate urban and rural communities, improve labor markets, expand educational opportunities, enlarge opportunities for youth, improve the nation’s health, promote adult education and training, and assist the aged and disabled.

Source: “Legacies of the War on Poverty,” the Russell Sage Foundation.

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Since LBJ’s historic 1964 State of the Union address, far more families — almost three times as many, according to the census bureau — are single-parent households with no male breadwinner. Of that group, 48 percent live in poverty, he said. And the female offspring in those families have a higher rate of teenage pregnancy than two-parent homes, leading to one generation after another locked in poverty,

"It can be difficult to break that pregnancy pattern," Schvaneveldt said.

Key to breaking the poverty cycle is early and continued education, he said. Without it, young adults are shackled to a lifetime of low-wage jobs.

"Historically, you could get a job in manufacturing and support a family," he said. "Today that is more difficult and labor salaries have not kept pace [with inflation and the cost of living]."

Wrenching change • LBJ could not have imagined in 1964 the United States of 2014, where workers have been replaced by technology, the U of U’s Perlich noted. "Entire categories of jobs have been wiped out."

Even workers with education and specialized training have not gained economic ground over the past three decades, she said. "Middle-class people have been treading water since 1983."

There is a clear trend toward "economic inequality," helped along by tax policies for corporations, a dwindling labor movement and the drive for short-term profits.


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"This has been a horrible, wrenching period for many Americans," Perlich said.

And the War on Poverty slogs on.

csmart@sltrib.com



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