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Published On: Wed, Jan 8th, 2014

Day in History: ‘War on Poverty’ turns 50 started under Lyndon B Johnson

The War on Poverty is the unofficial name for legislation first introduced by President Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964.

This legislation was proposed by Johnson in response to a national poverty rate of around nineteen percent.

Following the speech, Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act, which established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to administer the local application of federal funds targeted against poverty.

As a part of the Great Society, Johnson believed in expanding the government’s role in education and health care as poverty reduction strategies. These policies can also be seen as a continuation of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which ran from 1933 to 1935, and the Four Freedoms of 1941.

The popularity of a war on poverty waned after the 1960s. Deregulation, growing criticism of the welfare state, and an ideological shift to reducing federal aid to impoverished people in the 1980s and 1990s culminated in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, which, as claimed President Bill Clinton, “end[ed] welfare as we know it.”

The day President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964

The day President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964

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