L.B.J.'s war on poverty turns 50.

L.B.J.’s War on Poverty turns 50.

IT HAPPENED on January 8, 1964, just months after President John F. Kennedy was murdered, President Johnson delivering a seminal speech on poverty that still rings out today. Listening to it now, all you can take from it is that our presidents pronounce many things, but the Congress very rarely follows through.

The American people never feel it’s their responsibility to do anything, which begins with pushing our leaders to take action. Today that means kicking the politicians out, regardless of common ideology, who refuse to find solutions.

A piece by Major Garrett is worth reading and pondering.

Obama never launched his own war on poverty, but his stimulus law pumped $831 billion into the economy””all of it deficit-financed and designed to soften the blow of the Great Recession.

I asked former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich about the War on Poverty, welfare reform, and the Recovery Act. He described the War on Poverty’s biggest success as lifting seniors out of a life of income insecurity and fear. Like Bernstein, he lauded the EITC. His most interesting comments concerned the Obama stimulus.

“The Recovery Act was helpful in avoiding what would have otherwise been another Great Depression,” Reich told me. “Ironically, though, had we plunged into another Great Depression, we probably would have summoned the political will to transform our economy in ways that spread the benefits of subsequent growth far more widely (as we did in the New Deal). As it is, 95 percent of the economic gains since the Great Recession ended in 2009 have gone to the richest 1 percent of Americans.”

I asked Reich what he meant about transforming our economy and spreading the benefits of future growth.

“The hardship wrought by the Great Recession was far more limited, falling on a smaller subset of society,” Reich said. “As such, Obama didn’t have the broad-based political support required to create, for example, wage insurance, a reemployment system, an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, a minimum guaranteed income, or any other program comparable in scope and effect to the New Deal.”

It takes more than a president’s words. It takes an entire society working together. Looking at today’s politicians, not just in Washington, but across the states, there is a crisis of conscience in the American psyche that’s not only gripped our country, but has the potential of scuttling our nation’s prospects for greatness in the 21st century. The American people are part of the problem, too.