Monday, September 26, 2011

President Lyndon B. Johnson: The Great Society

Source:Sabb Fann- President Lyndon B. Johnson (Democrat, Texas) speaking about his Great Society in 1965.

"Lyndon B Johnson - The Great Society" 

From Sabb Fann 

As much as the War in Vietnam is a huge part of President Lyndon Johnson's presidential legacy (and it is) As far as his mismanagement of that war)  it's not the whole story of the Johnson legacy, just like the Watergate scandal is not the whole legacy of the Richard Nixon's presidency. There plenty of positives aspects of both presidencies.

The Great Society agenda of the Johnson Administration. Represents a positive aspect of Lyndon Johnson's presidency. And I believe the main contribution of the Great Society along with guaranteeing that all senior citizens would have access to health insurance with Medicare, was what President Johnson wanted to accomplish with the Great Society his vision of it which I believe was its main contribution. 

President Johnson when he declared War on Poverty in 1965, was serious he wanted to defeat poverty and end it. He didn't want to contain poverty in America and just help people sustain themselves as they live in poverty, he wanted to empower these people to get themselves out of poverty. And I believe this vision influenced Bill Clinton when he became President and went about creating Welfare to Work along with the Republican Congress in 1996.

I believe to some extent both Bill Clinton and the Republican Leadership in Congress were influenced by Lyndon Johnson and thats what I'm talking about. President Johnson's vision of a Great Society not so much the followthrough with it and I'll get to that later but the vision is important. No longer should America just help people survive as they continue to live in poverty but actually empower them to get themselves out of poverty. 

I believe LBJ's Great Society agenda influenced what President Clinton called the Opportunity Society which was his agenda in this area. That government should help people who can't help themselves get the tools that they need to get out of poverty. Which is what the 1996 Welfare to Work Law is about. Which is about time limits to motivate people to go to school and go to work. As well as child care for their kids and as well education and job training. Things that were sort of left out in the Great Society. Welfare to Work and Unemployment to Work could've been done during the Great Society era. As well as designing public housing better.

Where the Great Society fell short was in its design and execution, not vision. The vision represents the best part of the Great Society. But the execution and design falls flat. Because even though there was talk about empowering poor people to get out of poverty and there was some of that like with the Jobs Core that trained low-income people and put them to work doing community service projects and other works as well as the Peace Core, a lot of the Great Society actually just kept people in poverty.

The Great Society had things like Public Housing and Food Assistance that was really just designed to sustain low-income people as they continue to live in poverty. For example, Public Housing projects being built in some of the worst communities possible. Instead of building those projects in middle class communities where they would have a better shot at life. And their kids could get a good education. And their parents could get educated and get good jobs.

When I think of President Johnson, I think of what wouldn't had happen had he not been President in that era. How long would African-Americans have to wait for their constitutional rights to be enforced. And his vision of what a Great Society could be that we as a country are still trying to create forty-five years later.

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