The Great Society

I’ve had a busy couple weeks, sorry I haven’t posted in awhile. Today’s post, a not-that-in-depth overview of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s domestic plan, called The Great Society, is brought to you by an exam in my Sixties class.

                The Great Society. Aldous Huxley novel, or President Lyndon Johnson’s domestic plan? The answer is the latter, as Huxley had died the very same day John Kennedy did. So did C.S. Lewis. That was an awful day. But I digress. The Great Society, Lyndon B. Johnson’s domestic plan, (his liberal agenda) is summed up well in this quote by White House aide Joseph Califano:

“We simply could not accept poverty, ignorance, and hunger as intractable, permanent features of American society. There was no child we could not feed, no adult we could not put to work, no disease we could not cure, no toy, food, or appliance we could not make safer, no air or water we could not clean.”

                If one knew nothing about The Great Society, as many do not, Califano’s quote would do well to introduce them to it. By the end of Johnson’s term in 1968, poverty had been cut in half. This was the second-highest cut in American history, just behind FDR after the Great Depression, and just ahead of Clinton in the 1990s.

                This was not easy for the President. As all presidents who wish to help the poor do, Johnson had much opposition in Congress. A prime example of this is seen in one of the first things he did as President: tried to pass tax cuts for the poor and middle class. Before Congress would pass it, Johnson had to include spending cuts. Was this bad? Not necessarily, but it exemplifies the struggle Johnson sometimes had in passing his New Deal-esque programs.

                Tax cuts alone did not cut poverty from 22.2% to 12.6%, however. The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 created the Office of Economic Opportunity. The office oversaw the Job Corps, created to help not-so-well-off teenagers develop trade skills, and, for a time, Head Start, a program aimed towards small children.

                The war on poverty, while the biggest part of The Great Society, was not the only part. Civil rights were a big issue during this time as well. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned job discrimination and segregation of public stuff, such as water fountains and restaurants. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 assured minority voter registration, by banning 12-generation residency tests and constitution tests and whatnot for registration. While the 14th Amendment made it legal for all minorities (except women, that was later) to vote, the South doesn’t always catch on. Heck, Alabama didn’t ratify the 13th amendment abolishing slavery until 1996, and Mississippi just did a couple months ago. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 closed loopholes left open by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as banning discrimination in housing, and extending constitutional protections to Native Americans living on reservations.

                The impact of the Great Society can still be felt today. There is a Job Corps…somewhere around here. Either Mitchell or Minatare, I think. It is likely that poverty would be much higher today if it were allowed to stay where it was during Johnson’s administration. Blacks and Native Americans have rights that Nixon certainly wouldn’t have granted them, and I’m not sure Ford would have either, pushing these civil rights back, at the very least, to 1976, drastically changing today’s world in ways unimaginable.

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