War on poverty

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"The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's 'haves' and 'have-nots' continues to widen," McClatchy Newspapers' Tony Pugh reported February 22, 2007.

According to analysis of the latest available 2005 census figures, "nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 - half the federal poverty line - was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.

"The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas," Pugh wrote.

"These and other factors have helped push 43 percent of the nation's 37 million poor people into deep poverty - the highest rate since at least 1975."

Hurricane Katrina

"Stories of the grinding poverty among the survivors of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans vividly illustrate what many say is a forgotten truth of modern American life — that pockets of desperate poverty still exist in a country of unsurpassed wealth and privilege," Kelley Beaucar Vlahos reported for Fox News, September 9, 2005.


According to the Grolier Encyclopedia online edition on the American Presidency, the war on poverty was declared on January 8, 1964, in President Lyndon B. Johnson's State of the Union address in an attempt "to break the cycle of poverty affecting nearly 35 million Americans. Economic expansion had reduced unemployment to 5.3 percent, but projections showed that 25 percent of young blacks were destined for a life of irregular employment. Johnson, having enacted the modest antipoverty program of his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, wanted his own, and directed Sargent Shriver to steer the development and passage of an omnibus bill."

"Rejecting an alternative of direct subsidies, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, signed into law by Johnson on Aug. 20, 1964, attempted to prepare the poor for successful competition in an expanding economy. It combined new and existing programs of services by professionals--VISTA, Neighborhood Youth Corps, Job Corps, College Work Study, and Head Start--with the novel Community Action Programs (CAP), designed to involve recipients with 'maximum feasible participation.' Shriver's Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) was given authority to run its own programs and supervise related agencies. Funding for OEO, which was never adequate, was further reduced as spending for the Vietnam War increased. Thus, an extended structure, poorly financed, frustrated the rising expectations of the poor."[1]

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Articles & Commentary


  • Mike Allen, "President Urges War on Poverty. At Notre Dame, Bush Touts Faith Plan," Washington Post, May 21, 2000: "President Bush called today for a new war on poverty, to be waged largely through the nation's houses of worship, and said his plan to encourage government funding of social services by churches is an urgently needed successor to the public welfare of the past generation."


  • Ted Redmund, "The War on the Poor," sfbg.com, October 22, 2003.
  • "War On Terror Undermines War On Poverty, Expert Says," UNWire, November 5, 2003.
  • Melissa G. Pardue, Robert E. Rector, and Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., "Mayors' Claims of Growing Hunger Appear Wildly Exaggerated," Heritage Foundation, December 15, 2003.
  • Alan Elsner, "Survey Finds Hunger, Homelessness Growing in U.S.," Reuters, December 18, 2003.
  • Gardiner Harris, "States Try to Limit Drugs in Medicaid, but Makers Resist," New York Times, December 18, 2003.
  • Joseph P. Kennedy II and Marty Meehan, "Again, the poor go begging for heat," Boston Globe, December 18, 2003: "While there are scant resources for fuel assistance, which in Washington-speak is known as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, plenty of money is being passed around in Congress for other priorities. Like $148 billion for reducing taxes on dividends and capital gains for wealthy Americans. Or $29 billion in liability protection handed out to big oil and chemical companies who have contaminated ground water. Or $139 billion in profits for drug companies. These expenses, coming on top of tens of billions in reconstruction dollars for Iraq and funding for 9,000 pork projects, are causing the deficit to balloon to over $400 billion. But when it comes to meeting the poor's energy needs, they say there's no money in the till."
  • Kevin Danaher and Jason Mark, "White-Collar Anger," AlterNet, December 18, 2003: "'People are tired and angry and upset,' says [Pete Bennett, a] 47-year-old unemployed worker from Danville, California, frustration noticeable in his voice. 'People are hurting, losing their homes. If we keep pulling jobs out of the country, how is the economy going to stay up?' ... Coming from an autoworker or a steelworker, these would be familiar words. But Bennett isn't a laid off Ford or GM employee. He used to work for companies such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo, where, as a contract database programmer, he earned between $80,000 and $90,000 a year. But in the last year, he says, he hasn't been able to find any programming work - such jobs, he is told, are moving overseas. ... Bennett is not alone. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of highly skilled, well-paid positions have been sent abroad."
  • Leslie Haggin Geary, "Vanishing jobs. Structural change in the economy means many jobs are never going to come back," CNN, December 18, 2003. Article includes chart on "Most Vulnerable Jobs".
  • Siobhan McDonough, ""Hunger and Homelessness Increase in U.S.," Associated Press, December 19, 2003: "Hunger and homelessness increased in many of America's largest cities this year, with growing demand for emergency food supplies for families with children, the elderly and even people with jobs, a survey by U.S. mayors finds. ... The report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, released Thursday, found that requests for emergency food assistance rose 17 percent overall from last year in the survey of 25 large cities. Requests for emergency shelter assistance increased by 13 percent, the report showed. ... Unemployment, low paying jobs, high housing costs, substance abuse and high energy and utility costs are contributing to the hunger problem, the report said. ... 'This survey underscores the impact the economy has had on everyday Americans,' said James A. Garner, Conference of Mayors president." See full report.