War On Poverty

Lyndon B. Johnson Commemoration Of 106th Birthday

The 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, was born on this day in 1908, and he has undergone much attack in the four decades since he passed away in 1973 at the age of 64.

There is no question that LBJ divided the nation by his ill conceived escalation of the war in Vietnamese, which still haunts millions of Americans who lost a loved one, or who have suffered with the psychic and physical wounds of war.

But LBJ cannot be forgotten for his tremendous advancements in civil rights; in fighting poverty; in establishing Medicare; promoting environmental reform and consumer protection; promoting a massive expansion of educational opportunity; establishing immigration reform; establishing the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Transportation; promoting the creation of PBS and NPR; and supporting the establishment of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.

So while LBJ did the nation wrong by the war in Vietnam, his domestic reforms, collectively known as the “Great Society”, brought about the greatest improvements in domestic life since the New Deal of FDR, and has not been matched since by any President.

So this is a day to remember and to honor LBJ for his accomplishments, while acknowledging his shortcomings!

50 Years Ago Today, “Great Society” Speech Of Lyndon B. Johnson!

A half century ago, on this date, President Lyndon B. Johnson gave a commencement address at the University of Michigan, on the six month anniversary of his becoming President, due to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Instead of just stating that he would finish the work of John F. Kennedy that had been left undone, LBJ enunciated the greatest series of domestic reform goals ever formulated, more than the New Deal programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt thirty years earlier, particularly in the “Second New Deal” legislation of 1935-1936.

What followed in 1965-1966 was the most productive Congress in American history, the 89th Congress, with the FDR 74th Congress the second most productive ever in American history.

We saw the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, the War on Poverty, education legislation, consumer legislation, environmental legislation, immigration reform, and so much else that advanced the American domestic agenda!

While we celebrate that 50th anniversary, one must realize that we have taken many steps backward, and no worse than the present 113th Congress, the absolute worst ever in American history in taking care of the nation’s domestic agenda.

And this comes just four years after the end of the 111th Congress under Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, the most productive since the 89th Congress, during the first two years in office of Barack Obama.

The nation has been poorly served, and we have backtracked on so much that had been done under FDR and LBJ!

This is a tragedy, the extent of which we will not fully realize for many years, and it is a moment to commiserate and to mourn what mean spirit and lack of compassion can do to undermine the “American Dream.” Government activism has been rejected for a harsh, individualistic, libertarian mentality that favors leaving those less fortunate to the “wolves”.

The Ultimate Legacy Of American Presidents

American Presidents deal with dozens, if not, hundreds of issues while in office, and they have ups and downs, highs and lows, unavoidably.

But, ultimately, they are remembered for one action in office that either puts them in the great, successful category, or in the disastrous, unsuccessful category, and they may be praised or bitterly criticized for others, but they will always be remembered for one specific policy or event, which has the greatest effect on their legacy.

So when we look at Presidents since FDR, what stands out as their primary legacy?

Franklin D. Roosevelt–his New Deal programs that saved millions of Americans, and gave them hope for the future.

Harry S Truman–his courage in his dealings with the Soviet Union through the Cold War policies.

Dwight D. Eisenhower–the steadfastness of his Civil Rights policies, enforcing court orders and promoting the end of racial segregation.

John F. Kennedy–his forthrightness in dealing with the greatest threat in world history, the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Lyndon B. Johnson–his Great Society programs that advanced civil rights, education, health care, and a war on poverty.

Richard M. Nixon–his paranoia and illegal activities, leading to Watergate and his resignation.

Gerald R. Ford–his appointment of Justice John Paul Stevens, who became a giant on the Supreme Court for 35 years.

Jimmy Carter–his promotion of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, the Camp David Accords, which have brought peace for 35 years.

Ronald Reagan–his tripling of the national debt through excessive military spending and massive tax cuts to the wealthy.

George H. W. Bush–his exceptional conduct of the crisis of the Persian Gulf War.

Bill Clinton–his promotion of the Northern Ireland peace agreement, between Anglicans and Catholics, and with Great Britain.

George W. Bush–the prosecution of the Iraq War, a war that was based on falsehoods, undermining the Middle East and emboldening Iran.

Barack Obama–the promotion of the Affordable Care Act, giving millions of Americans their first time coverage for health care.

Paul Ryan Self Destructs Any Chance To Run For President!

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who this blogger spent a lot of time working to undermine his Vice Presidential candidacy in 2012, and got blasted for it by right wing websites and bloggers, has again shown further evidence of what a terrible choice Mitt Romney made in his Presidential race, in selecting Ryan to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency!

Ryan, who knows nothing about budgets, except that the poor, the elderly, the disabled, veterans, and the young should see cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and other social programs; and there should be no extension of unemployment compensation for desperately unemployed people; and there should be no rise in the minimum wage, now has gone off the “deep end” with his assertion that those who live in the “inner cities” have no sense of the importance of work, and have not worked for generations!

This is a direct and racist assault on African Americans in particular, but also on Hispanics and Latinos, who are a majority of the poor in the urban areas of our nation.

But Ryan acts as if it is only minorities who are poor, and are unemployed, and in some cases, have not worked in a long time. From this statement, one would think that whites are not poor, that they all work, that they all have a heritage of understanding the point of work, and nothing could be further from the truth!

It is a fact, and always has been, that the vast majority of the poor do not live in cities, and are not minorities, although one would think so from a stereotype!

The fact is that there are millions of whites who live in the rural and suburban areas of the nation, and many are them do not work, have no hope of work, and live in depressed conditions often worse than urban slums. Many of these people are living in “Red” states, where Republicans vote to hurt their own constituents, while making it seem as if only minorities do not work, or have no work ethic. They live in Appalachia, the Great Plains, the Rockies, in comparatively sparsely populated areas, as compared to the urban areas on the East and West Coasts.

More whites receive food stamps, and the level of poverty percentage wise is higher in such places as Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Alaska.

It is the lack of education; the tendency to have large families which are also dysfunctional; the reality of drugs and alcohol; the refusal of these state governments to give a damn about their white poor, along with minority poor; and the tendency to turn poor whites against poor minorities so that the GOP can keep power in the House and in the state legislatures, which is destroying generation after generation of deprived people of all races!

Only when there is a REAL war on poverty, instead of exploiting the issue based upon race, as Paul Ryan has now done, will we ever be able to guarantee a good future for millions of whites, as well as African Americans and Latinos!

And Paul Ryan, your potential Presidential candidacy is dead in the water, and while you might run, you have forfeited any realistic chance to be President of the United States, but that was clear, anyway, in 2012!

Three Significant Events In 24 Hours 41 Years Ago!

Forty one years ago, on January 22-23, three significant events occurred, all of which had a massive effect on the history of the United States!

Lyndon B. Johnson, the architect of the “Great Society” domestic reform programs, the greatest since the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt, died at age 64. Much of his Great Society remains part of our lives today, including:

Civil Rights Act of 1964
Voting Rights Act of 1965
War On Poverty (some elements of the program)
Medicare and Medicaid
Federal Aid to Education
Environmental Laws
Consumer Protection Laws
National Public Radio and PBS

Additionally, just hours after his death, the Vietnam War came to an end by a peace agreement in Paris, ending the combat role of American troops after twelve years of war under John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon. The war had divided us, and still has an impact on the veterans of that war today, but at least the US now has diplomatic relations and trade with Vietnam, something that seemed impossible to imagine four decades ago, after the loss of 58,000 Americans in that war, and over a million or more in Vietnam itself.

The third event that transformed us was the Supreme Court decision in Roe V. Wade, allowing women control of their reproductive lives and their bodies, in the first two trimesters of pregnancy, as well as promoting contraception to avoid pregnancy.

The so called “Pro Life” movement, really anti abortion, has worked very hard to limit the rights of women, trying to cut the period of allowance of an abortion to as low as six weeks in Arkansas and 12 weeks in North Dakota, as well as 20 weeks in many other states, but thankfully, federal district court and circuit court judges have prevented the enforcement of such illegal limits. But the battle for women’s rights goes on.

So January 22-23, 1973, was indeed a very big day, a moment in history of tremendous significance!

The War On Poverty DId Not Fail! It Was Destroyed By Republicans, Led By Nixon And Reagan!

50 years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced a War On Poverty In America, and poverty levels dropped about 40 percent over the next five years.

But then the conservative counterrevolution began under Richard Nixon, and was accelerated under Ronald Reagan, and today, poverty is spreading in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

And what is the Republican Party doing about this reality? It is declaring the War on Poverty failed, and doing everything to kick poor people and middle class people down into the gutter, fighting against extension of unemployment compensation to desperate people, having no problem in cutting food stamps to people who have inadequate nutrition, and fighting to avoid raising the minimum wage, which, if it was keyed to inflation, would be over $20 an hour right now!

The War On Poverty never got a full chance to succeed, as Democrats Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, and Walter Mondale never had the opportunity to continue the mission of LBJ, and instead, selfishness, greed, and lack of compassion for those less fortunate, set in!

On this 50th anniversary, it is essential to recommit ourselves to dealing with poverty in America, realizing the majority of people in poverty are children, and also a majority are white, not minorities, which are used as an excuse to promote racial prejudice!

105th Birthday Commemoration Of President Lyndon B. Johnson!

Today, August 27, is the 105th Birthday Commemoration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, a President who had a massive effect on our nation’s history.

We live under the influence of LBJ on Civil Rights, Medicare, Education, NPR, PBS, Environmental Laws, Consumer Protection Legislation, Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Transportation, and the War on Poverty that so desperately needs to be revived after 45 years of ignoring it!

Yes, this President is blamed, and carries the burden of the Vietnam War, but his legacy in domestic affairs lives on!

And tomorrow, his older daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, will join Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 during the Presidency of LBJ!

The Kennedy Half Century Began 53 Years Ago Today!

On this day in 1960, John F. Kennedy was nominated for President by the Democratic Party at their national convention in Los Angeles. He went on to a very tight and much debated close victory over Richard Nixon, including widely accepted accusations that his election was fixed in Chicago by Mayor Richard J. Daley!

Kennedy’s impact on the nation was massive, and made greater by the fact that he was assassinated, and even though we learned about his controversial sex life in the White House, and he has faced growing criticism on his policies and actions in office as the years have gone by, it is still a reality that he is adored by vast numbers of the American people, and made out to be an icon!

His brother, Robert Kennedy, was also martyred after a controversial career as Attorney General under his brother, a short Senate career, and his assassination while seeking the Presidency in 1968 to finish the work of his brother.

And then, there was Ted Kennedy, the youngest brother, who was first seen as a lightweight in the Senate, had the scandalous Chappaquiddick incident in which a woman died in his car as it was being driven by a drunk Kennedy, and was totally defeated in his later attempt to take the 1980 Presidential nomination of his party away from President Jimmy Carter.

But Kennedy went on to a distinguished, record setting career of 47 and a half years in the Senate, honored as the “Lion” of the Senate, and regarded as one of the greatest Senate giants in its more than two century history as an institution.

And then there was Joseph Kennedy II, son of Robert Kennedy, who served in the US House of Representatives from Massachusetts for 12 years; Patrick Kennedy, son of Ted, who served in the House from Rhode Island for 16 years; and now Joseph Kennedy III, grandson of Robert Kennedy and son of former Congressman Joe, who serves in the House of Representatives from Massachusetts since the beginning of this year.

And there have been other Kennedys or Kennedy relatives who have been in public office, including Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert Kennedy, who served as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland; and JFK brother in law Sargant Shriver, who headed the Peace Corps, the War On Poverty, and was Ambassador to France.

So the Kennedy half century of influence is marked today by the JFK nomination for President in 1960, and it continues in politics and in history!

Transformative Presidents In Domestic Affairs: Impact On American Democracy!

With Presidents Day coming up on Monday, it is a good time to reflect on which Presidents were transformative in domestic policy making.

The list of Presidents who made a real difference in domestic affairs would include the following, chronologically:

George Washington—under whom a National Bank and protective tariff, promoted by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, were adopted, having a long range effect on America’s growth.

Thomas Jefferson—under whom recognition of the wisdom of Alexander Hamilton’s economic policies was recognized.

Abraham Lincoln—under whom a promotion of the transcontinental railroad, adoption of the Homestead Act providing free land for settlers, revival of a centralized banking system, and the enactment of the 13th Amendment ending slavery, occurred.

Theodore Roosevelt—under whom conservation of natural resources became a major policy, the first regulation of meat, food and drugs took place, the first intervention in labor disputes without an anti labor attitude evolved, and first anti trust law suits succeeded in breaking up monopolies.

Woodrow Wilson—who accomplished the most domestic reforms until his time, including labor laws, agricultural credit legislation, the Federal Reserve being created, and the first regulatory commission for big business (the Federal Trade Commission) was created.

Franklin D. Roosevelt—under whom the New Deal transformed America domestically with a myriad of programs, including labor laws, Social Security, agricultural aid, and public works programs, with anti trust law suits being pursued.

Lyndon B. Johnson—under whom the Great Society programs, including ideas of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy not accomplished in their terms in the Presidency, were passed into law, including civil rights, education, Medicare, the War on Poverty, and numerous other programs, including consumer and environmental legislation, the most change since the New Deal.

Richard Nixon—under whom the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Occupational Safety Health Administration, and Affirmative Action were passed into law.

Barack Obama—under whom a national health care law was passed, the most significant legislation since the 1960s.

Other Presidents who had an impact, to a lesser extent, include:

Grover Cleveland
William Howard Taft
Harry Truman
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
Jimmy Carter
George H. W. Bush
Bill Clinton
George W. Bush

Lyndon B. Johnson Forty Years After His Death: Mixed Legacy

Forty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson died at the age of 64, two days after the second inauguration of President Richard Nixon, an event he did not attend due to poor health.

Johnson had only been out of the Presidency for four years and two days, and one has to wonder had he run in 1968 and won, whether he would have died in office from the stresses and burdens of the job, and particularly the ongoing war in Vietnam.

Vietnam will always be the ultimate “Achilles Heel” of the Johnson Presidency, with the President hating foreign policy and just wishing for the Vietnam mess to go away, but his fateful decision to commit a half million troops to the war doomed the unity he had experienced in his landslide victory in 1964 over Senator Barry Goldwater, the greatest popular vote victory percentage in American history!

Johnson did so much good in expanding the vision of the New Deal of FDR, the Fair Deal of Harry Truman, and the New Frontier of JFK, and accomplished everything they pursued, and failed to accomplish in their Presidencies. And just yesterday, President Barack Obama evoked the image of the Great Society, and the goals that he outlined to expand that Great Society a half century later, after a long time in the political “wilderness”.

Without Johnson as President, we would not have had the following, in many cases, EVER up to now:

Medicare
Medicaid
Immigration Reform
Federal Aid to Education
Civil Rights Act
Voting Rights Act
War on Poverty—Office of Economic Opportunity, Job Corps, Project Head Start, Model Cities, and other programs
Environmental Legislation
Consumer Legislation
National Public Radio
Public Broadcasting System
National Endowment For The Arts
National Endowment For The Humanities
Gemini and Apollo Space Programs
Cabinet Agencies–Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Transportation
First African American appointments to the Cabinet–Robert Weaver–and the Supreme Court–Thurgood Marshall

Can anyone imagine NOT having most, if not all, of these programs and agencies?

Some might have been accomplished over time under other Presidents, but it is hard to conceive that much of it would have occurred with the rise over time of the conservative movement to power under Ronald Reagan, and Reagan’s impact on the next thirty years of American government until now.

As always is true of any President, Lyndon B. Johnson will remain highly controversial, but it is worth remembering his positive legacy on this, the 40th anniversary of his death, while not overlooking the damaging effect of his foreign policy actions, particularly in Vietnam.