LBJ – The Great Society Summary

LBJ – The Great Society Summary


DECLARES UNCONDITIONAL WAR
ON POVERTY IN AMERICA. McCullough:
THE WAR AGAINST POVERTY WAS THE WAR THAT JOHNSON
rREALLY WANTED TO FIGHT. IN HIS FIRST
“STATE OF THE UNION” ADDRESS HE REACHED BACK TO THE POPULISM
OF HIS FATHER AND GRANDFATHER. HE TOOK A KENNEDY ANTI-POVERTY
PROPOSAL AND MADE IS OWN. Johnson:
IT WILL NOT BE
A SHORT OR EASY STRUGGLE BUT WE SHALL NOT REST
UNTIL THAT WAR IS WON. THE RICHEST NATION ON EARTH
CAN AFFORD TO WIN IT. WE CANNOT AFFORD TO LOSE IT. McCullough:
WHEN LYNDON JOHNSON
BECAME PRESIDENT 35 MILLION AMERICANS WERE LIVING
BELOW THE POVERTY LINE IN THE MOST AFFLUENT COUNTRY
IN THE WORLD. Cater:
AND I SAID, “BUT
THEY DON’T VOTE. “THEY DON’T HAVE ANY
ORGANIZED LOBBIES. “HOW IN THE WORLD
ARE YOU GOING TO GET “ANY SUBSTANTIAL
LEGISLATION ON POVERTY? JACK KENNEDY COULDN’T;
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO DO IT?” HE LEANED BACK AND HE SAID– AND THESE WORDS ARE
ENGRAVED ON MY MEMORY– HE SAID, “I DON’T KNOW WHETHER
I’LL PASS A SINGLE LAW “OR GET A SINGLE
DOLLAR APPROPRIATED “BUT BEFORE I’M THROUGH,
NO COMMUNITY IN AMERICA IS GOING TO BE ABLE TO IGNORE
THE POVERTY IN ITS MIDST.” McCullough:
JOHNSON NOW TURNED TO THE DIRECTOR OF THE PEACE
CORPS, SARGENT SHRIVER. ONE SATURDAY MORNING,
HE CALLED ME UP AND SAID THAT HIS RADIO SHOW WAS GOING TO GO ON
IN A COUPLE OF HOURS AND HE WANTED TO ANNOUNCE
THAT I WAS GOING TO BE THE HEAD OF THE NEW
WAR AGAINST POVERTY. I SAID, “WELL, MR. PRESIDENT,
I HAVEN’T HAD A CHAN “TO SPEAK TO MY WIFE
OR THE PEOPLE IN MY OFFICE. FRANKLY, I WOULD RATHER
TALK TO YOU ABOUT IT NEXT WEEK.” HE SAID, “WELL NOW, SARGENT “WE’VE GOT TO GET ON WITH
THAT WAR AGAINST POVERTY “SO PLEASE TALK TO EUNICE NOW,
AND I’LL CALL YOU BACK.” SO I PUT THE PHONE DOWN;
I COULDN’T BELIEVE MY EARS. NEXT THING YOU KNOW,
THE PHONE RANG AGAIN. HE SAID, “WELL, WHAT
HAVE YOU DECIDED?” I SAID, “WELL, MR. PRESIDENT,
IT WOULD REALLY BE MUCH BETTER “IF WE COULD JUST TALK
NEXT MONDAY OR TUESDAY “AND I’LL HAVE A BETTER
IDEA WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO “AND I’M AFRAID
IF YOU ANNOUNCE IT NOW PEOPLE WILL ASK ME WHAT I’M
GOING TO DO, AND I DON’T KNOW.” HE SAID, “WELL,
THIS RADIO PROGRAM IS GOING ON IN ABOUT AN HOUR;
LET ME CALL YOU BACK.” SO, HE CALLED ME BACK
ABOUT 20 MINUTES LATER AND IN A VERY LOW VOICE HE SAID, “NOW LISTEN,
I’M GOING TO ANNOUNCE YOU. “AND I CAN’T SPEAK ABOUT IT LOUD “BECAUSE I HAVE
THE WHOLE CABINET HERE. “BUT YOU JUST HAVE TO UNDERSTAND “THIS IS YOUR PRESIDENT SPEAKING
AND I’M GOING TO ANNOUNCE YOU.” BUNG. ( laughing ):
I TURNED TO MY WIFE AND I SAID, “IT LOOKS
AS IF I’M GOING TO BE THE NEW HEAD OF
THE WAR AGAINST POVERTY.” PRESIDENT JOHNSON’S
PROGRAM ON POVERTY IS DISTINGUISHED
IN AT LEAST FOUR WAYS… McCullough:
IN SIX SHORT WEEKS JOHNSON
HAD COME UP WITH HIS PACKAGE. BUT HE WOULD LET SHRIVER
WORRY ABOUT THE DETAILS. Shriver:
HE DIDN’T HAVE TO TELL ME
WHAT HE DESIRED. I KNEW WHAT HE DESIRED. HE WANTED TO GET GOING BIG
AND HE WANTED SUCCESS. HE DIDN’T HAVE TO TELL ME THAT. McCullough:
JOHNSON CRISSCROSSED THE COUNTRY APPEALING FOR SUPPORT FOR
HIS ANTI-POVERTY LEGISLATION. POVERTY IN AMERICA
HAD BEEN INVISIBLE. JOHNSON PUT IT
ON THE FRONT PAGES. Johnson:
OUR FIRST JECTIVE IS
TO FREE 30 MILLION AMERICANS FROM THE PRISON OF POVERTY. CAN YOU HELP US
FREE THESE AMERICANS? AND IF YOU CAN,
LET ME HEAR YOUR VOICES! McCullough:
FOR JOHNSON, IT WAS A RETURN
TO HIS POLITICAL PAST THE OLD BATTLE CRIES OF
THE NEW DEAL COMING ALIVE AGAIN. Man:
HE WAS THE LAST SOLDIER
IN THE NEW DEAL WAR THE FINAL EXPRESSION OF WHAT
WENT ON IN THE ’30s AND ’40s– GOVERNMENT AS MOTHER, FATHER LYNDON JOHNSON,
BIG ARMS AROUND YOU I LOVE YOU,
I WANT YOU TO DO BETTER. DO SOMETHING WE CAN BE PROUD OF. HELP THE WEAK AND THE MEEK
AND LIFT THEM UP AND HELP THEM TRAIN
AND GIVE THEM AN EDUCATION WHERE THEY CAN MAKE
THEIR OWN WAY INSTEAD OF HAVING TO LIVE OFF
THE BOUNTY OF OUR GENEROSITY. Dugger:
MOST PEOPLE DON’T ACTIVELY CARE
ABOUT PEOPLE THEY DON’T KNOW PEOPLE WHO ARE SUFFERING. IT’S HARD FOR US
TO REMEMBER THOSE PEOPLE. LYNDON NEVER FORGOT THEM;
I REALLY THINK HE NEVER DID. Dallek:
HIS VISION WAS OF HELPING
THE DISADVANTAGED TO HELP THEMSELVES. HIS HOPE WAS THAT
YOU GIVE THEM EDUCATION YOU GIVE THEM OPPORTUNITY YOU GIVE THEM THE CHANCE TO COME
INTO THE MAINSTREAM OF AMERICAN MIDDLE-CLASS
ECONOMIC LIFE. AND THAT’S AS THOROUGHLY
AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE. Johnson:
WE HAVE A RIGHT TO EXPECT THE JOBS THAT PROVIDE FOOD
FOR OUR FAMILIES A ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS,
CLOTHES FOR THEIR BODIES. AND WITH YOUR HELP
AND WITH GOD’S HELP WE WILL HAVE IT IN AMERICA. THANK YOU. ( cheering ) McCullough:
JOHNSON WOULD MAKE WAR
ON POVERTY AND THERE WOULD BE
NO CASUALTIES. EVERYONE WOULD BE A WINNER,
EVEN BIG BUSINESS. HE WOULD SAY, “LISTEN, WE’VE GOT
A VERY ABUNDANT COUNTRY. “WE’VE GOT THE RESOURCES TO HELP
THESE PEOPLE AT THE BOTTOM. “DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND
THAT YOUR INTERESTS”– IN EFFECT HE WAS ARGUING– “YOUR INTEREST AS A BUSINESS
LEADER IS THE WELFARE STATE BECAUSE YOU KEEP
EVERYTHING STABLE.” IT MUST HAVE BEEN
A VERY APPEALING ARGUMENT TO A CONSERVATIVE
CORPORATE EXECUTIVE THAT IN A CIVILIZED COUNTRY
WITH SUCH ABUNDANCE AS WE HAVE– ASTOUNDING ABUNDANCE COMPARED
TO THE REST OF THE WORLD– YOU CAN AFFORD TO BE LIBERAL
WITH THE POOR. Shriver:
WE WERE A GENERATION OF PEOPLE
WHO HAD BEEN IN WORLD WAR II. SO WHEN A WAR AGAINST POVERTY
WAS LAUNCHED IT WAS TYPICAL OF ALL OF US
AT THAT TIME TO THINK OF TH WAR,
THE WAR AGAINST POVERTY IN TERMS JUST LIKE
THE WAR AGAINST HITLER. WE WERE ACCUSTOMED TO THINKING THAT THE UNITED STATES
COULD DO BIG THINGS. AMERICA BESTRODE THE WORLD
LIKE A COLOSSUS. THERE WAS NOTHING IN THE WORLD
EQUAL TO THE UNITED STATES. McCullough:
THE WAR ON POVERTY WAS JUST PART OF JOHNSON’S PROGRAM
FOR THE COUNTRY. FEW ANTICIPATED THAT THIS
COARSE AND ABRASIVE TEXAN WOULD PROPOSE A SERIES OF LAWS TO ENRICH DAILY LIFE
FOR ALL AMERICANS. HE CALLED HIS VISION
THE GREAT SOCIETY.” THE GREAT SOCIETY IS A PLACE WHERE EVERY CHILD CAN FIND
KNOWLEDGE TO ENRICH HIS MIND AND TO ENLARGE HIS TALENTS. IT IS A PLACE WHERE LEISURE
IS THE WELCOME CHANCE TO BUILD AND REFLECT NOT A FEARED CAUSE
OF BOREDOM AND RESTLESSNESS. IT IS A PLACE WHERE
THE CITY OF MAN SERVES NOT ONLY THE NEEDS OF THE BODY
AND THE DEMANDS OF COMMERCE BUT THE DESIRE FOR BEAUTY
AND THE HUNGER FOR COMMUNITY. McCullough:
IT WAS AN INFLATED RHETORIC THE KIND AMERICAN LEADERS
SELDOM USE ANYMORE. IT IS A PLACE WHICH HONORS
CREATION FOR ITS OWN SAKE. McCullough:
AS ONE AIDE DESCRIBED IT “WHAT HE MEANT WAS
A FULL STOMACH, YES BUT A FULLER LIFE, TOO.” IT IS A PLACE WHERE MEN
ARE MORE CONCERNED WITH THE QUALITY
OF THEIR GOALS THAN THE QUANTITY
OF THEIR GOODS. ( applause ) McCullough:
HIS ASPIRATIONS WERE ENORMOUS. HE WANTED TO DO
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. HE WANTED TO BE THE BEST
FATHER AMERICANS EVER HAD. Johnson:
I, LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON,
DO SOLEMNLY SWEAR THAT I WILL FAITHFULLY
EXECUTE THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCY
OF THE UNITED STATES… McCullough:
IT WAS AN UNPRECEDENTED VICTORY: THE PRESIDENCY BY MORE VOTES
THAN ANY MAN EVER BEFORE THE CONGRESS BY
AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY AND WITH POLITICAL POWER, AN
OPPORTUNITY TO DO GREAT THINGS. NO LONGER A SCORNED
AND FRUSTRATED VICE-PRESIDENT… NO LONGER
AN ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENT… JOHNSON WAS NOW ONE
OF THE MOST POPULAR PRESIDENTS OF THE CENTURY. ON THE NIGHT
OF HIS INAUGURAL GALA JOHNSON TOLD HIS GUESTS,
“DON’T STAY UP LATE. WE’RE ON OUR WAY
TO THE GREAT SOCIETY.” McCullough:
HE HAD BEEN SCORNED
AS AN UNSCRUPULOUS POLITICIAN A VULGAR WHEELER-DEALER DRIVEN BY AMBITION
AND A LUST FOR POWER… BUT ON JANUARY 20, 1965,
THE NIGHT OF HIS INAUGURAL GALA LYNDON JOHNSON WAS A HAPPY MAN. OVERWHELMINGLY ELECTED,
HE PROMISED TO WIPE OUT POVERTY
AND SEGREGATION PROTECT THE OLD,
AND EDUCATE THE YOUNG. THAT WAS HIS DREAM. FEW PRESIDENTS
WOULD EVER KNOW MORE TRIUMPH;

Comments

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    2000Betelgeuse

    LBJ had good intentions but I'm afraid that the war on poverty largely failed, most people now feel entitled to benefits with out actually getting out of poverty

  3. Post
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    VictrolaJazz

    The economics of the Great Society, whether we consider it from the perspective of economic theory, economic policies, or the consequences of those policies, offers much to criticize and little to praise. The theory—the Neoclassical Synthesis—combined a microeconomic theory focused on the identification and rectification of market failures and a macroeconomic theory based on primitive, deeply flawed Keynesianism. Although this body of analysis might sometimes arrive at constructive proposals by accident, as it did when it helped to push through the 1964 tax cut, in general it fostered unconstructive or even counterproductive policies whose common element was increased government intervention in the market system. The best thing we can say for the Great Society economic programs as a whole is that they amounted to a gigantic waste of the taxpayers’ money. Many, however, were worse than wastes; they actually caused harm.

    Viewed from today’s perspective, the Great Society seems to have been above all an almost preposterously bloated collection of social-engineering projects. The mentality that underlay this panoply of policies and actions was one of arrogance and presumption: the presupposition that the leadings intellectuals, “the best and the brightest,” ought to, and knew how to rearrange the pieces on the human chess board to construct a better society from the top down. Of course, the politicians who joined in this carnival of folly, for the most part, did not care one way or another about intellectual presumptions or positions; they simply saw an inviting opportunity to feather the nests of their supporters, while accruing wealth, public acclaim, and power for themselves. Opportunists of all sorts, from welfare hustlers to subsidy-seeking real estate developers, naturally came running to the fountain from which such copious quantities of the taxpayers’ money were flowing.

    After 1965, as the civil rights revolution dissolved into urban riots and violent splinter groups and as the growing U.S. engagement in Vietnam lengthened American casualty lists and increased Pentagon outlays, the public first soured and then turned increasingly against both LBJ’s domestic program and his foreign war. By the beginning of 1968, if not earlier, the president had conceded the impossibility of his reelection, and his leading advisers had lost much of their previous enthusiasm for the administration’s crusades at home and abroad. Although Richard M. Nixon was elected in 1968, many elements of the Great Society lived on, and some were extended and made ever more expensive, especially the food stamp program, Medicaid, and Medicare. Indeed, the currently looming fiscal train wreck associated primarily with the federal medical-care programs attests that in fundamental ways, the U.S. economy continues to suffer grave damage as a consequence of programs initiated during the Great Society.

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