Fifty years ago today (January 8) President Lyndon B. Johnson used his 1964 State of the Union address to declare an "unconditional war on poverty."
What led LBJ to make such a bold move? The Cold War, the civil rights movement, and a taste for ambitious goals were all part of the mix. [...]
During the past decade, ordinary Americans have experienced declining wages, rising joblessness, and an epidemic of foreclosures. Some pundits argue that it is difficult to elicit a generosity of spirit among economically-squeezed middle-class families. But as more and more middle class Americans face economic insecurity, they may identify their own fate with the plight of the poor.
Indeed, the tide seems to be turning. [...]
The momentum at the local and state levels is likely to put pressure on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage. In his State of the Union address last January, President Obama proposed raising the minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $9 an hour. A week after the November elections, Obama announced that he supports hiking it to $10.10 an hour, based on a bill sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Cong. George Miller (D-CA). In August, Demos published a report, Underwriting Bad Jobs, that revealed that the federal government -- through contracting out and privatization -- is the largest employer of low wage, dead end jobs. The think tank and its organizing allies urged Obama to issue a Presidential Executive Order raising the minimum wage for workers on all federal contracts.
Within a decade after President Johnson declare a War on Poverty, we cut the nation's poverty rate in half. We should commit ourselves to cutting it in half once again by 2025.