The War on Poverty is the unofficial name for legislation first introduced by President Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address in 1964. His proposal led Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act, which established the Office of Economic Opportunity to administer the local application of federal funds targeted against poverty.
As a part of the Great Society, Johnson believed in expanding the federal government’s roles in education and health care as poverty reduction strategies. Some saw these policies as a continuation of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which ran from 1933 to 1935, and the Four Freedoms of 1941.
The legacy of the War on Poverty policy initiative remains in the continued existence of such federal programs as Head Start, VISTA and the Job Corps.
The Great Society movement waned after the 1960s with deregulation, growing criticism of the supposed welfare state and an ideological shift to reducing federal aid to the impoverished.
The war on poverty (lower case) has flip-flopped with the poor taking a beating from many fronts. The ideological about-face on helping the impoverished has turned into a rout. President Ronald Reagan sounded the battle cry with his Welfare Queen onslaught. His strategy has evolved into an outright war on poverty with the result a rich/poor separation wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s policies reflect the war’s national undertaking. He makes Scrooge look like a Red Cross worker.
Columnist Dave Helling put Brownback in his place as Anti-Welfare King in the April 21 issue of the KC Star.
Two paragraphs set up a zinger of a paragraph.
“Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill that further limits lifetime welfare benefits in Kansas and redefines what recipients can buy. Welfare programs, he said, perpetuate ‘cycles of dependency.’
“Wait. You could make the case that if anyone in Kansas is caught in a cycle of dependency, it’s Sam Brownback. He’s earned his living from taxpayers almost all his life. He’s worked in state government, the U.S. House and U.S. Senate and now as governor, where he earns around $100,000 a year.”
And zing: “That’s quite a résumé for someone who thinks government is the enemy.”
Government has done well by Brownback and, as Helling noted, he can spend his money any way he wants.
Oh, this scary thought. Helling says he heard that Brownback may run for the U.S. Senate when Pat Roberts’ term expires in 2020.
You want war, then why not attack corporate welfare? The government spends 50 percent more on corporate welfare than it does on food stamps and housing assistance.
Long-time activist Ralph Nader said that in many states it was a literal race to the bottom for elected officials to offer corporations sweeter tax deals to keep jobs in their locality. Some of these Fortune 500 companies even get a rebate check.
According to Citizens for Tax Justice, American Fortune 500 corporations are avoiding up to $600 billion in U.S. federal income taxes by holding more than $2.1 trillion of retained profits offshore, which they designate as “permanently reinvested” to avoid a tax liability, Nader pointed out.
“And of course, millionaires and billionaires often pay less in taxes than middle-class Americans do, taking full advantage of tax loopholes, deductions, deferrals and other forms of creative accounting,” Nader wrote in a Huffington Post story.
Congress can cut funds to the impoverished but they can fill the kitty when it comes to the rich.
The Republican controlled House has passed a bill to repeal the estate tax, giving a massive tax cut to the wealthiest 0.15 percent of Americans. In other words, 99.85 percent of Americans would see absolutely no benefit from this legislation — only the huge spike in federal debt that would come along with it.
Combined with other tax bills approved by House Republicans so far this year, the U.S. debt would grow by $584 billion to finance tax cuts for the wealthy.
Look at the needs of the country, from improving early childhood education to fixing crumbling roads and bridges. No, a priority is to eliminate what Republicans call the “death tax.”
The legislation approved recently goes even further than previous efforts to repeal the estate tax, by allowing estates to avoid taxes on capital gains and other growth in assets entirely. It is estimated that, under this legislation, more than half of the assets passed down would have never been taxed.
This bill is even more egregious when considered against a backdrop of the dramatic rise in wealth and income inequality in the United States. In 2013, the median wealth of upper-income families ($639,400) was nearly seven times the median wealth of middle-income families ($96,500) — the widest wealth gap since the Federal Reserve began collecting data 30 years ago.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the estate tax unfair and anti-family, adding, “It is the federal government’s final insult to tax your family when you have already paid taxes on your property throughout your life. The thought of having to visit the IRS and the undertaker on the same day is an absolute outrage.”
While the vote wasn’t binding, it did get senators on the record.
Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent VT, said repealing the estate tax “is not about family farms or small business. This amendment benefits exclusively the wealthiest 0.3 percent of the families in this country.”
Brownback and his ilk have maneuvered well through the political labyrinths. Their conservative navigation doesn’t include the axiom that a rising tide raises all boats. They’re not interested in dories; they’re concerned about yachts.
Their strategy has worked. Their neo-welfare queen propaganda sends many to the polls to vote against their own best interests. They have turned the tables with their war on poverty.
How can the battle turn to favor those less fortunate. Well, the less fortunate need to become educated on what will happen if they don’t overcome apathy and get to the ballot box. There is one true and effective way to beat back the rebirth of the John Birch Society extremism on smaller government and socio-economic strangulation and that is to vote the rascals out.