Obama’s Poverty Alleviation Strategy

The main problem with congress is that there is an inability for Democrats and Republicans to agree on how best to handle poverty in the U.S. and around the globe.

In 1964 Lyndon Baines Johnson addressed a joint session of congress and introduced his war on poverty. He introduced poverty alleviation strategies that left a lasting legacy in the minds of the American public. He stated, “Some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity. This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.”

Today many Americans and people around the world reside in poverty. Some experts say that LBJ’s war on poverty was not a success, although it did bring the issue to the center stage for the first time on a national scale.

Today, parallels are being drawn between LBJ and Obama in their conviction to eradicate poverty.

Author Sasha Abromsky notes that President Obama, “understands the impact of poverty on people’s lives better than almost any other of his predecessors.” LBJ’s $20 trillion dollar strategy was much more aggressive than Obama’s poverty alleviation strategy. Obama supported economic packages that benefit those living in poverty, for example, the 2009 stimulus package increased funding for services such as food stamps. The Affordable Care Act is a safety net for Americans unable to afford the rising price of health care. Not only have his policies been aimed aid the poor, they also have prevented millions of Americans from falling into poverty.

Today, bipartisanship in congress remains the biggest obstacle for government assisted social service programs that support low income families. The fundamental problem remains that conservatives and neo-liberals hold vastly different beliefs when discussing the root problems of poverty. Liberals and neo-liberals believe that long-term poverty within certain demographics correlates with long-term structural problems and ongoing economic inequality within society. On the other hand conservatives and, most notably, conservatives like Paul Ryan hold that poverty is associated mainly with culture.

These distinctly different ideologies shed light on one of the reasons why Republicans and Democrats support separate economic and social service policies. The new Republican congress is pressing to reverse Obama’s second term packages that focused on providing substantial packages that supported the lower and lower middle classes. Obama’s policies show that he is aware of how the increasing income gap aversely affects low-income Americans. The Republican majority House and Senate has the ability to repeal legislation enacted during Obama’s terms in office.

It is likely that many of his bills will be on the chopping block next year.

– Maxine Gordon

Sources: NPR, New York Magazine Washington Post
Photo: Flickr