For Democrats in Congress, a Return to the 'War on Poverty' 50 Years Later

Democrats reignite 'War on Poverty' 50 years after LBJ declared it.

President Johnson shakes the hand of an Appalachia resident on May 7, 1964.

President Lyndon Johnson shakes the hand of an Appalachia resident on May 7, 1964. Democrats in Washington have recently showed renewed interest in poverty as a political issue.

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[ALSO: Republicans Hope to Force Democrats Into Paying for Unemployment Insurance]

While a dwindling number of conservative voters support increasing benefits for the unemployed or economically disadvantaged, a majority of independent voters and Democrats remain committed to maintaining them.

That's not to say that the policies Democrats imagine stand a chance of passing through Congress today, however.

The politics of the country have shifted dramatically since Johnson pushed for his "War on Poverty." For one, Johnson was the master of negotiating with his former colleagues in Congress whereas Obama's relationships there remain fragile. In the early 1960s, the country was experiencing an economic boom. Today, slow job growth and budgetary constraints remain at the forefront of any discussion.

"Getting a little tick up in the minimum wage is going to be a terrible struggle today," says Kent Germany, an associate history professor of history at the University of South Carolina. "For LBJ that would have been a cast-off thought. He was envisioning this grand and new America not the 'tit for tat' America that we see today."

Harkin says, however, that no matter the obstacles, it is time for Democrats to dig in their heels and fight for these issues.

"We've gone through a whole period of budget deficits," he says. "I think now people are realizing this type of austerity is not getting us anywhere."

More News:

  • How Not Extending Jobless Benefits Will Bring Down Unemployment
  • The War on Poverty, 50 Years Later
  • Going From Middle Class to Poverty