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Lyndon B Johnson - The Great Society

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Then, in 1965, there was a vision.  President Lyndon Johnson addressed the tragedy that existed in America, poverty.  He had hoped to give birth to a Great Society.  Mister Johnson dreamed of the day when the truth of America reflected the richness that is often said to define this country.  Yet, his aspiration was deferred.  In a desire to create a Great Society, or two, one at home and one overseas, Lyndon Johnson lost his bearing. Ultimately, he destroyed most of what he hoped to build.  As President Obama begins his walk down a similar path, people ponder; what might President Obama plan and unintentionally promote.

For President Johnson, a single war, not the one on poverty, but instead the fight on foreign soil stood in his way.  The fiscal burden was a heavy weight on the nation’s budget.  Nevertheless, President Johnson insisted that the Administration ardently pursue American involvement in Vietnam while spending billions of dollars on domestic problems.  Much like our present President, Mister Obama, who eagerly escalates the war in Afghanistan, Lyndon Johnson believed he could attach inequities on the home front and still secure a win on distant shores.

Each Commander-In-Chief seemed to understand the excessive strain on the economy; yet, Johnson and Obama remained stalwart; they could do it all.  President Johnson, in time, relented.  He resigned himself to defeat.  He had not succeeded in his fight against poverty; nor did he triumph in Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson exited the Executive Office without the legacy he had hoped to leave. Mister Obama, some say will realize the same fate.  Others observe that he has a luxury that President Johnson did not have.  Obama, just as his immediate predecessor had, learned from history.

In the mid-1960s, the Great Society was born and brushed aside.  The futility of the battles and American blood shed was a load too large for average citizens to bear.  Ordinary people protested.  The emphasis President Johnson had hoped to place on poverty was lost.  Thus, the desire to eliminate dearth in the world’s wealthiest country went by the wayside.  The thought to offer equal opportunities to the economically oppressed was forfeited.  Combat was far more visible then the poor.  This truth taught all President’s since Johnson that if you want the people to support your agenda, hide what you do not want the people to see.

Today, photographs of struggles do not fill the airwaves.  Earlier Administration made certain of this and the American people accepted the bliss of ignorance.  People in the States prefer to believe that they support the soldiers, even though American policies lead these young men and women to slaughter.

Radio Broadcasters barely, rarely, or never mention the body counts abroad.  Homeless persons, huddled together for warmth on the streets of the world’s wealthiest nation do not cause a stir.  Journalists just walk right past the indigents.  The fortunate few impecunious, those who can afford a room are easy to avoid, especially since they had dispersed.  The Suburbanization of Poverty helped to further isolate individuals who most Americans wish to keep invisible.

In the year 2010, there is no need to mention a misery out of sight, not the war in the Middle East or the economic conflict between the classes.  Announcers would rather rant, rage, and argue about Party politics, report on ploys, or discuss the latest and greatest scandal.

Then and now, the underprivileged are, time and again, avoided, ignored, or intentionally hidden. Embarrassed by their plight, the destitute do not speak up.  On occasion, these individuals are overwhelmed with what they must to do just to survive.  This serves Administrations well.  Issues, silently secured away from the masses, and the media, also work well for our Congressmen and women.  

Without awareness for the fallen, soldiers family’s, and the unfortunate thousands who do more than flirt with financial failures, Americans never think to address these costly concerns, poverty and warfare.  Legislators in our nation’s Capitol like that.

Therefore, those who lack a more powerful political presence require someone in Washington to talk for them.  Lyndon Johnson hoped to articulate what the all too frequently concealed could not.

Today, the disadvantaged have gone the way of the past President.  Frequently, they are the objects of scorn. People perceive the wars Johnson waged were lost.  Neither Vietnam, the conflict that the Johnson presidency is oft remembered for, nor the Great Society ended the way Mister Johnson envisioned.  In truth, no  Chief Executive of this country can move the mountains of policies that establish and maintain poverty.  That is a task only the people can accomplish.  We, the people, if change is to come, must never forget that we are the voice of the downtrodden, or could be.

However, in the many decades that have passed, the public has chosen not to take up the call.  Communities separate and on their own have not cared to become Great Societies. Instead, individually, and as neighbors, we have weakened the structure that could have supported those without the dollars to purchase the bootstraps the impoverished are told to use to pull themselves up.

As a nation, we do not provide adequate education for the poor.  Thus, success, or jobs that provide a sufficient salary are lost.  As a society, we relegate the less skilled to service positions.  They may live closer to the more stable and secure citizens, indeed, they may need to in order to survive. Yet, the penniless are no better off. They are barely able to adopt the label of Suburbanites.  This poverty-stricken population has boomed; yet, even in the ‘burbs the underprivileged are no better off, just better concealed

Please ponder the plight that currently permeates our Nation.  Text and statistics are presented below in The Suburbanization of Poverty: Trends in Metropolitan America, 2000 to 2008.

The Suburbanization of Poverty: Trends in Metropolitan America, 2000 to 2008
Elizabeth Kneebone, Senior Research Analyst and Emily Garr, Senior Research Assistant
The Brookings Institution
January 20, 2010

An analysis of the location of poverty in America, particularly in the nation’s 95 largest metro areas in 2000, 2007, and 2008 reveals that:

  • By 2008, suburbs were home to the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the country. Between 2000 and 2008, suburbs in the country’s largest metro areas saw their poor population grow by 25 percent—almost five times faster than primary cities and well ahead of the growth seen in smaller metro areas and non-metropolitan communities. As a result, by 2008 large suburbs were home to 1.5 million more poor than their primary cities and housed almost one-third of the nation’s poor overall.
  • Midwestern cities and suburbs experienced by far the largest poverty rate increases over the decade. Led by increasing poverty in auto manufacturing metro areas—like Grand Rapids and Youngstown—Midwestern city and suburban poverty rates climbed 3.0 and 2.2 percentage points, respectively. At the same time, Northeastern metros—led by New York and Worcester— actually saw poverty rates in their primary cities decline, while collectively their suburbs experienced a slight increase.
  • In 2008, 91.6 million people—more than 30 percent of the nation’s population—fell below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. More individuals lived in families with incomes between 100 and 200 percent of poverty line (52.5 million) than below the poverty line (39.1 million) in 2008. Between 2000 and 2008, large suburbs saw the fastest growing low-income populations across community types and the greatest uptick in the share of the population living under 200 percent of poverty.
  • Western cities and Florida suburbs were among the first to see the effects of the “Great Recession” translate into significant increases in poverty between 2007 and 2008. Sun Belt metro areas hit hardest by the collapse of the housing market saw significant gains in poverty between 2007 and 2008, with suburban increases clustered in Florida metro areas—like Miami, Tampa, and Palm Bay—and city poverty increases most prevalent in Western metro areas— like Los Angeles, Riverside, and Phoenix. Based on increases in unemployment over the past year, Sun Belt metro areas are also likely to experience the largest increases in poverty in 2009.
  • If common citizens are as committed to change as they said they were during the 2008 election cycle, let us look back so that we might move forward.  Consider the United States Constitution.  This divine document states, that average Americans, can petition our Representatives of what matters, society as a whole.  After all, it is we, the people, who place men and women into Congressional offices.  Our Senators, and those in the House, know who has the truest influence. Corporations cannot employ our Representatives without our permission. You, I, and even the registered impoverished voter, can, and must, create the Great Society that Lyndon Baines Johnson did not.  I think such a provision is our right and responsibility, For as Author John Donne recited . . .

    "All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...
    As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....
    No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

    ~ John Donne

    References for A Great Society Lost To War . . .

    Originally posted to Bcgntn; BeThink on Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 01:35 PM PDT.

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    Comment Preferences

    •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

      It is only the giving that makes us what [who] we are. - Ian Anderson. Betsy L. Angert
      BeThink

      by Bcgntn on Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 01:35:28 PM PDT

    •  you're doing it again... bringing up that (6+ / 0-)

      'vision thing.'  
      Appreciate your diary...

      Never walk into a public restroom while breathing through your mouth.

      by quityurkidding on Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 01:39:21 PM PDT

    •  My greatest sadness in American politics (7+ / 0-)

      is poor people who vote for those who enable corporations and billionaires to keep them a permanent underclass and think they are doing themselves a favor while they do it.

      I will never forget living in a crumbling apartment building in 1984 as a kid and seeing the woman who lived in the basement apartment just below my family celebrating wildly when Ronald Reagan won by a landslide. Only to see her panic-stricken face as her welfare and food stamps begin to get slashed. Only to see her blame... Democrats. For seeking revenge for Walter Mondale's defeat.

      And this was before the era of the internet and Fox News when only talk radio was feeding the beast.

      That sadness is compounded when it's done not out delusion but out of hate for some other group.

      If your cousin coming out as gay fills you with such revulsion that you will vote yourself into serfdom from that day forward in response, I pity you. The problem is, I also don't know how to help you.

      If you think voting for Rick Santorum for President means both a return to generous New Deal and the Great Society government while ending liberalism and the Democratic Party that is oppressing you, I must derisively applaud the echochamber of the RW for the mindfuck of all mindfucks.

      But America isn't a better place because of it.

      •  How do you NOT do this in America? (4+ / 0-)

        poor people who vote for those who enable corporations and billionaires to keep them a permanent underclass

        Both major parties are quite proudly in the pocket of corporate America (those few among them that aren't are denounced furiously and vituperatively as "purists", "extremists", and "poor leaders", see any DailyKos diary for proof of this), and third parties have no chance.  Thus any vote a poor person casts is a vote for their exploiters.  The only path out for the poor, the exploited and the oppressed is away from partisan/electoral politics entirely.

        We who have been nothing shall be all. This is the final struggle. ~E. Poitier

        by ActivistGuy on Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 02:10:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  teach the children and adults (0+ / 0-)

          Dearest ActivistGuy  . . .

          While I concur, I also do not.  The reason I vote for Dennis Kucinich and did in the last two primaries is because he is a Democrat.  I think we must be within to effectuate change.  We need only not give in to the corporate structure that contributes cash.  Bernie Sanders, I believe is also far more able to create change as a Congressman in the past and as a Senator now.

          I think we must educate the classes and the masses.  The people are the problem.  Propaganda, when aware of how psychology is used to shape us, is far less persuasive if we the people only choose to learn and look beyond the flash in the Press pan.

          It is only the giving that makes us what [who] we are. - Ian Anderson. Betsy L. Angert
          BeThink

          by Bcgntn on Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 02:20:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Wow! Your personal story (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Only Needs a Beat

        Dearest  LeftHandedMan . . .

        I will never forget living in a crumbling apartment building in 1984 as a kid and seeing the woman who lived in the basement apartment just below my family celebrating wildly when Ronald Reagan won by a landslide. Only to see her panic-stricken face as her welfare and food stamps begin to get slashed. Only to see her blame... Democrats. For seeking revenge for Walter Mondale's defeat.

        Wow!  Perhaps, the telling of your tale, far and wide, to Legislators, and to this President [Barack Obama reads letters before bed] could help to move mountains.

        Perhaps, you could be the courageous soul to speak to Rush, Glenn, Sarah, or . . .  For me, among the saddest aspects of the debate is the Left speaks only to their choir and the Right to theirs.  Rally the troops or reach beyond the borders we create for ourselves.

        It is only the giving that makes us what [who] we are. - Ian Anderson. Betsy L. Angert
        BeThink

        by Bcgntn on Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 02:13:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I know peole like this (0+ / 0-)

        And I see them everyday.

    •  Excellent and timely diary (4+ / 0-)

      Through all the means at its disposal, Global Finance calls the tune, and we will pay the piper, by Goddess !

      If and until this situation is at least balanced toward the lower classes, 'civilization' slouches toward extinction.

      Tippenwreckedanhotlisted.

      We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately - Ben Franklin

      •  We the people and the paradox (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JupiterIslandGirl, ozsea1

        Dearest ozsea1 . . .

        I think that if we wait for such balance we lessen the likelihood that we the little people will do what we must to be the power we have and are.

        Had the people not taken to the streets, I suspect we would still be in Vietnam.  Over the decades, we have allowed ourselves to be more and more complacent!  For me, if we think we are defeated for we do not have the cash, the corporate capabilities, then, we are!

        Americans are and have been easily appease.  Give me a car, a great home, no new taxes, and I am fine.  We do not care for our neighbors’ plight, especially if they are poor.  We shun what we do not wish to see.  I think the people, as they act on apathy and a sense of being powerless, as the average American chooses to be now, is the greater paradox.

        For years, before the bombs blasted on the terrain in Iraq, I have stood at the Peace Corner, first in California, now in Florida.  For the last months, I am usually the only person who stands vigil for global tranquility.  Granted, people have time constraints and much they need to do.  Also, when individual think they cannot afford to take an hour to pay homage to the many who fall . . . I ask, when do Afghanis and Iraqis have an opportunity to leave the ever-present war.

      • The Medium is the Message

    It is only the giving that makes us what [who] we are. - Ian Anderson. Betsy L. Angert
    BeThink

    by Bcgntn on Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 02:42:40 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

  •  Suburbanization brings problems (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    theran, Only Needs a Beat

    (I'd rather be poor in a city)
    No public transportation, few food choices, lack of community, etc.

  •  Actually, this whole decade reminds me of (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bcgntn, ems97007, DRo, Only Needs a Beat

    The gilded age as well, which ended with a depression as well and lead into the progressive era. With Wall St. being the Robber Barons of the age. Even the political situation has some similarities.

  •  In the old days, the burbs had good schools (5+ / 0-)

    Now, they are as bad as the city schools -- poor schools produce poverty... anywhere there are bad schools, the people will be poor.

    The only way to reverse the trend is to improve schools.

  •  Thank You for a great diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bcgntn, Only Needs a Beat

    Sad sad news, but perhaps the increasing poverty in the suburbs will help facilitate the vast change that so many claim they desire to see.

    In our ongoing discussions/debates/pie fights, I think we often overlook an important fact that you raise:

    Corporations cannot employ our Representatives without our permission

    Until more of us understand that we have to reconnect people with their power, many of us will always be stuck in the comfort zone of looking for sellouts and feeling betrayed by politicians and institutions alike.

    While I'd like to dig deeper into the demographics of the suburbanite poor, it really doesn't matter as we need to organize them and bring them into our fold. I'

    "Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so." ...Bertrand Russell

    by sebastianguy99 on Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 03:07:02 PM PDT

  •  Cheap public transportation to jobs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Only Needs a Beat

    Is considered a human rights issue in South America.

    Would such an idea take hold here?

    "One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity nothing beats teamwork." - Mark Twain

    by greendem on Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 03:44:58 PM PDT

  •  The problem with comparisons to other eras (0+ / 0-)

    is that they are different eras.
    Everyone is a unique individual with unique thinking and ideas and shaping by the era they are in.
    LBJ was shaped by the depression and new deal and WWII.  Civil rights was just beginning and at the time the US never saw a lost war or knew the difficulty about Vietnam.
    Vietnam was a war with a draft.  

    Obama's era is today.  Things are far more different with a global village, the internet and alot more information flowing.  We have lost wars and we have learned lessons.
    obama came of age after the civil rights era.  

    It's like those who try to compare today to the 1930s.  
    Things are so much different from those times.

    And trying to say someone is like someone else is just simplistic and silly.  It's an easy topic for the press to use and I swear, Obama has been every president since TR.
    He's the next ---insert name of president here ----.

  •  Suburbs in the US are becoming like (0+ / 0-)

    suburbs in Europe. In Europe most poor people live in the suburbs and the rich live in the cities. If you look at DC, for example, the city is rapidly gentrifying more and more, while the inner suburbs around DC (Montgomery County, PG County, Fairfax County, Arlington County, and Alexandria) have started to notice increases in crime and poverty.

  •  David Simon of the Wire (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bcgntn

    commented a few years ago that as a society, America writes off 10% of the population at birth. The best way that I can describe the past few years is that we are quickly accelerating toward an America where the doors of opportunity are suddenly closed for to 30 - 40% of us, not allowing for race, age, or education. If we fall off the ladder, or look down, even once, we're done.  

  • Close

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