But even more basic, this poverty twists and deforms the spirit. The American poor are pessimistic and defeated, and they are victimized by mental suffering to a degree unknown in Suburbia. Civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr.
I believe what happened in Los Angeles was of grave national significance. What we witnessed in the Watts area was the beginning of a stirring of a deprived people in a society who had been by-passed by the progress of the previous decade. The poverty status of older Americans improved considerably during the 60s thanks to increases in Social Security benefits.
To illustrate, in , the percentage of rural Americans in poverty was 19 percent, compared to 14 percent for urban Americans. In that same year, the percent of nonwhite Americans in poverty was 41 percent, in contrast to 12 percent of white Americans.
The People's Historian?
What is more, many poor female heads of households, because of child-rearing duties and lack of child care, could not work outside the home, leaving 11 million of the poor in in these families. Democrat John F. Kennedy won a close presidential election over the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon, in Although a Democrat and an activist relative to his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy at first did not share the passion for social reform characteristic of traditional Roosevelt Democratic supporters. Given his father, Joseph P.
Kennedy, Sr. Yet, both John and his father were familiar with Hollywood and the modern media. As such, John Kennedy became the first made-for-television presidential candidate. But there was more than the television advantage. The Kennedy campaign adroitly used his photogenic qualities to appeal to the editors and readers of many popular magazines. And there was more to Kennedy than glamour.
Setting a trend in modern American politics, the Kennedy family was the first to use private polling to ascertain local voter concerns during the campaign.
A People's History Of The Vietnam War
Despite this disadvantage, the Kennedy Administration did enjoy some legislative success. It should also be noted that the Kennedy Administration allowed states to include two-parent, unemployed families in their AFDC programs. During his campaign, Kennedy had visited the rural poverty areas of Appalachia. A famous photo contrasts a handsome, well-polished Kennedy standing in front of a destitute Appalachian family on its front porch.
These opportunities would be created through a comprehensive and rationally planned set of services to youth and their neighbors. These services might include individual, family, and group work as well as community organization. Furthermore, in , the Kennedy Administration passed tax credits for business investment and increased business depreciation allowances.
Some people close to Kennedy were shocked and angry with the selection. Although his legislative successes were few, Kennedy created a significant policy agenda before his death for his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson LBJ. All of these were Kennedy initiatives in various stages of progress when he was assassinated in Kennedy and Johnson, as a result, turned out to be a great team for the development of social programs.
Kennedy created the agenda. He and his advisers were the intellectuals, the idea generators, the brains behind the legislative proposals.
Johnson became the idea champion before Congress, the political muscle needed to pass legislation in the s. He consulted many members of Congress during the legislative process. He gave credit to individual members of Congress for legislative successes. The result was the successful passage of much federal legislation during the Johnson Administration. President Lyndon Johnson significantly expanded the federal partnership in American social welfare, a partnership of the federal government with private and other public institutions to promote social welfare.
As discussed in earlier chapters, when traditional institutions in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors failed during the Great Depression, the federal government under President Franklin Roosevelt was forced to create new institutional relationships in an attempt to solve the crisis.
That is, Roosevelt was forced to establish a significant role for the federal government in maximizing social welfare throughout the country. The agenda of the Great Society consisted of numerous pieces of legislation. The first, and perhaps most important, was the Civil Rights Act of In , the Supreme Court had ruled that school segregation was unconstitutional. This civil rights victory led to further efforts to challenge segregation in southern states. His advocacy effort attracted media attention nationwide indeed, worldwide , forcing the cooperation of the federal government in enforcing African American civil rights.
Here is part of his letter written in response while in jail:. It also called for desegregation of public facilities and prohibited employment discrimination in organizations receiving federal money. To oversee the employment requirements, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was established. In addition, the U.
Attorney General was given the right to file suits to desegregate schools. A weakness of the legislation was that enforcement was done on a case-by-case basis i. This feature of the bill made it more difficult to enforce antidiscrimination. To expedite legal action, the Civil Rights Act of was passed. The act also presumed discrimination in any area using screening tests such as literacy tests. In these cases, federal authorities could directly administer elections. Within one week from the bills signing, the federal Justice Department had filed suits to have poll taxes voided in Texas, Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Indeed, President Johnson encouraged King to go ahead with the march in an effort to build mass public support for the legislation. Television coverage of the graphic violence served to generate support for the civil rights legislation, just as Johnson and King had hoped it would.
In any case, the Civil Rights Act is a clear example of government and nonprofit voluntary groups working in partnership to produce social change.
The mandatory part of the program, Part A, covered various hospital costs and was financed by a payroll tax on employers and employees. Another characteristic of the bill is that it required no means test i. Some of its weaker characteristics were its failure to cover many chronic or long-term conditions. Furthermore, it did not cover preventative and outreach services and contained few cost controls.
The Life and Work of Howard Zinn
States had to provide emergency care and certain other basic services. In addition, each state had to accept people receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Beyond these requirements, it was left to each state to determine eligibility requirements and any additional services. The weaknesses of Medicaid were similar to those of Medicare. It did not promote outreach and preventative services and there were few cost controls in the legislation. Title 3 of this act authorized the creation of a national network of Area Agencies on Aging. These agencies coordinate and subsidize services such as homecare and nutrition programs for older Americans.
This act provided federal assistance to low-income public school districts. In so doing, the legislation allowed private schools to share books and supplies with public schools. The Work Incentive Program was part of the welfare amendment of This program funded training programs and child care for women on welfare. Yet, the program allowed clients to keep part of their employment earnings without a reduction in benefits.
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This program was later expanded, standardized in terms of eligibility , and made mandatory on all states during the Nixon Administration. The War on Poverty also offered a Work-Study Program that provided poor college students with campus jobs. Maximum feasible participation of the poor was viewed as a way to bridge social reform and individual change.
More specifically, proponents reasoned that empowerment through participation in social change activities would lead to better mental health for the individual. To promote empowerment and maximum feasible participation of the poor, many of the CAP agencies employed paraprofessionals from their neighborhoods and client populations. Were they a planning agency or an advocacy agency or a direct service agency?
This ambiguity led to problems in implementing the programs at the local level.
To illustrate, the Johnson Administration wanted to reduce welfare dependency, while clients used Great Society legal aid services to challenge welfare denials. What is more, many CAP agencies suffered from poor management practices, including inefficiency, patronage, and corruption. Johnson wanted to be a great president, even greater than his hero, Franklin D. However, although many social programs were established under Johnson, his administration did not pay enough attention to adequate funding and proper implementation.
In the end, he decided not to run for reelection. Yet, those close to Johnson maintain that his commitment to the poor and civil rights was genuine. In so doing, millions of needy Americans have benefited from the right to vote, Medicare, Medicaid, legal aid, Head Start, student financial aid, and other Great Society programs. Some historians consider the presidency of Lyndon Johnson to be a failure, but is this a fair and accurate assessment?
Related A People’s History of Poverty in America (The New Press Peoples History Series)
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