In little more than a decade after President Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty,” President Ronald Reagan led the nation in the equivalent of a helicopter evacuation from the epicenter of the fight. Reagan and his band of conservatives also so poisoned the political discussion about poverty that even today many progressives dare not use a phrase that even smacks of “war on poverty” for fear of being tagged that epithet of epithets, an “out-of-touch, ’60s-style liberal.”
So when President Bush presides over a Gilded Age of economic inequality exacerbated by his own policies, the political response is too often muted. That is true even as one in eight Americans lives below the official poverty line and as a total of at least 90 million Americans have incomes that are not high enough to meet all of their housing, food, education and health care needs.
Truth is, it’s time for some ‘60s-style liberalism when it comes to poverty in America.