A War on Poverty
In 1960, the United States was called an "affluent society." We were rich. Many Americans had cars, bikes, TV sets, stereos, and nice houses. But some people22 percent of the nation's populationwere left out. To Lyndon Johnson it was a question of basic fairness, and of freedom. "The man who is hungry, who cannot find work or educate his children, who is bowed by want, that man is not fully free," he said. Lyndon Johnson thought something could be done. He intended to build his Great Society. "Our aim is not only to relieve the symptoms of poverty," he said, "but to cure it, and above all, prevent it."
Johnson got a civil rights act passedit outlawed most discrimination and changed the American South. Operation Headstart helped little children prepare for kindergarten. The Job Corps found work for high school dropouts. Upward Bound helped needy kids go to college. Medicare helped old people pay their hospital bills. Medicaid helped those who didn't have money to afford a doctor. Eventually all these programs really helpedpoverty in America was cut in half.
In July of 1965, the President went to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor to sign a new law that ended narrow, racist immigration quotas dating from 1924. The new law let new groups of immigrants, especially Asians and Latinos, broaden the American family. And Johnson began beautification projects and environmental protection programs. All these new programs cost money. But we could afford the war on povertyuntil something else began taking most of our money. That was that war in southeast Asiathe war in Vietnam.