Nebraska Appleseed Statement on 50th Anniversary of War On Poverty

Public policies helped lift hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans out of poverty

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson gave the State of the Union address to Congress in which he launched a War On Poverty. He introduced legislation to establish programs that made reducing poverty a national priority.

President Johnson’s legislation set in motion the establishment of programs that continue to lift millions of families out of poverty today, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “food stamps”), Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, and Community Action programs.  A recent Columbia University study showed that without these programs our poverty rate would be nearly double what it is today.

Today, Nebraska Appleseed Executive Director Rebecca Gould released a statement on how these programs have allowed Nebraskans to work their way out of poverty and what more must be done to ensure all Nebraskans have the chance for economic security.

“When President Johnson addressed Congress in 1964, it marked the first time eradicating poverty was made a national focus,” Gould said.  “The programs that resulted from President Johnson’s efforts have lifted millions of working American families out of poverty over the last 50 years.  They have allowed hundreds of thousands of hard-working Nebraskans to meet critical needs like putting food on the table, having a place to live, and being able to see a doctor.  These are critical measures of basic decency that would not otherwise have been possible for many working families, children, and older adults.”

However, many Americans are still waging that fight, struggling to support their families and find financial security in an economy that leaves many hard-working people behind.  Consider:

  • Our safety net is working overtime to make up for where our economy is failing. When families fall on tough times because of job loss, unexpected medical costs and other challenges, programs like unemployment insurance, Medicaid, nutrition assistance, housing, and child care assistance keep families on their feet.

  • Instead of cuts to programs that support Americans who are struggling, we need to focus our attention back on rebuilding an economy that works for everyone, including investments in job creation, education, and policies that help struggling families work their way back on their feet.

“All Nebraskans should have the opportunity to share in The Good Life,” Gould said.  “To achieve a stronger, more prosperous future for our state, we must ensure our public policy safeguards the economic security of all Nebraskans.  In this Legislative session, our state senators can clear remaining barriers to opportunity for all by expanding health care access to more working people, support fair wages for hard work, and protect funding for education and job training so every Nebraskan has the chance to work toward the American Dream.”

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