Wednesday, May 21, 2014
What LBJ Wrought
After 50 years of his anti-poverty policy, a “tangle of pathologies” has spread dramatically.
Standing on his presidential limousine, Lyndon Johnson, campaigning in Providence, R.I., in September 1964, bellowed through a bullhorn: “We’re in favor of a lot of things and we’re against mighty few.” This was a synopsis of what he had said four months earlier.
Fifty years ago this Thursday, at the University of Michigan, Johnson had proposed legislating into existence a Great Society. It would end poverty and racial injustice, “but that is just the beginning.” It would “rebuild the entire urban United States” while fending off “boredom and restlessness,” slaking “the hunger for community,” and enhancing “the meaning of our lives” — all by assembling “the best thought and the broadest knowledge.”
In 1964, 76 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing “just about always or most of the time”; today, 19 percent do. The former number is one reason Johnson did so much; the latter is one consequence of his doing so.
at 5/21/2014 09:00:00 PM