We are awash in retrospectives of the “War on Poverty,” launched 50 years ago this month by Lyndon Johnson. A furious debate has developed between those (mostly liberals) who consider the war an important, if incomplete, triumph and those (mostly conservatives) who judge it a wasteful defeat. In reality, we both won and lost the War on Poverty. This is an ambiguous truth that our acrimonious political culture has trouble accepting.

We won in the sense that programs for the poor have dramatically reduced hardship and have kept millions from destitution. To those who think that Washington mainly serves “fat cats,” Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution says: Look at the numbers. In 2011, he estimates, federal spending dedicated to the poor averaged $13,000 for every person below government’s poverty line, now $23,000 for a family of four.

Unable to view this article?

This could be due to a conflict with your ad-blocking or security software.

Please add japantimes.co.jp and piano.io to your list of allowed sites.

If this does not resolve the issue or you are unable to add the domains to your allowlist, please see out this support page.

We humbly apologize for the inconvenience.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.