It was 50 years ago today that Lyndon B. Johnson gave his famed “Great Society” speech. His Great Society included a massive system of government programs, with a focus on a “War on Poverty.”
He launched a myriad of means-tested welfare programs, including Head Start, Medicaid, public housing programs, and various programs to provide social services to lower-income communities.
Nearly $22 trillion and roughly 80 welfare programs later, however, society’s ability to prevent poverty has fallen behind.
This doesn’t mean material poverty hasn’t declined. Not even the federal government can spend $22 trillion and have no impact. It is partly because of this spending that America’s poor today are much better off materially than their predecessors five decades ago.
However, while material poverty has declined, Americans are not better off when it comes to self-sufficiency. The percentage of Americans dependent on government has remained virtually unchanged since the 1960s.