Article by Tim Morrissey, courtesy of Wisconsin News Connection
It was 50 years ago this month that President Lyndon Johnson launched America's War on Poverty in his State of the Union message, but U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore of Milwaukee says the War on Poverty has somehow become a war on the poor. She cites attacks on the very programs that were at the heart of the War on Poverty. "These programs that take care of the very disabled and elderly, Pell Grants - you know, that's being regarded as a welfare program," she points out. "There's a war on any program that seeks to help people get out of poverty and move into the middle class." Moore adds she is one of millions of Americans who have used these programs over the past five decades, to help escape poverty and move into the middle class.
But now, she says the middle class is in danger and needs to wake up and fight to keep these programs. "But I think once we get middle-class, working-class people to realize that they're falling very quickly into the ranks of the poor, we can develop some more empathy for stuff like making sure we maintain Social Security benefits" she stresses. Moore says perceptions and politics have changed in the past 50 years, and she sees the congressional wrangling over extending federal unemployment benefits as an example. She points out that in past times of high unemployment, federal benefits were extended, during periods of both Republican and Democratic leadership.
Now, she says, some members of Congress say the unemployed are just lazy, raising the question of whether the nation needs a new version of LBJ's War on Poverty. "Well, we might want to call it something else," Moore says. "You know, there is a lot of rhetoric about helping people out of poverty. "But if we were to do that, it would be a focus on those initiatives that have actually demonstrated their ability to help people get out of poverty."