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Rob Horowitz: The War On Poverty, 50 Years Later

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


We may not have declared victory in the War on Poverty yet, but we are certainly not fighting a losing battle.

Fifty years ago last week, President Johnson, in his first State of the Union Address, famously launched the War on Poverty. Never one to set small goals, Johnson said, “Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope-some because of their poverty, and some because of their skin color and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity. This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.”

It is accurate to say that most Americans do not view the War on Poverty as an unqualified success. A majority don’t go as far as President Reagan did when he famously said, "In the sixties we waged a war on poverty, and poverty won." But a recent poll conducted for the Center for American Progress shows that only 1 in 5 Americans believe that the War on Poverty has made a major difference. An additional 41 percent say that it has made a minor difference.

Not surprisingly, attitudes about the War on Poverty break down along largely partisan, ideological, and racial lines. For example, as the report states, “Nearly 7 in 10 (69 percent) white liberals and progressives believe the War on Poverty has worked, and more than 6 in 10 (64 percent) white conservatives and libertarians believe the opposite”.

These mixed views are understandable when one considers that the official poverty rate in the United States has only dropped from about 19% when the War on Poverty was launched 50 years ago to about 15% today.

Great progress made...

However, the official poverty rate, because it does not count the assistance provided by the very programs put in place by the War on Poverty, dramatically understates the real progress that has been made. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Arloc Sherman points out, “A poverty measure that, as most analysts recommend, accounts for (rather than ignores) major non-cash benefits that the official poverty measure leaves out—namely, SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps), rent subsidies, and tax credits for working families—would find that poverty in the United States today is considerably lower than it was throughout the 1960s, despite today’s weaker economy."

Sherman adds, “Average household income for the bottom fifth of Americans (counting non-cash benefits and tax credits, adjusted for inflation and changes in household size) was more than 75 percent higher in 2011 than in 1964.

...But more work to be done

Still, by anyone’s measure there are too many Americans who remain mired in poverty, and 1 in 5 children today grow up in households who fall below the official poverty line. Even with the use of a more accurate measure of poverty, that still leaves far too many of our kids without the basic building blocks essential to future success and happiness.

The best answers to poverty then and now remain expanding opportunity, access to a quality education, and good paying jobs available for people who work hard and play by the rules. In today’s tough, competitive, and volatile global economy, there is even more of a need for a strong safety net. But it is not the ultimate solution. Let’s use the 50-year mark on the War on Poverty to spur a competition for the best ideas to generate significant growth in middle income jobs—ones where people earn enough so they can raise a family. We may never completely defeat poverty, but we can sure continue to significantly reduce it.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


Related Slideshow: 10 Questions Gina Raimondo Has to Answer When Running for Governor

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10. Money

Can she explain the amount of out of state money?

Most of the candidates for Governor need to answer the question, can they raise enough to be competitive? That is not a problem for Raimondo. She has proven to be the most skilled fundraiser, but her issue is justifying that the vast majority of the money is coming from out-of-state.

Raimondo will face a number of questions regarding who is really behind her campaign - the amount of out-of-state dollars is just one of the questions.

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9. Pension Reform

Did she only reform certain pensions?

Raimondo rose to celebrity status because of her leadership on pension reform. Her efforts helped to stabilize the pension system, but the reform was hardly democratic.

Teachers took the vast majority of the hit, while major groups of pensioners escaped reform including the judges, state police and disability pensioners. Raimondo has some explaining to do.

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8. Lack of Transparency

If she lacks transparency as Treasurer, what will it be like as Governor?

From her deepest critics to the media and even members of the retirement board, many have questioned her and her office's willingness to share information and provide the public insights into her management of the investment commission and the performance of the fund under her leadership.

Data which historically was easily accessed by the public and media is now locked behind the Raimondo wall. Often this raises serious questions and forces the media to seek the simplest information via FOIA requests.

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7. Wall Street

Why is Wall Street spending so much money supporting Raimondo?

Raimondo is the queen of fundraising and so much of it derives from the major players on Wall Street.

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6. Performance

Has Raimondo managed the pension fund competently?

The most important job of the General Treasurer might be the management of the state's retirement fund. The blockbuster investigative piece by Stephen Beale unveiled that the pension system under Raimondo lost $200 million

While she may be able to blitz the airwaves with positive messages about her bio and her leadership in pension reform, her Democratic primary competitors and/or her GOP opponent in the General Election may be able to destroy her credibility by playing up her "mismanagement of the pension system."

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5. Hedge Funds

Will Raimondo pay the price for shifting so much of the assets into Hedge Funds?

For the past six months, Raimondo has been under constant critique for shifting more than 20% of the State's retirement dollars into unregulated Hedge Funds. The critics has included forensic auditor/Forbes contributor Ted Siedle, Rolling Stones magazine's star reporter Matt Taibbi, former General Treasurer and candidate again, Frank Caprio, as well as many of the public unions. The combination of where she gets her campaign dollars, coupled with the shift in investment strategy and the under performance of the fund may all build into a snowball effect.

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4. Connect to RIers

Educated at Yale and Harvard, a Rhode Scholar and a millionaire, can she connect to the average RIer?

Raimondo is a born and bred Rhode Islander, but for her adult life she has been educated at the best colleges in the world and living a professional life aligned with many of America's super rich associated with Wall Street. In her announcement she mentioned a number of times she was a mother, but did not mention that her husband is a partner at Mckinsey - and according to Forbes magazine probably takes home $2 million or so per year.

Raimondo talks a lot about her father losing his job when she was a child, but she has come a long way since then. She could come across as the ultimate RI success story or be perceived as an out of touch venture capitalist.

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3. Siedle and Taibbi

Neither Ted Siedle or Matt Taibbi are going away - can she deflect their questions and charges?

In the past two months, both forensic auditor/Forbes columnist Ted Siedle and Rolling Stone's star reporter Matt Taibbi have raised serious issues about Raimondo's motivation and judgment.

As Taibbi wrote, "The dynamic young Rhodes scholar was allowing her state to be used as a test case for the rest of the country, at the behest of powerful out-of-state financiers with dreams of pushing pension reform down the throats of taxpayers and public workers from coast to coast."

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/looting-the-pension-funds-20130926#ixzz2o2bLhqKW

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2. Is she a Democrat?

Will Taveras and Pell paint her to be too conservative?

Raimondo is simply hated by the teachers unions and others - big blocks of voters in the Democratic primary. Both Clay Pell and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras will tack to the left and may compete for the same voters allowing her to sneak through to the general. However, progressives and unions may decide to pick Pell over Taveras (who is struggling to raise money and whose track record in Providence may come under fire) and then Pell can take the left leaning primary.

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1. SEC Investigation

Can Raimondo survive an SEC investigation?

Both Siedle and a state senator have written to the SEC calling for an investigation into the investment practices of Raimondo. A federal investigation would be at a minimum a black eye to the General Treasurer and an enforcement action might end a credible campaign. Timing may prove to be everything.


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Hey Robbie -

Instead of putting up BS from the left wing radicals from the Center for American Progress, how about so real statistics?

Aren't "you" the journalist on here?

Are you just going to await the readers of this propaganda to post up the REAL information about this failed, Democrat party driven socialist concept?

This is not even "yellow" journalism, it's absolute obfuscation of the truth.

The "War on Poverty" is as successful as the "War on Drugs".

Another centralized government failure.

You progressives just are insane in that you keep repeating the same mistakes in spite of the facts that show this direction for a centralized government is a total failure.


BE AWARE: The truth about the lies spewed by this administration regarding the terrorist attack in Benghazi 2012 are coming out. However, no one would know if all they listened to is the main stream media.

B. Hussein Obama and Hillary Clinton knew about the terrorist attack that day and is was NOT due to a YouTube video.

Comment #1 by Killary Klinton on 2014 01 14

Great progress has been made,but more work has to be done..THE SAME OLD LINE USED OVER AND OVER AND OVER! Poverty is the stock and trade of Democratic party and their poverty pimp operatives,they don't want to fix poverty,that does them no good, they don't want to teach someone how to fish they would just rather give them a fish and keep them coming back to them year after year for more free fish while they get otter people to pay for it.the war on poverty has been a failure because of this formula that was designed to achieve nothing more than that.

Comment #2 by LENNY BRUCE on 2014 01 14

I still wonder how giving amnesty to a whole bunch of uneducated, unskilled immigrants will do anything but make poverty worse, particularly in a state like Rhode Island, itself teetering on collapse.

Comment #3 by David Beagle on 2014 01 14

50 years later, $trillions spent, millions still in poverty and more dependent on government than ever -- and more dependent on voting for their living.

Comment #4 by Art West on 2014 01 14

There has never been a successful approach to poverty in this country, going back to the 18th century. If an unknown person attempted to enter a town, the needed a reference from a current residence or proof that they were able bodied and willing to work. Otherwise they would be turned away. If a resident was unable to earn a living--usually because of disability--there were few options. They could hope a family member would take them in. If that wasn't possible, they might be placed on a work farm, also called a poor farm or town farm, where they were expected to contribute in some way through labor. They lived short and sometimes brutal lives. Some towns "auctioned" their poor. Residents would estimate how much the care of an indigent person would cost, and the town would reimburse them. Only, in this auction, the lowest bid--the smallest cost to the town--would win. Since the winning bidder received little money from the town, the indigent person was usually worked to death to make up for it, and were little more than slaves. There have been few, if any, effective solutions to poverty. I would argue that the WPA and the CCC were successful for a short period of time. The issue of how to treat the poor needs to be addressed, unless you think the solution is to ignore them.

Comment #5 by John Onamas on 2014 01 14

Income transfers for working people. If you have a job and you are still "poor" then you get food assistance, housing assistance, tuition assistance, energy assistance, etc. As long as you work, then you have access to these transfers. This way a janitor can raise a family, send his/her kids to college/trade school, live in a safe neighborhood, and hopefully his/her offspring can break out of the cycle of poverty.

Comment #6 by bill bentley on 2014 01 14

Don't want to be poor?

Finish High School

Get married before you have a child

Don't have a child until you are 24

Poverty for many is a choice--usually a bad one. Yes, I know--there area litany of excuses and the a few exceptions, but in the end, people make choices. They should be held responsible for them.

In general--you tax something and you'll get less of it; subsidize it and you get more. So, do we really want less taxpayers and more people comfortable with their poor choices?

Comment #7 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 01 14

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy: a prize twit gone bonkers. Got to love simplistic minds, not. Go read a book.

Comment #8 by bill bentley on 2014 01 14

The war on poverty will never be won as long as liberal Democrat politicians benefit from the votes generated by those who depend on those politicians for assistance. It is a self-perpetuating system of mutual benefit.

And Lyndon Johnson's crass, racist comment really nails this point. (I'd prefer not to repeat the quote.)

Comment #9 by Art West on 2014 01 14

"Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity. " Instead of masking your cold heart and lack of compassion for your fellow man (thank you Ronnie) justified by your Sophist argument, how about we create an environment where the cycle of poverty can be broken for many families. All this liberal progressive bashing does not absolve of us of our responsibility toward our neighbor. Worst part is you probably go to church, mass, temple, mosque or whatever God you worship.

Comment #10 by bill bentley on 2014 01 14

Mr Horowitz should study the economic theory advanced by the B actor and co-star of "Bedtime For Bonzo" Ronald Reagan "If you feed enough oats to the horse, enough will eventually drop from the back end to feed the sparrows" Its called "trickle down economics" aka voodoo economics by George Bush Sr and 99% of economist at the time

Rob give trickle down economics a chance, we've only tried it for 30yrs. I think if we try it for another 500 years we'll start to see some real positive results. Sooner or later, poor folks, will see the benefits WE HOPE
Sammy in Arizona

Never forget in 1983 Ronald Reagan disarmed the Marines while ordering them into Beirut, 241 Marines died needlessly.

Comment #11 by Sammy Arizona on 2014 01 14

47% of Americans pay NO taxes...Obama's friends at Google,GE,and a host of others that enjoy access and favoritism from the white house in exchange for support pay little or no taxes on their US earnings. The joke is on working America who pay more in taxes than google and microsoft. It's going to end badly for this country next 6 to 14 months.

Comment #12 by LENNY BRUCE on 2014 01 15

Bill, Bill, Bill. Are Ad-hominems's all you have? No facts, or other thoughts but pay, pay, pay? You and your ilk are why RI is where it is. Sad, sad, sad.

Comment #13 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 01 15

Jimmy, I have plenty of arguments to support income transfers for working families, they exist already to a degree in the tax structure and could be expanded. But I thought a little ad hominem was mostly what you punitive types paid attention to.

Comment #14 by bill bentley on 2014 01 15


Interesting that you think that personal responsibility is somehow punitive--and that ad hominems do anything but make the person using them look foolish, unthinking and /or uninformed. Perhaps if you put a bit more thought into the matter...

Since you neglected to provide any arguments other than 'it works because we are doing it--and we should do more', perhaps you can read these articles and refute their fact-based logic. BTW, I understand your frustration, being a fellow RI'er--it's tough to get a good job when our 'leader's' policies actually destroy jobs and force dependency.




Comment #15 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 01 15

Jimmy, I read your links. To summarize what I read, poverty is caused by lack of education, poor moral upbringing, and too much breeding. In other words, poverty is the fault of the poor, and prosperity can be achieved in three easy steps.

I will concede that these are relevant factors, but there other factors that cannot be controlled by individuals including geography, poor health, and economic factors like recessions, obsolescence of products and technologies, competition from other businesses and countries, and government (mis)management. In good times, the three-easy-steps approach helps, but times aren't always good, and the people who become poor as a result have little control over that.

Reagan was right: poverty won. I haven't heard anyone from the right or left crowing about the end of poverty. One of the articles makes a distinction between a hand-up and a hand-out. In fact, the vast majority of people who are out of work and/or poor would prefer to earn their keep. It's unfair and inaccurate to lump all of the poor into a big heap of uneducated, unwashed, and over bred.

Comment #16 by John Onamas on 2014 01 15

Jimmy: In Platonic jargon some are bronze, some silver, some gold. That being said, if your level of accomplishment is a janitor (for the sake of argument) why can't society redistribute some wealth to afford this person and their family dignity and opportunity. With income transfers, the playing field can be leveled for his/her offspring. Research clearly, and if you don't even agree to this premise then any argument is wasted on you, that children from more affluent communities do significantly better in life (economically). This doesn't even bring in race (which skews the ratios even more dramatically). In this context, having a poor parent with limited economic potential doesn't confine the offspring to poverty. This is hope, this is opportunity, and that is the American Dream.

Comment #17 by bill bentley on 2014 01 15

Bill. I can sum up your argument: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Karl Marx

I applaud your generosity and idealism, but at some point you have to face reality. You should stop looking at symptoms and delve down to root causes--and unintended consequences. BTW, Socialism and communism have been tried--and tens of millions have suffered and died under their oppressive leadership. Why you want to go there is beyond me.

Yes--there needs to be a safety net for the truly needy. The net today, however, is too large--and it is breaking this great nation. We have spent 16 Trillion dollars on poverty with little to show for it--and we happen to be 16 Trillion dollars in debt. President Johnson's "teach a man to fish" program has become "give them lots of fish."

Finally, the American Dream IS NOT your vision of class warfare--the American Dream is social mobility--the ability to work hard and succeed.

You call me punitive for wanting people to be responsible for their choices. In the end, however, your idealistic program will doom more children and people to poverty and low achievement as many realize they don't need to strive to subsist--we have seen a permanent underclass that does this. We agree, in the end, to disagree.

Comment #18 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 01 16

No Johnny--read them again carefully without perception bias and perhaps then you won't start your answer with a strawman argument.

I said poverty for MANY (not all) is a choice--and it is. Federal studies have shown that many could avoid poverty--yet don't. Poor decisions--and our ready safety net often encourages these bad decisions.

I agree a safety net is needed--but I'd have the net at the local and State level--a mix of charities and gov't as needed. People in a position to really know who the needy are--vice faceless addresses on mailed checks. Right now the Fed system is out of control--too big, too much fraud and waste--and our National Debt is devaluing our dollar and puts all of us at risk. Who take care of the truly needy if we enter another depression? Will it take another World War to get us out--like the last one? Read Morgenthau's letters to FDR...

Comment #19 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 01 16

I read them carefully. I suggest you read my comments carefully. While there are a some poor people who get that way because of bad decisions, there are many who get that way from circumstances beyond their control. If you can't acknowledge that simple fact, then there really is no room for discussion. Blaming all of the poor for being poor is a false hypothesis and does more to aggravate the problem than to solve it.

Comment #20 by John Onamas on 2014 01 16

NOBODY chooses to be poor. That's ridiculous. Poverty is sometimes the consequence of bad decisions, but it is never a conscious choice. Some people choose to live marginally, because of a sense of hopelessness or because it's easier than working and contributing. True poverty is suffering, and that's not a choice that anyone would make.

Comment #21 by John Onamas on 2014 01 16

Jimmy: Income transfers happen all the time in Capitalism. Its not socialism or communism.

I'm sorry that you have to come up with some fanciful argument to assuage your apparent sense of guilt caused by your lack of concern for your neighbor. I know it must be difficult to sleep and if that specious argument helps, well then I guess you should continue sucking on that pipe.

Comment #22 by bill bentley on 2014 01 16

Johnny--I'm tired of your strawman arguments. Nobody said anyone CHOOSE to be poor--nor do I blame the poor for anything--those are your words. Logical fallacies, lack of facts, and avoidance of larger issues are further evidence of simplistic thinking.

Please up the quality. Provide some data to support your opinion: What, for instance is the #1 cause of poverty? What % of the current poor are poor are generational? What % are in poverty is "for circumstances beyond their control." Is pregnancy, dropping out of high school, criminal activity examples circumstances beyond most people's control? Do you think easy access to section 8 housing, EBT cards, cell phones and health care help people decide to work harder? Not be single and pregnant?

Bill--whatever. Projection and fact-free arrogant elitism are no substitute for logic or facts. Sleep well knowing that your short-sighted policies, if enacted, will doom generations more. And you are trying to make me feel guilty--seriously!

Comment #23 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 01 16

Jimmy: I am not guilt tripping you, I am pointing out that to call poverty the fault of individuals allows people like you to ignore systemic and structural causes of poverty and allows you to ignore these social ills (thanks to old Ronnie boy). Second, I have written about the working poor and unfortunately you can't segregate out those who don't work and receive subsidies from those that do work but make nominal wages. The 1st group have been institutionalized into poverty dependence and that is another issue. The 2nd, includes people who, for example, have let us say a 105 IQ. Their never going to get smarter, so if the job that exists for them is as a janitor why can't we create mechanisms either through the tax structure, voucher based education, subsidized housing loans, etc., to provide economic and social opportunity? Its already being done in various forms, it just needs to be more targeted and not geared toward those who are already eating pretty good at the trough.

Comment #24 by bill bentley on 2014 01 16

Jimmy you said, "Nobody said anyone CHOOSE to be poor."

Um, you said it: "I said poverty for MANY (not all) is a choice--and it is."

If you can't even agree with yourself, I don't see the point of engaging in a debate.

Comment #25 by John Onamas on 2014 01 16


Come on--you are better than this... No one deliberately chooses poverty...it is often the result of the choices people make. Thus, poverty for many is a choice... Decide wisely--avoid it. Choose poorly, and there you are. Get it?

As for debate...Where are your ideas? Data? Have you even researched the reasons for poverty or are you more interested in defending your opinions without semantics and generalizations? No doubt you've heard the saying--It's not what you don't know thats the problem--it's what you know that isn't so...

Open your eyes...

Comment #26 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 01 17

Why Bill?--because it doesn't work. Is that clear enough? Please provide us the research or even an example that shows that giving people things makes them want to strive and produce--to achieve. Theory is great--but 50 years, 17 trillion dollars with more poverty than ever is the result of your give-away programs. Your feel-good theory has been disproved. Time to change the stimulus.

Ronnie boy? More ad-hominems? What have you done that make's you fit to even clean the man's shoes?

Comment #27 by Jimmy LaRouche on 2014 01 17

First, I am not proposing to "give" anything to anyone. These are income transfers for the "working poor" as in people who have jobs. And as I stated before, just like we give tax breaks to the wealthy we should provide them for the "working poor" (people who have jobs but make nominal wages. These can take many forms. One is to expand the EITC program; provide tuition waivers and make tuition vouchers available; maybe create a subsidized credit pool. There are many ways to accomplish what I'm talking about. And I am a great example of these types of strategy. My parents were low-income, neither graduated from high school, and my father worked low-wage municipal sector jobs. Through the Pell Program, tuition assistance from the State, Federal Work-study, and an academic scholarship I was able to put myself through a private liberal arts college. See how easy this is? And now I pax taxes and live a life beyond my parents reach. get it now?

And by the way, I have no interest in carrying Ronnie's shoes. I use him as the example of justifying people's lack of compassion; he made it o'k and for that he will answer to the gods of time.

Comment #28 by bill bentley on 2014 01 17


We remain in awe of your superior intellect. Compassion is easy with other peoples money.

Keep up the good work.

Comment #29 by Michael Byrnes on 2014 01 17

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