Now, is it time to declare a new ‘War on Poverty’? LYNDON B. JOHNSON, who waged a War on Poverty. White House photo in public domain. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.How many Americans live in poverty? Poverty means that a household’s income is less than a threshold required to maintain an adequate standard of living. The threshold for one American under 65 years of age, living alone, is $11,139. For a household of three, it’s $17,374. I have a household of three, and I must say that I would feel pressed to get by at that level. Would you experience an adequate standard of living at those income levels?

Record numbers of Americans now live in poverty: 46.2 million Americans, according to the latest statistics compiled by the U.S. Census. This is the largest number in more than a half-century. The Census began compiling these numbers 52 years ago. Here’s the entire report. I’ve read it—and, well, my advice is: Brace yourself.

The official poverty rate is 15.1%, as of the end of 2010—the third consecutive annual increase. The poverty rate has increased for non-Hispanic whites and African Americans between 2009 and 2010, but it hasn’t changed for Asians or Hispanics.

The poverty rate for children is most depressing. The poverty rate for children under 18 is 22.0%, an increase from 20.7% a year before. The number of children under age 18 is now 16.4 million. Others who have experienced an increase in poverty include native Americans, people living in metropolitan areas, people living in the South, and those with a disability.

Way back when, in the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson waged a War on Poverty. This expanded what has become known as the welfare state. Since then, concerns about the poor have declined. Many criticize the whole idea of a state that takes care of the poor and downtrodden.

This might not be the most popular idea, but …

Is it time to declare a new War on Poverty?

If you recall LBJ’s War on Poverty, what did he do right? Or, wrong?

How should we wage such a war today?

Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.


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