Learning from the War on Poverty

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Fifty years have passed since President Johnson first declared a War on Poverty in his 1964 State of the Union address. While many of the programs that emerged from this national commitment are now taken for granted, the nation would be unrecognizable to most Americans if they had never been enacted.

Soon after President Johnson declared his commitment to end poverty, Congress passed the bipartisan Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and critical civil rights legislation, which created the legislative framework to expand economic opportunity through anti-poverty, health, education, and employment policies. Throughout the Johnson and Nixon administrations, the War on Poverty—and the Great Society more broadly—laid the foundation for our modern-day safety net, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps; Medicare; Medicaid; Head Start; and expanded Social Security.

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