The poverty crisis of the 1950s and 60s was an incredibly jarring experience for any American citizens who found themselves in a financial rut. Thankfully, Lyndon B. Johnson took the crisis pretty seriously and got to work eradicating the poverty in the country…though his policies weren’t necessarily the stunning, magical cure that everyone had hoped for.

So, the poverty crisis kind of sucked

50 years ago, poverty in the United States was at an all-time high. All in all, a striking one out of five people lived in poverty. Pretty screwed up, huh? In fact, the rates of poverty were so staggering that they became essentially unignorable, calling for government intervention to heal the broke and crumbling nation. And heck, even the most independent, government-paranoid citizens needed all the help they could get.

AP Photo/File

In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson’s powerful State of the Union address revealed one of his biggest concerns: addressing the drastic poverty crisis. Johnson was pretty upfront in letting the country know he was more than aware of the epidemic (and was just as pissed off about it as they were). He soon declared his famous “War on Poverty” to tackle during his time in office. But what exactly did this “war” include…and did it work?

What the heck is a “war” on poverty?

When Johnson set out to obliterate the problem, the country was, as can be expected, a little skeptical. After all, trying to dial down their extreme levels of poverty, even with federal help, would be nothing short of a freaking miracle. However, there was nothing like a little called-for government intervention to patch up their crummy economic problems.

The San Diego Union-Tribune/AP Photo

While it’s been half of a century since Johnson first promised to fight poverty, most of the agendas he created are still around in the present. The strength of programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, Job Corps, and more stemmed from Johnson’s actions concerning the obnoxiously high levels of poverty he was faced with. But did any of his initiatives actually do much about the issue?

So… did it actually help?

Honestly, the answer is pretty unclear. Sure, the intervention did likely stop the expansion of poverty. But concerning the preexisting poverty…well, his prized programs may not have done as much as they claimed to. The idea that Johnson’s war helped alleviate former poverty levels all boils down to the data reflected in various economic charts and graphs, but hey, statistics aren’t always quite reliable.


Considering that the U.S. official poverty rate doesn’t take all relevant information about measuring poverty into account, Lyndon may not have magically cured the epidemic after all. However, you can’t deny that his programs lessened the incline of poverty and provided financial help to the elderly, unemployed, and more. And hey, at least he tried to clean up the disastrous financial situation of America’s everyday citizens. A solid start, right?