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A Not-So-“Great Society?”

*In light of continued government policies that promote the growth of bureacracy, we’re re-releasing Josh’s article on the “Great Society” as a feature of our Future Freedom Foundation policy initiative.

In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson engaged in progressive social engineering on a scale never before known in American history. Johnson’s landmark entitlement program, the Great Society Act, legalized organized theft on a grand scale, as it implemented the nearly insolvent Medicare and Medicaid programs that still beleaguer our troubled nation. President Johnson’s massive wealth redistribution scheme was vote buying in its worst form, and it worked in solidifying liberal voting blocks in minority communities. Though Johnson’s plan worked in solidifying support of women and African-Americans through his socialist social engineering, history has demonstrated that his policies have nearly destroyed entire American communities.

In some cases, Presidents do unfortunate things which do great harm to the country, with the best of intentions. In Johnson’s case, these programs didn’t fail despite his best intentions, but as a result of his calloused and cynical view of women and minority groups. The man truly believed that he could “buy” the support of these communities, and pass the bill on to future generations. It was all about politics, never about the people. Ronald Kessler, a crack DC reporter, quoted LBJ in his book Inside the White House as saying “These negroes they’re getting pretty uppity these days and that’s a problem for us [Democrats] since they’ve got something now they never had before, the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now, we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference…I’ll have those [uses a derogatory word for Black Americans] voting Democratic for the next 200 years.” So, as LBJ’s own words indicate, the Great Society programs were more about political power than helping people in need.

These Great Society programs, which were billed as “anti-poverty” measures, have actually destroyed the greatest anti-poverty program in American history: the American Family. One of Johnson’s earliest efforts in his “War on Poverty” was to expand the Aide to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which was implemented following WWII to aide widowed women with small children. Johnson, eyeing an opportunity to expand his party’s electoral prospects, decided to open the program not only to widows, but to all single mothers. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see this one coming a mile down the road: the law of unintended consequences took over in short order, driving up the illegitimacy rate inAmerica, effectively squelching the nucleic American family in our time. In fact, in the aftermath of this irrational proposal, the percentage of children born out-of-wedlock has skyrocketed from 5.3% in 1960 to over 40% today. For black Americans, the tragedy is even worse. The dependency created by such statist programs has driven the out-of-wedlock childbirth rate from 25% in 1960 to over 72% today. American families in general and black American families in particular are in crisis, and more Government is not the solution.  

It is time for a new generation of American leadership to sever the secular progressive policies of societal destruction, before it’s too late for freedom in America. We must push back against this choking state control that was implemented to keep an entire people group dependent on Uncle Sam. I recall reading about the tragedy of slavery in the stirring words of Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I can’t help but be reminded of such exploitation when I read of Uncle Sam’s “solutions.” Both destroy liberty, and both pit citizen against citizen by fueling class warfare in our country. We must now seek to reform out-of-control entitlements, before the entire American economy pays the price. We must take the necessary measures to help the most vulnerable citizens among us, many of whom are already dependent on Social Security and Medicare, while pursuing a long term strategy to phase out these disastrous programs. Instead of more control from Congress, we must seek to put the peoples’ money back in their own hands, and reduce or eliminate capital gains, estate and income taxes on our citizens. This will allow us to transfer planning for retirement security and basic necessities like healthcare back to the people, who are far better arbiters of their own needs than some self-serving bureaucrat inWashington,DC. Gerald Ford rightly warned Americans in 1974 that a “government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.”


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