America’s War on Poverty Essay

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The whole world faces a specific need to face different issues of development which includes the need to fight against poverty. The following textual analysis paper will focus on the issue on the need for “war on poverty” among the Americans. Martha J. Bailey has expressed deep concern in this topic in the article “Legacies of the War on Poverty.” It is a clearly understood point that, the goal behind “war on poverty” in the United States was creation of more opportunities so that all Americans could benefit. The policies laid down in the “war on poverty” were intended at accelerating the rate of economic growth which consequently would result to maintenance of high echelons of employment. The “war on poverty” was also targeting eradication of racial discrimination among the citizens in the United States, promotion of opportunities for the children as well as aiding the disabled as well as the elderly members of the society.


Martha Bailey is the associate professor of economics at the University of Michigan and is also the co-editor of Legacies of War on Poverty. Her works and her background as a leader in the aspect of determining the war against poverty makes her specifically the qualified individual to handle the issues related to the said social problem. Understandably, her involvement in movements that are dedicated towards mandating the course of development that the society takes into account to make sure about the success of the approaches used to fight poverty and its effects in the American society makes her the person right to talk about the issue and explore the different elements related to it.

Audience and Context

The “war on poverty” requires that the nation must address two important facts. The rates of poverty are extremely high among the children (Riley, 98). Additionally, use of money on programs initiated by the government is only a partial solution. Sufficient money has been used by the government in funding antipoverty programs that are intended to reduce the level of poverty among the Americans. The effectiveness of “war on poverty is based on implementation of changes in personal decision among the young Americans. The “war on poverty” has been perceived by majority of researchers to have improved the lives of many people in America who belong to low income groups since the initiation of Johnson crusade. A decrease in the rate of infant mortality has been noted, malnutrition has decreased, most households have received electricity and better plumbing and most women have acquired paid jobs. According to the argument of economists, the official rate of poverty abhorrently understates the effects of the programs initiated by the government. There exist some sharp divisions among the economists on the reasons behind unending poverty in consideration of the major factors such as technological change, declining labor unions, low minimum wage value and globalization. There is a decline in real income for the majority of low income as well as middle income classes thus making the safety net programs as the only solution for poor families’ survival.

The arguments of the conservatives on the other hand, their perception of poverty statistics has been skeptical. They argue that money was misspent on safety net programs by the government. They contend additional spending should be focused on creation of job opportunities and economic growth and less spending on support. The measurement of poverty rates by government yardsticks as well as other available alternatives as preferred by the economist indicates that, poverty is remarkably a notable feature in the lives of most Americans. Forty percent of children of black children and thirty percent Hispanics have their lives marked with poverty. A research conducted in 2011 revealed that about 1.7 million homes survived on below 2$ cash income every day. The most appropriate efforts towards “war on poverty” at the moment would involve strengthening the economic recovery in the United State which will consequently reduce the rates of employment thus bringing majority of the people in the labor market. The rate of poverty for the working people is merely 3 percent while the rate is as high as 33 percent for the non working population (Heale, 65). Therefore, introduction of more opportunities for employment is the most preferred approach to take the “war on poverty” to a higher level.

The Text

“War on poverty” is a necessity in the United States because it encompasses important lessons for the creation of more opportunities that are beneficial to the racial minority groups. The enforcement of Civil Rights Act together with the allocation of federal funds towards such programs contributes positively to desegregation in the hospitals as well as in schools. The gains attained in the health of black infants resulted to improved test scores among black teenagers. The initiatives as well as the policies of “war on poverty” reduced by half the poverty gap between the white and the black and also created incalculable gains in the society.


The author indicates that, the soaring of income inequality is a significant factor of consideration that hinders success among most people. Available statistics indicate that, in every five children in the United States, one child is poor and continues to be left behind by their peers. It is also indicated in the article that, the neighborhood where the poor children live is extremely dangerous and they are sent to poorly performing schools, and this is out of a fault that they never generated. The chances of completing their education up to the high school level or college level are minimal (Sowell, 36). As a result therefore, it is projected that the children are most likely to live poor live until their adult lives. Further statistics indicate that, four out of ten of the children whose parents were in lowest quintile of income are more likely to stay in that quintile up to their adult life. President Lyndon B. Johnson was behind the declaration of “war on poverty” five decades back but it has not been successful. The gains achieved are minimal since the rate of poverty has fallen by a mere 15 % in two consecutive generations. About 46 million of the households, the citizens live in scarcely adequate income (Heale, 65). At this point, Bailey uses the reasoning that is proven through statistics and proofs that specifically point out towards the actual need for programs in the United States that are specifically dedicated to lessening the impacts of poverty on the communities making up the nation.


To persuade her readers about the reality of the issue and its need to be resolved immediately, Bailey tries to give attention to the current programs that are already implemented in the country to point out how much more improvement is needed to make sure of their applicability in resolving the current problems of the communities relating to the existence of poverty. Some important programs were initiated on “war on poverty” targeting the children that offered important lessons on fighting the trend. Some examples of such programs include the Head Start along with food stamps whose target is improving the health status for the children, their level of education and consequently, enabling them to be more productive in their future lives. Some critics to this initiative have expressed different opinions on the success of the undertaking. They argue that, the programs are associated with high expenses, and they fail to appreciate the fact that, any expenditure cost associated with such programs is a future investment. According to the arguments of the critics, poverty is considered to be part of human life and not all programs could work to eradicate poverty. They fail to account for the research that was conducted over decades that proved that the successes and accomplishments that could be achieved through directed policy. The commitments on “war on poverty” if renewed serves as the key to opportunities to the people together with strengthening the economy and hence empowering the people.


The need for adding more efforts on “war on poverty” is warranted by the fact that majority of the people in the United States do not have meaningful employment. Most people are job seekers and the economy of the country is also soaring. Decreasing the level of poverty among the citizens requires significant improvements in the labor market for the low wage earners. Economic growth must be strengthened and the gains achieved must be distributed widely. Any efforts for achieving success in “war on poverty” require strengthening some programs that will benefit the poor people and improve their living conditions. The need for continued “war on poverty” today is further manifested in the extent of inequality which has been described by President Obama as a “defining challenge” as a consequence, the President’s proposal to the states is an expansion of Medicaid programs to the childless adults, the poor and improvements of the minimum wage coupled with funding the programs for early-childhood.

Works Cited:

  1. Bailey, M. (2014).Why We Need One. (Retrieved on March 24, 2014).