Washington (AFP) – U.S. conservatives seized on Wednesday’s 50th anniversary of the launch of president Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty” to dispute the effectiveness of existing policies, and urge a welfare state overhaul.
“Five decades and trillions of dollars after president Johnson waged his war on poverty, the results of this big-government approach are in,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a potential White House aspirant in 2016, said in a speech in the U.S. Capitol’s appropriately named Lyndon Johnson room.
“We have four million Americans who have been out of work for six months or more,” he went on. “We have a staggering 49 million Americans living below the poverty line.”
Johnson’s historic initiative achieved some noble victories in battles to help low-income Americans, some Republicans said, but the war is far from won, and perhaps slipping into stalemate.
“I don’t argue with the intentions, I just believe they over-estimated the ability of government to have the effects that they anticipated,” Senator John McCain, who unsuccessfully challenged now-President Barack Obama for the White House in 2008, told AFP.
“So the grade, probably, is mixed.”
Reforms proposed by conservatives include slashing aid like food stamps, which are distributed to needy families, repackaging costly entitlement programs, and expanding training for the unskilled and unemployed.