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Congresswoman McCollum’s Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty

January 8, 2014
Press Release

Washington, DC – Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B Johnson declared an “unconditional war on poverty in America” in his State of the Union address to Congress.  In honor of this anniversary, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) issued the following statement:

“Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson told the American people that the wealthiest nation on earth could not afford to allow any of its people to suffer in poverty.  He spoke eloquently of the need to take a comprehensive approach to a national problem, by working to improve not only incomes and employment but education, literacy, and opportunity as well.  President Johnson’s vision inspired our country to take meaningful steps to address this problem, which led to the establishment of many programs that still serve us well today.  From the creation of our nation’s first food stamp program to combat hunger to the establishment of Community Action Agencies, the echoes of President Johnson’s words continue to be felt in communities across our nation.

“While President Johnson’s leadership resulted in a profound change for generations of American children, families, and seniors, our country still must confront the reality that poverty and income inequality persist and are growing. We continue to see great disparities in wealth, health, and well-being in communities of color, rural and urban communities, and for too many children and seniors. Our society continues to struggle with making quality education accessible to all and ensuring that working families benefit from economic growth.

“In the face of progress that has been strong but incomplete, the Republican agenda in this Congress has been to roll back or eliminate some of the most successful anti-poverty initiatives enacted by President Johnson. Republicans have voted for devastating cuts to nutrition support and proposed to change Medicare into a voucher system.  For Republicans to want to slash nutritional assistance for the hungry, ignore the crisis facing the long-term unemployed, and deny affordable healthcare coverage to the sick and uninsured is not only undermining the “war on poverty,” but in fact has the effect of a declaration of war on the poorest and most vulnerable Americans.  That is unconscionable.

“Many of the opportunities to escape hunger, poverty, and illness that were born out of President Johnson’s vision are still alive today – but many are seeing their funding diminish and are coming under attack.

“As we begin our work in this second session of the 113th Congress, the battle against hunger, poverty, unemployment, illness, and suffering among too many of our fellow citizens continues.  We must remember the roadmap President Johnson laid out and learn from our past successes and failures.  We all must continue to fight to eliminate poverty and continue to invest to create the hope, opportunity, and dignity that all Americans deserve.”


Congresswoman Betty McCollum serves on the House Appropriations Committee.  She is Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.