Social Stratification of the Poor in America

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Following the death of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson became president. His first order of business as president was to launch an ambitious set of programs known as the Great Society. The main goals and purpose of these programs were to promote racial equality and to eliminate poverty throughout the United States. Though the Great Society plan was believed to be a solid plan that would bring social stratification to an ultimate conclusion, it is argued to have done just the opposite, while also causing conflict in the world order.

President Lyndon B. Johnson’s aspiration of the Great Society was to design a plan to improve American life for everyone. As most Americans experienced exceptional prosperity, the idea of pockets of poverty in the United States became unacceptable to Johnson. President Johnson determined that his plan would make great changes including equality of opportunity, enhancement of urban life, improvement of education, ending poverty, and implementing racial justice.

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 created a wide variety of educational, training, loan and assistance programs for the needy. Among these programs, the Job Corps provided 100,000 young, unemployed men and women with training and job experience. Community action programs (CAP) aiming at solving urban poverty through grass-roots community efforts such as Head Start, sought to foster the healthy development of low-income families. Due to education being the key to Johnson’s upward social mobility, he signed the Elementary and Secondary education Act of 1965. This was supposed to give better educational opportunities to the poor through federal subsidies.

In 1965, Medicaid for the poor, and Medicare for the elderly, was created to pay their healthcare costs. The 1968 Housing Act proposed to build 600,000 federally subsidized housing units over the following 10 years. Under the provisions of the act, the federal government gave poor people a lower mortgage rate when they bought a house and partially subsidized the operations of the estate developers willing to build or to renovate low-cost housing. Other programs targeted immigration, the arts, and the environment. The Immigration Act of 1965 abolished the quota system established in 1924. With the 1965 measure, immigrants were accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, regardless of their racial or national origins. The National Foundation of the Arts and Humanities Act of 1965 created the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Federal Water Quality Administration was formed in 1965, while the National Air Population Control Administration, created in 1955, gained some regulatory powers under Johnson’s program.

Through the eyes of most, President Johnson’s Great Society plan was making a significant difference to the “War on Poverty,” but the President had his political critics. Johnson should have been riding high at the time, but he faced increasing disagreement. His opponents, including skeptical members of congress like Eugene McCarthy and Americans for Democratic Action official Allard Lowenstein, insisted that Johnson was substituting programs for direct action. It was Johnson’s style to lavish federal money on all sorts of projects geared to win people over instead of ending poverty. Johnson’s landslide victory over Republican presidential candidate Goldwater in 1964 gave Johnson a popular mandate and vast majorities in both houses of Congress to carry out whatever reforms he presented.

The dreadful poverty Johnson had experienced when he was young pushed antipoverty measures high on his agenda. Johnson’s oversized ego mixed with deep-seated insecurity compelled him to outdo Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and prove that he was more than simply the executor of Kennedy’s political estate. Johnson’s experience in Congress gave him the political know-how to push controversial bills through Congress.

Great Society programs created by President Johnson ended up being only partially successful. The Community Action Programs caused more harm than good on the economy, as did other programs run by incompetence, hasty planning, and corruption. Medicaid and Medicare lived on, but they were, again, more costly over the long run. Johnson’s landmark civil rights legislation failed to improve race relations permanently as black militancy, increased by rising expectations, met white backlash.

As the Great Society moved from providing opportunities to giving away entitlements, traditional economic Conservatism prevailed. The Vietnam War, whose costs, combined with those of the Great Society programs’ goals were so ambitious that complete success was difficult at best. Despite the constant disapproval of the conservatives, the Great Society continues to be a vast part of modern American’s life. Johnson, who was considered to be an ambitious, hard-driving politician with an oversized ego, was known to only be masking deep insecurities, particularly in his dealings with the wealthy, socially confident Kennedy family.

To conclude, it is recognized that welfare in the United States only kept the recipients alive and did nothing to reduce poverty or eliminate social stratification. The stress on the rehabilitation of the poor proved less than effective in reducing poverty, in part because the nature of poverty was misunderstood by President Johnson. The culture of poverty view led to a war on the social stratification of the poor rather than a war on the structural conditions producing poverty in the United States. This proves that social stratification is a part of nature not prejudice, even if the poor were rich, someone would ultimately have less.

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Social Stratification of the Poor in America. (2021, Nov 18). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/social-stratification-of-the-poor-in-america/

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