Fifty years after President Johnson started a $20 trillion taxpayer-funded war on poverty, the overall percentage of impoverished people in the U.S. has declined only slightly and the poor have lost ground under President Obama.
Aides said Mr. Obama doesn’t plan to commemorate the anniversary Wednesday of Johnson’s speech in 1964, which gave rise to Medicaid, Head Start and a broad range of other federal anti-poverty programs. The president’s only public event Tuesday was a plea for Congress to approve extended benefits for the long-term unemployed, another reminder of the persistent economic troubles during Mr. Obama’s five years in office.
“What I think the American people are really looking for in 2014 is just a little bit of stability,” Mr. Obama said.
Although the president often rails against income inequality in America, his policies have had little impact overall on poverty. A record 47 million Americans receive food stamps, about 13 million more than when he took office.
The poverty rate has stood at 15 percent for three consecutive years, the first time that has happened since the mid-1960s. The poverty rate in 1965 was 17.3 percent; it was 12.5 percent in 2007, before the Great Recession.
About 50 million Americans live below the poverty line, which the federal government defined in 2012 as an annual income of $23,492 for a family of four.
“That’s exactly the opposite of what Johnson said,” Mr. Rector said. “Johnson’s goal was to make people prosperous and self-sufficient.”