When we think of the Sixties, we usually think of 1968 – a year of complete transformation of America in and its social sphere. Yet, many looking back, find the legislature passed by Lyndon B. Johnson has brought much unrest to our ‘now.’
The sweeping welfare reform introduced and passed into law has caused many problems over the years. Some ascertain it was an answer after the shock of JFK’s assassination. In fact, Johnson’s passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 was originally legislation Kennedy was working on before he was struck down in Texas. The point of the CRA was to outlaw Jim Crow throughout America; eradicating segregation. While Johnson did sign the bill, it wasn’t until Richard Nixon when the actual laws were enacted via the Supreme Court.
For starters, it was the first time the Social Security piggy bank was robbed by our government in order to pay for other programs rather than waiting for people who contributed to reach retirement age. This is when those benefits became a Ponzi scheme where the young working began bankrolling the older folks receiving the benefits after years of paying into the system. Misappropriation of funds is putting it mildly as Johnson robbed Peter to pay for an expensive Vietnam Paul. Unfortunately, now, the piggy bank is empty and living on borrowed time – while seniors who paid their whole adult working lives into a system that footed the bill for very frivolous government spending.
Second, the welfare reforms actually discouraged families from staying together as women couldn’t get benefits if a man lived in the home. With the advent of the Seventies when divorce became more socially acceptable for all races and socioeconomic statuses, the nuclear family became fragmented. More and more black men were ousted from the home in order for mothers to get benefits for their children as salaries didn’t cover the cost of childcare with the man living at home. Single mothers became the norm, especially in the Black community. Unfortunately, now we see, these broken homes have produced children and grandchildren who lack a focus and, in many cases, moral compass to know right from wrong.
In fact, it is not urban legend as the government became the provider to families as opposed to the husband, women would actually have even their boyfriends leave when Social Services came around to check up on the families accepting aid from the government. The whole system became a cash cow for single mothers while destroying the family units, leading to a lack of male role models and disciplinarians in the home.
The breakdown of the family unit also taught the future generations pure survival tactics – both legal and illegal means. It also was a more galvanized alliances with gangs due to the lack of a cohesive family unit at home. This was the beginning of the disintegration of our communities as more and more youth began acting out, anti-establishment and unadulterated anger towards the older generations.
Another part of the welfare legislature was the Economic Act, which spawned programs like Job Corps for vocational training for those seeking better paying jobs. While these programs were designed to help the lower income families gain more chance to achieve the American Dream, they were often fraught with abuse and fraud; thus, never fully utilized to their fullest potential.
Third was education and the beginning of the Head Start program. This was to enable lower income families to have access to better educational tools for their children. As with Brown v. Board of Education, the separate but equal in education was far from the case in reality. In lower income areas, the education was far from being on par with the more affluent white neighborhoods. The Great White Flight, by de facto was sending white children to better schools as the urban areas were abandoned for suburban areas surrounding metropolitan areas. However, as stated above, it wasn’t until Nixon that busing became an issue in America. And when it did, it caused a great deal of unrest in places like Boston.
Johnson was the first to admit the legacy he left was by no means finished, but he felt it was strong enough to withstand time and hoped others would pick up the torch where he left off. Sadly, as time has continued on, the intentions were eroded with greed and abuse.
It wasn’t an easy road to pass his Great Society. In fact, Johnson, while embracing the art of persuasion, labored tirelessly night and day as he called Senators and Congressmen all hours to forward and get passed the bills that were within his pet project. His tactics were not always friendly, as he was known for his brash, bullying persona both personally and professionally. Some would even argue that he was more than a bully but an egomaniac, hell bent on leaving his ‘mark’ on the country in some great legacy. Unlike today’s Democrats who are dogmatically pursuing globalism, Johnson was more looking for a way to get out of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s shadow and forge his own statement in America. He was very concerned about his legacy due to wanting to make a grand statement.
Some have said he purposefully name his big project the Great Society, hoping it would rally the New Deal from Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was shortsighted and it is painfully clear due to the fallout we now experience in America. Our broken systems – Social Security, Education – pretty much everything touched upon by the Great Society legislature is literally falling apart and many politicians – career politicians – have exploited it with loopholes and over-reaches that were and still aren’t allowed by the United States Constitution.
Now, in retrospect, an argument can be made for the ripples of the Great Society that’s spanned through fifty years now and how it’s adversely affect many in today’s society far more than in the Sixties. Because the times back then were much more prosperous than now, it is easy to assess some of turmoil to Johnson for he was culpable for providing many initiatives that became money hogs and abuse coffers for Liberalism today. One must come to terms with this history if we are to find solutions to the problems it created that has morphed over the years since.