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Obama’s LBJ Moment

Feb 17, 2013

The War on Inequality Is the New 'War on Poverty'

The president wants to harness the power of government even as he promises to shrink federal spending. Can government ever be as "smart" as Obama wants?

by David Rohde
[posted on theatlantic.com February 14, 2013]

He quoted Jack Kennedy but sounded more like Lyndon Johnson.

In an audacious State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama made sweeping proposals to reduce poverty, revive the middle class and increase taxes on the "well off." While careful to not declare it outright, an emboldened second-term president laid out an agenda that could be called a "war on inequality."

"There are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead," Obama declared in a blunt attack on a core conservative credo. "And that's why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them."

In his 1964 State of the Union address, Johnson introduced the legislation that became known as the "War on Poverty." Those laws - along with many others he shepherded - stand today as perhaps the greatest legislative achievement of any modern president. Whether or not one agrees with him, Johnson's laws - from the Civil Rights Act, to Medicaid, Medicare and Head Start, to sweeping federal urban renewal and education programs - changed the face of American society. read more