Sunday, January 23, 2011

war on poverty

After the death of President John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson takes over. Johnson was born in the Hill Country of central Texas. He grew up experiencing both poverty and prosperity. On November 23, 1963, his first full day in office, Johnson discovered President Kennedy’s antipoverty initiative. Advisers impulse Johnson to enforce the program slowly, however, Johnson insisted that the program “be big and bold and hut the nation with real impact.” On January 8, 1964, the president declared “unconditional war on poverty in America.” In order to introduce his War on Poverty, Johnson sent off a bill to congress calling for the creation of an Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). With a budget of $1 OEO organized a series of new antipoverty programs. These programs include, Jon Corps, Head Start, and Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA). In late August 1964, congress passed the antipoverty legislation. Along with bringing improvements to communities, this legislation brought improvements to American Indian reservations. It allowed American Indians to establish and operate their own antipoverty programs on the reserve. La Donna Harris, a Comanche involved in OEO programs in Oklahoma, who defended the program stated, “ I will stand up and defend OEO as long as I live. Indian leadership developed out of that program. . . . OEO taught us to use our imagination and to look at the future as an exciting adventure. It taught us that there are other ways of doing things.”


Medicare & Medicaid

Civil rights legislation was  major part of the Greta Society legislation, other issues included health care, education, and urban renewal. Supported by the members of the 89th Congress, dominated by Democrats, President Johnson persuaded Congress to establish Medicare. Congress also authorized funds for states top set up Medicaid. Traveling to Independence, Missouri, Johnson signed the bill in front of 81-year-old Harry Truman. Johnson had also advised Congress to take action on funding for education. Providing $1.3 billion in aid to schools in poor areas, Congress responded to Johnsons proposal by passing the Elementary and Secondary  Education act of 1965. Persuading Congress  to pass the Omnibus Housing Act, which authorized billions of dollars to be spent on urban renewal and housing assistance for low-income families, Congress also established the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to oversee federal housing programs. Being the first African American to be a member of a presidential cabinet, Robert C. Weaver heading this new department (HUD).

Quality of Life

The president’s interest in the quality of life extended to environmental issues. “The cost of our careless technology had caught up with us.” , stated Johnson. Marine biologist Rachel Carson contributed to the environmental movement. Carson was asked by a friend to investigate the impact of pesticide DDT on bird and other wildlife. She published, Silent Spring, in 1962. “a grim specter has crept upon us almost unnoticed,” this was Carsons warning to Americans. In an attempt to protect their industry, pesticide manufacturers attacked Carson and her conclusions. A panel was created to study the issue, and Carson’s conclusions were proven to be correct. In 194, Rachel Carson died. She did not live to witness the environmental legislation passed during the Johnson years. Johnson signed the Water Quality Act of 1965, the Air Quality Act of 1967, the Water Pollution Act of 1968, and several other environmental bills. Johnson’s administration created several new national parks and wilderness areas.

Warren court

The Supreme Court of the 1960s reflected a spirit of activism. Under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren, the Court actively used judicial review. Examples:  1962 case Baker v. Carr, Court declared -  . . . . . . . . ..  Many people saw these decisions as an attempt to ensure that the criminal justice system did not violate individual rights. Others saw that the court overstepped its authority by making law rather than interpreting it.


After Daniel Ellsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers, Nixon ordered his staff to compile an “enemies list” of critics who opposed his policies in 1971. In order to stop the leaks the White House organized a secret unit called the plumbers which consisted of former CIA and FBI agents. In June five men equipped with wiretap equipment and spy devices, broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate office and apartment complex. Soon after it was discovered that the five men where being paid with funds from Nixon’s campaign organization, the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). Denying to have any link to the break in, a high level source known as Deep Throat informed the Washington Post that White House officials and CREEP had hired 50 agents to sabotage the Democrats’ chances in the 1972 election. Nixon won the re-election in 1972 by a landslide. By the spring of 1973 both executive and legislative branches of the government where investigating the Watergate break in (criminal activities and the attempted cover up). In May 1973 live television coverage of the senate hearings began. Millions of Americans across the nation watched. At the end several top White House officials were eventually convicted in criminal trials and sent to jail. Although the role that Nixon played was unclear, time and again a question would rise, “What did the president know and when did he know it?”, asked by Howard Baker of Tennessee. White House attorney John Dean provided the answer, in June 1973. The president has been directly involved in the cover-up.


Tonkin Gulf Resolution

In order to prevent a Communist victory in 1963, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara had advised President Johnson that he would need to increase U.S. military commitment to South Vietnam. The events in the Gulf of Tonkin gave President Johnson the opportunity to increase the U.S. commitment. Both houses of  Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. Although Johnson claimed that the attacks in the Gulf of Tonkin where unprovoked, the reality was that the U.S. destroyer Maddox had been spying in support if South Vietnamese raids against North Vietnam, and had fired first. Moreover, Johnson and his adviser got what they wanted: authority to expand the war.

The Tet Offensive

As most South Vietnamese and their U.S. allies slept, Vietcong guerrillas and North Vietnamese troops struck, on January 30, 1968; which marked the start of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. Within hours 84,000 communist soldiers attacked 100 cities and 12 U.S. military bases. When the assault ended, 40,000 communist soldiers lay dead. North Vietnam expected to the Tet offensive to bring down South Vietnam's government. The American people began expressing their doubts about the war and calling for its end.


Henry  Kissinger and Nixon constructed a plan to end the war. Part of this plan was called Vietnamization, which was to gradually pull out the U.S. troops while turning over the fighting to South Vietnamese. Nixon also hoped that Vietnamization would remove a major obstacle. The process of troop withdrawal was slow. In 1969, 540,000 U.S. troops where in Vietnam. At the end of 1972 about 24,200 Americans still remained in Vietnam.

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