Posts tagged with: LBJ

The Fall 2016 Acton Lecture Series continued on October 1st with an address by American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, who spoke on the topic of his latest book, The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America.

Conservatives are often vexed by the fact that liberal policies and their supporters are viewed by the public as more compassionate to the poor even though a great deal of evidence exists to show that that liberal “solutions” to any number of social problems—while superficially compassionate—often create as many or more problems than they solve in society. Why are people so inclined to support politicians and pundits who promote policies that demonstrably disadvantage the downtrodden? And why are people inclined to credit supporters of those counterproductive policies as being more compassionate and caring than those who promote ideas that actually lift the poor out of their poverty?

Arthur Brooks argues that a major part of the problem is in the methods of persuasion that conservatives have tended to use. He then looks to the past to show why Ronald Reagan was so successful in his political career, and proposes that today’s conservatives would do well to follow Reagan’s example: be happy warriors who fight for people, and not against bad policies.

You can view Brooks’ full presentation below. And as a bonus, after the jump I’ve included videos of the two speeches Brooks mentioned in his address: Ronald Reagan’s 1980 speech accepting the Republican nomination for president in Detroit, Michigan, and Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” speech, delivered as the commencement address to the University of Michigan’s class of 1964 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


LBJ’s so-called “war on poverty” kicked off a trajectory of public policy that has shown a remarkable tendency to create more of the same — affirming cycles of dependency, disintegrating relational capital, and over-elevating material tinkering to the detriment of the permanent things.

Yet somehow the prevailing narrative still holds that those same sickly policies are the best we can hope for, and anyone who disagrees is an enemy of the poor. If money shall be transferred from Person X to Person Y and the label on the packaging reads “anti-poverty!”, what else is there to discuss?

In a recent interview with Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts assumes the common prejudice (4:11):

Roberts begins by pointing to a series of progressive measures that Scott has opposed in the past, proceeding to ask, quite presumptuously, “How do you respond to that, if your true concern is about lower income families and kids?” One can only be concerned for the poor if they subscribe to the very policies that have failed them, apparently. (more…)

Blog author: rnothstine
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In terms of the blogosphere, I’m sure this polling data from Gallup published two days ago showing that fear of big government dwarfs fear of big business and big labor is ancient history. I only want to offer a few observations.

At one point in our history, I think a lot of Americans or even a majority of Americans looked at the federal government as a vehicle for fairness, progress, and justice. Certainly, the federal government has done quite a few things well over the years. However, as politics has become even more partisan and divisive, and more and more power has been centralized into the Washington beltway, these beliefs have eroded dramatically. In my August commentary “The Folly of More Centralized Power” I noted,

Washington’s inability to balance budgets and restore fiscal responsibility, a problem magnified by a crippled economy, has also bankrupted the public trust. Citizens who take summer vacations to the nation’s capital can easily connect the dots as they observe a Washington Beltway that is booming with jobs and opportunity as tax dollars siphon into the region, even while their own communities are ravaged by job loss and businesses struggle under regulatory burdens.

I also said in the piece,

People feel disconnected from their federal government not only because they are separated geographically, culturally, ideologically, but also because they believe that their access to the political process has been severed. They doubt whether their representatives actually have the best interests of the nation in mind.

Considering all the continued deficit spending, continued government growth, you might expect that some real progress would have been made to start digging us out of this massive hole. But more and more Americans are realizing that the federal government does not have their best interest at heart. It will be interesting to see how the disconnect between the governing and federal bureaucratic class continues to morph as even more and more money and capital is needed to preserve and protect the power structure. A lot of class warfare cards of course will be played and both political parties will do what is best to preserve their power.

When I think about liberals and the war on poverty and mobilizing the government for good, two famous photographs come to mind. I remember when LBJ visited Eastern Kentucky to declare a war on poverty and of course the famous photo of Robert F. Kennedy visiting the impoverished Mississippi Delta. But even liberals or the political left must look out on the political landscape, when well meaning and historic poverty programs were implemented generations ago by well meaning leaders who captured the nation’s conscious, and they must wonder what went wrong? With the political climate the way it is now, even the good intentions are gone and the rhetoric is so shortsighted and rings hollow.