The Great Society
Forced to assume the presidency after John F. Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson stepped into office with years of congressional experience and an agenda to put in motion his idea of a “Great Society”. Johnson’s goal with The Great Society’s programs was to achieve his dream of improving American life for all citizens.
Everywhere Johnson looked he noticed an area of America that he thought could use improvement. He had extreme motivation to address every issue at hand and to reach out and improve every aspect of society. The ambitious plans he laid out to be fulfilled however, are considered by many people to be a failure and/or incomplete. Johnson formed a number of programs in order to preserve and protect the environment, the nation, its’ people. The program Head Start aimed to give better educational opportunities to the poor. Studies have shown that children in the first grade who have attended preschool versus those who have not are essentially indistinguishable.
Clearly, Head Start reaped no major benefits and it has already cost $166 billion dollars since it was founded . The Federal Water Quality Administration and National Air Pollution Control Administration were formed because the Great Society puts a large emphasis on environmental reform. Johnson wanted to restore the county’s natural beauty as well as conserve our resources. It proved difficult to put in reverse things that will inevitably happen to the environment as time goes on and became a waste of efforts . Medicaid and Medicare helped people who had difficulty paying for their health bills. He wanted to help provide for the needy, but it ended up hurting the government by wasting a lot of money and putting us more into debt by having to pay for these programs and many others .
Inflation has soared in the last fifty years since the attempt at the Great Society due to the several unnecessary programs that cost too much money with not enough benefits that came from them. Although Johnson led a start for greater federal involvement in environmental issues, these programs were only met with partial success and several ended in failure due to corruption and insufficient planning . Johnson passed several acts and created new policies that attempted to correct problems affecting the nation’s citizens. The Economy Opportunity Act was established to create a variety of assistance programs for people in need of help. Instead of improving the life overall for all people it handed out free benefits to the poor that they would not ever be able to repay, leaving the nation with growing debt and then having to increase taxes .
When trying to change one thing for the better it will just turn around and make something else worse instead, in order to try and keep a balance. The Great Society’s goals included fighting a “War on Poverty” and eliminating racial inequality. Their fight for civil rights failed to improve race relations permanently for it only created conflict. Violence alarmingly spread as Blacks’ rising expectations met White backlash causing rioting to occur over disapproval and disagreements . The effort to decrease the poverty rate has been an ultimate failure even though it was Johnson’s ultimate goal of success.
The poverty rate has increased in every age group and category except for Americans sixty-five and older. Americans spend more on taxes than they did fifty years ago when Johnson first tried to cut them. Due to all of the programs created to fight poverty, citizens are now too dependent on government for support. Over ninety million Americans apply for and accept aid from government, and the nation’s budget can only give so much . Instead of bringing government dependency to an end, the Great Society’s programs only perpetuated future generations to continue to depend on it. As Ronald Reagan once said, “Lyndon B.
Johnson declared a war on poverty and poverty won.” The Vietnam War proved to be a huge obstacle in the way of working towards the Great Society. The war diverted people and their attention away from the great society. As the war progressed people became skeptical about the strength of the policies. The costs of the war effort combined with the costs of the Great Society were too much. As casualties in Vietnam rose they needed to get help from federal funds, which took away money they could use towards expanding programs .
The largest impact it had was essentially taking Johnson out of office. Due to the war and its surrounding drama he decided to not run for reelection in 1968. The Vietnam War theoretically killed the Great Society. Johnson wanted to build the Great Society to last for generations to come. His efforts however, made people only more dependent on the government for help.
People were not becoming prepared to provide for themselves and they took advantage of the opportunities given to them. In return most of the policies they tried to instill and established backfired, resulting in the opposite the Great Society’s ultimate goal. Although the great society had good intentions, most and if not all aspects of society were left right where they started. Some even left of worse or incomplete.