In his first State of the Union Address, delivered on January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war” on poverty. Johnson’s War on Poverty rhetoric was buttressed by his Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) through its issuance of the “Economic Report of 1964.” Influenced by the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes, the CEA claimed that poverty could be eradicated through government-stimulated economic growth. The CEA further argued that, since the United States was the most prosperous country in the world, it should make eliminating poverty the primary goal of the nation’s economic policies.

The origins of the War on Poverty can be traced to 1960 when, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 22 percent of the nation’s population was impoverished. That year, ...

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