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Sen. Marco Rubio. Some rights reserved by Gage Skidmore

Safety net successes

The War on Poverty declared 50 years ago by President Lyndon Johnson has often been criticized as a case of government overreach. Yet many of the programs that Johnson kick-started have significantly improved the lives of millions of Americans.

Adjusting for inflation, researchers at Columbia University concluded that between 1967 and 2012 the overall poverty rate fell from 26 percent to 16 percent. A major beneficiary of the War on Poverty has been the elderly population.  In 1960, about 35 percent of older Americans were poor, whereas in 2012 only 9 percent were.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, over the past 50 years childhood malnutrition has almost vanished, the average income of the lowest fifth of Americans has risen, and infant mortality has dropped significantly.

These advances are attributable to specific programs that began or grew out of the antipoverty efforts of the 1960s. These programs include:


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