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First, we must realize that impact of specific government programs on economic conditions, is something that is exceedingly difficult to accurately assess. There are many things that can cause certain economic outcomes, and it is not clear that government programs are the most important factor in most such outcomes. Therefore, there is no consensus about the impact of Johnson’s programs. This fact can be seen in this link, which argues that the Great Society was a revolution that reduced poverty, and this link, which argues that it sank the poor into a situation from which they could never recover.
On the one hand, liberals say that poverty rates went down in the time of the Great Society. They say that this is proof that the Great Society reduced poverty and that it led to a more just society. By contrast, conservatives argue that the Great Society programs led to the problems that are now faced by the urban poor. They say those programs led to higher rates of unwed motherhood. They say the programs led to more drug addiction. In short, they say that the programs led to a “culture of poverty” that prevented the poor from truly becoming prosperous.
There is no way to falsify either of these narratives. Clearly, poverty declined. Clearly, there is an “underclass” that has a very hard time breaking out of poverty. But it is not clear how much the Great Society contributed to either outcome.
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