Did 'The Great Society' Ruin Society?

williepete

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Did 'The Great Society' Ruin Society?

Pat Buchanan
Did 'The Great Society' Ruin Society? - Pat Buchanan - Page full

"I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I'll fix it."

Thus did Mitt Romney supposedly commit the gaffe of the month -- for we are not to speak of the poor without unctuous empathy.

Yet, as Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation reports in "Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About America's Poor," Mitt was more right about America's magnanimity than those who bewail her alleged indifference.

First, who are the poor?

To qualify, a family of four in 2010 needed to earn less than $22,314. Some 46 million Americans, 15 percent of the population, qualified.

And in what squalor were America's poor forced to live?

Well, 99 percent had a refrigerator and stove, two-thirds had a plasma TV, a DVD player and access to cable or satellite, 43 percent were on the Internet, half had a video game system like PlayStation or Xbox.

Three-fourths of the poor had a car or truck, nine in 10 a microwave, 80 percent had air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

America's poor enjoy amenities almost no one had in the 1950s, when John K. Galbraith described us as "The Affluent Society."

What about homelessness? Are not millions of America's poor on the street at night, or shivering in shelters or crowded tenements?

Well, actually, no. That is what we might call televised poverty. Of the real poor, fewer than 10 percent live in trailers, 40 percent live in apartments, and half live in townhouses or single-family homes.

Forty-one percent of poor families own their own home.

But are they not packed in like sardines, one on top of another?

Not exactly. The average poor person's home in America has 1,400 square feet -- more living space than do Europeans in 23 of the 25 wealthiest countries on the continent.

Two-thirds of America's poor have two rooms per person, while 94 percent have at least one room per person in the family dwelling.

Only one in 25 poor persons in America uses a homeless shelter, and only briefly, sometime during the year.

What about food? Do not America's poor suffer chronically from malnutrition and hunger?

Not so. The daily consumption of proteins, vitamins and minerals of poor children is roughly the same as that of the middle class, and the poor consume more meat than the upper middle class.

Some 84 percent of America's poor say they always have enough food to eat, while 13 percent say sometimes they do not, and less than 4 percent say they often do not have enough to eat.

Only 2.6 percent of poor children report stunted growth. Poor kids in America are, on average, an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than the youth of the Greatest Generation that won World War II.

In fiscal year 2011, the U.S. government spent $910 billion on 70 means-tested programs, which comes to an average of $9,000 per year on every lower-income person in the United States.

Among the major programs from which the poor receive benefits are Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food program, Medicaid, public housing, low-income energy assistance and the Social Service Block Grant.

Children of the poor are educated free, K-12, and eligible for preschool Head Start, and Perkins Grants, Pell Grants and student loans for college.

Lyndon Johnson told us this was the way to build a Great Society.

Did we? Federal and state spending on social welfare is approaching $1 trillion a year, $17 trillion since the Great Society was launched, not to mention private charity. But we have witnessed a headlong descent into social decomposition.

Half of all children born to women under 30 in America now are illegitimate. Three in 10 white children are born out of wedlock, as are 53 percent of Hispanic babies and 73 percent of black babies.

Rising right along with the illegitimacy rate is the drug-use rate, the dropout rate, the crime rate and the incarceration rate.

The family, cinder block of society, is disintegrating, and along with it, society itself. Writes Rector, "The welfare system is more like a 'safety bog' than a safety net."

Heritage scholars William Beach and Patrick Tyrrell put Rector's numbers in perspective:

"Today ... 67.3 million Americans -- from college students to retirees to welfare beneficiaries -- depend on the federal government for housing, food, income, student aid or other assistance. ... The United States reached another milestone in 2010. For the first time in history, half the population pays no federal income taxes."

The 19th century statesman John C. Calhoun warned against allowing government to divide us into "tax-payers and tax-consumers." This, he said, "would give rise to two parties and to violent conflicts and struggles between them, to obtain the control of the government."

We are there, Mr. Calhoun, we are there.
 

Publius1787

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Poverty does not exist in the United States. You mat thank the Great Society and the New Deal for that. As far as those below the "poverty line" being comfortable in their poverty, you have the Great Society/New Deal to thank for that as well. You likewise have the Great Society to thank for the unprecedented number of illegitimate children being born out of wedlock and the degradation of our educational institutions. You have the Great Society to thank for increased crime and drug use. You also have the Great Society/New Deal to thank for a low labor force participation rate and unemployment trolls. Yet again, you have LBJ's model cities program to thank for Detroit. I could go on and on but you probably get the point.
 

Mojo2

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VO:...in Chicago, there was another man who shared the same fears about the destructive force of individualism in America. He was an obscure political philosopher at the University of Chicago. But his ideas would also have far-reaching consequences, because they would become the shaping force behind the neoconservative movement, which now dominates the American administration. He was called Leo Strauss. Strauss is a mysterious figure. He refused to be filmed or interviewed. He devoted his time to creating a loyal band of students. And what he taught them was that

the prosperous liberal society they were living in contained the seeds of its own destruction.

Professor HARVEY MANSFIELD, Straussian Philosopher, Harvard University: He didn’t give interviews, or write political essays, or appear on the radio—there wasn’t TV yet—or things like that.

But he did want to get a school of students to see what he had seen: that Western liberalism led to nihilism, and had undergone a development at the end of which it could no longer define itself or defend itself. A development which took everything praiseworthy and admirable out of human beings, and made us into dwarf animals. Made us into herd animals—sick little dwarves, satisfied with a dangerous life in which nothing is true and everything is permitted.

VO: Strauss believed that the liberal idea of individual freedom led people to question everything—all values, all moral truths. Instead, people were led by their own selfish desires. And this threatened to tear apart the shared values which held society together.

But there was a way to stop this, Strauss believed. It was for politicians to assert powerful and inspiring myths that everyone could believe in. They might not be true, but they were necessary illusions. One of these was religion; the other was the myth of the nation. And in America, that was the idea that the country had a unique destiny to battle the forces of evil throughout the world. This myth was epitomized, Strauss told his students, in his favorite television program: Gunsmoke.

Professor STANLEY ROSEN, Pupil of Leo Strauss 1949: Strauss was a great fan of American television. Gunsmoke was his great favorite, and he would hurry home from the seminar, which would end at, you know, 5:30 or so, and have a quick dinner so he could be at his seat before the television set when Gunsmoke came on. And he felt that this was good, this show. This had a salutary effect on the American public, because it showed the conflict between good and evil in a way that would be immediately intelligible to everyone.

BAD MAN on Gunsmoke: Let’s see what happens!

JAMES ARNESS: No! [ SHOOTS bad man; bad man DROPS to the ground ]

ROSEN: The hero has a white hat; he’s faster on the draw than the bad man; the good guy wins. And it’s not just that the good guy wins, but that values are clear. That’s America! We’re gonna triumph over the evils of… of… that are trying to destroy us and the virtues of the Western frontier. Good and evil.

VO: Leo Strauss’ other favorite program was Perry Mason. And this, he told his students, epitomized the role that they, the élite, had to play. In public, they should promote the myths necessary to rescue America from decay. But in private, they didn’t have to believe in them.

ROSEN: Perry Mason was different from Gunsmoke. The extremely cunning man who, as far as we can see, is very virtuous and uses his great intelligence and quickness of mind to rescue his clients from dangers, but who could be fooling us—because he’s cleverer than we are. Is he really telling the truth? Maybe his client is guilty!

VO: In 1950, Sayyed Qutb traveled back to Egypt from America. He too was determined to find some way of controlling the forces of selfish individualism. And as he traveled, he began to envisage a new type of society. It would have all the modern benefits of Western science and technology, but a more political Islam would have a central role to play, keeping individualism in check. It would provide a moral framework that would stop people’s selfish desires from overwhelming them. But Qutb realized that American culture was already spreading to Egypt, trapping the masses in its seductive dream. What was needed, he believed, was an élite, a vanguard who could see through these illusions of freedom, just as he had in America, and who would then lead the masses to realize the higher truth.

Dr AZZAM TAMIMI, Institute of Islamic Political Thought: The masses need to be led. And it is this vanguard group that will be responsible for the task of leading the people out of the darkness and into the light of Islam. Because the masses had succumbed to their own selfish desires, and he wanted the vanguard to be different, to be pure, to be standing together outside all of this corrupt situation, bringing people back to the truth.

VO: On his return, Qutb became politically active in Egypt. He joined a group called the Muslim Brotherhood, who wanted Islam to play a major role in governing Egyptian society. And in 1952, the Brotherhood supported the revolution led by General Nasser that overthrew the last remnants of British rule. But Nasser very quickly made it clear that the new Egypt was going to be a secular society that emulated Western morals. He quickly forged an alliance with America. And the CIA came to Egypt to organize security agencies for the new r�gime. Faced with this, the Muslim Brotherhood began to organize against Nasser, and in 1954 Qutb and other leading members of the Brotherhood were arrested by the security services. What then happened to Qutb was going to have consequences for the whole world.

[ ARABIC-SPEAKING VOICE FROM PRISON CAMP FILM ]

VO: In the 1970s, this film was made, that showed what happened in Nasser’s main prison in the ‘50s and ‘60s. It was based on the testimony of survivors. Torturers who had been trained by the CIA unleashed an orgy of violence against Muslim Brotherhood members accused of plotting to overthrow Nasser. At one point, Qutb was covered with animal fat and locked in a cell with dogs trained to attack humans. Inside the cell, he had a heart attack.

General FOUAD ALLAM, Interrogator Interior Ministry 1958-87 (speaking in Arabic; subtitled): Sayyed Qutb thought of himself as a superior sort of person. He saw himself as an important Islamist thinker and a strong character. And so on and so on. But at the end of the day, when he was in the military prison he gave us the exact details about his secret group and the orders he had given. The most dangerous was the order to flood the whole of the Nile delta and drown this corrupt land of infidels.


VO: Qutb survived, but the torture had a powerful radicalizing effect on his ideas. Up to this point, he had believed that the Western secular ideas simply created the selfishness and the isolation he had seen in the United States. But the torture, he believed, showed that this culture also unleashed the most brutal and barbarous aspects of human beings. Qutb began to have an apocalyptic vision of a disease that was spreading from the West throughout the world.

He called it jahilliyah—a state of barbarous ignorance. What made it so terrifying and insidious was that people didn’t realize that they were infected. They believed that they were free, and that their politicians were taking them forward to a new world. But in fact, they were regressing to a barbarous age.

[ED: Qutb sure looks like a visionary from today's point of view! And to be clear, the Jahilliyah he saw which he believed threatened America AND the Muslim world was driven, primarily, by Liberals!]

ROXANNE EUBEN, Political Scientist: The sense is that jahilliyah is so dangerous now, because not only is it advanced by Western powers, but Muslims—this is like a charge of false consciousness—Muslims have become infected with this jahilliyah, so now the threat to Islam is also from within. It’s from without, and within. It’s a state of emergency, because jahilliyah is a condition that pervades everything and everybody. It’s even infected our powers of imagination—we don’t even know that we’re sick!

That we now worship materialism, and the self, and individual truths over the real truths. Um, so it’s an incredible sense of epic confrontation, where Islam is being insulted on all fronts—from within, from without, culturally, militarily, economically, politically. And under those circumstances, any way of fighting it becomes justified and legitimate, and in fact has a kind of existential weight, because somehow it’s doing God’s will on earth.

VO: To Qutb, this force of jahilliyah had now gone so deep into the minds of Muslims that a dramatic way had to be found to free them. In a series of books he wrote secretly in prison, which were then smuggled out, Qutb called upon a revolutionary vanguard to rise up and overthrow the leaders who had allowed jahilliyah to infect their countries.

The implication was that these leaders could justifiably be killed, because they had become so corrupted, they were no longer Muslims, even though they said they were. Faced with this, Nasser decided to crush Qutb and his ideas, and in 1966 Qutb was put on trial for treason. This is the only known film of Qutb as he awaits sentence. The verdict was a foregone conclusion, and on August 29, 1966, Qutb was executed. But his ideas lived on. The day after his execution, a young schoolboy set up a secret group. He hoped that it would one day become the vanguard that Qutb had hoped for. His name was Ayman Zawahiri, and Zawahiri was to become the mentor to Osama bin-Laden.

[ TITLE: AMERICA 1967 ]

VO: But at the very moment when Sayyed Qutb’s ideas seemed dead and buried, Leo Strauss’ ideas about how to transform America were about to become powerful and influential, because the liberal political order that had dominated America since the war started to collapse.

[ TITLE: 11pm, JULY 25th 1967 ]

PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON: Law and order have broken down in Detroit, Michigan. Pillage, looting, murder…

VO: Only a few years before, President Johnson had promised policies that would create a new and a better world in America. He had called it “the Great Society.”

[ TITLE: President LYNDON JOHNSON, 1964 ]

JOHNSON: The Great Society is in place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind. It is a place where the City of Man…

VO: But now, in the wake of some of the worst riots ever seen in America, that dream seemed to have ended in violence and hatred. One prominent liberal journalist called Irving Kristol began to question whether it might actually be the policies themselves that were causing social breakdown.

IRVING KRISTOL: If you had asked any liberal in 1960, we are going to pass these laws, these laws, these laws, and these laws, mentioning all the laws that in fact were passed in the 1960s and ‘70s, would you say crime will go up, drug addiction will go up, illegitimacy will go up, or will they get down? Obviously, everyone would have said, they will get down. And everyone would have been wrong. Now, that’s not something that the liberals have been able to face up to. They’ve had their reforms, and they have led to consequences that they did not expect and they don’t know what to do about.
Silt 3.0: Baby It's Cold Outside (first half)
 

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