Fifty years of damage from the “Great Society”

Socialist schemes have done great harm in countries throughout the world; some much worse than others, but all destructive to lives and fortunes. This year we Americans who follow history lament the past fifty years of social problems caused by the 1965 laws passed during the Johnson administration.

Charles Lane writing at the Washington Post lays out a devastating case against the “American welfare state.” It began with a Democrat congress and President Lyndon Johnson in January 1965 rapidly pushing social legislation for a utopian “Great Society.” George Romney called Johnson’s administration “The Fast Deal.”

Mr. Lane describes these events as the most consequential in the history of advancing the welfare state in America. One could argue that previous socialist “crusades,” such as F. D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” thirty years earlier (plagiarized from other authors and referred to by critics as the “New Dole”) have been as (or more) destructive to our economy and social stability.

Medicare, Medicaid, two education acts, and Social Security disability  legislation (SSDI) “have mutated into sources of new and intractable problems,” mostly from “unanticipated, enormous cost,” in Lane’s words. These programs sent the fiscal cost-curve nearly vertical, adding trillions of dollars to our national debt and usurping funds from other desires of the political class. For example, spending in 2013 for the five programs listed above was nearly $1 trillion. In two years, taxes at the current rate won’t even support the health costs.

Worse, promised results from these bureaucratic schemes haven’t materialized; e.g. “U.S. health indicators are no better than those of societies that spend far less.” Some, such as SSDI, hinder the intended purpose: “reduce the incentive to work.” Education money has been wasted. K-12 spending “has not eliminated racial achievement gaps…higher education tuition costs keep going up despite federal aid” (more likely because of it).

Lane cites the late New York State Democrat Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s prescient warning that the test of a program is output, not input. Of course, progressives don’t care about that and never account for their inevitable failures; it’s only their intentions that count—their visions are illusionary. Nor are they held accountable for their irresponsible actions.

But can we expect Americans to learn from all the past progressive failures? Not likely, it seems memories are short; and, for many, the greedy desire to expect something for nothing is just too irresistible.


Interested readers may read Charles Lane’s article at the link below:


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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