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Goldwater Hits LBJ’s “War on Poverty”

Jan. 15, 1964 - Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) criticized President Johnson’s war on poverty tonight and suggested an inquiry into the question of whether “the attitude or the actions” of the poor had contributed to their plight. In a speech before the Economic Club of New York, Mr. Goldwater, a leading candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, said in his speech he believed there was an obligation to provide help and opportunity to the poor, but added: “I do not believe that the mere fact of having little money entitles everybody, regardless of circumstances, to be permanently maintained by the taxpayers at an average or comfortable standard of living.” In his prepared text, Mr. Goldwater also said the idea that poverty and unemployment were caused by lack of education was “like saying that people have big feet because they wear big shoes. The fact is that most people who have no skill have no education for the same reason — low intelligence or low ambition.” In delivering his speech, the Senator deleted this passage.

In his State of the Union message delivered last week, President Johnson said that his Administration “declares unconditional war on poverty in America.” The President outlined the beginnings of an anti-poverty program that would cost about a billion dollars, to be spent over the next few years. Mr. Johnson also announced that his budget of $97.9 billion would reduce expenditures by about $500 million from the current fiscal year.

Mr. Goldwater called the State of the Union message “Santa Claus promises” and a “message of deliberate confusion of facts and figures.” Mr. Goldwater’s address was interrupted by applause 10 times by his audience, which was drawn largely from the financial world. He said, in answer to a question, that he “never” thought a U.S. invasion of Cuba was necessary and added “it is not necessary today.” He added: “But something has to be done to get this Communist base out of our backyard.” The Senator said the U.S. should not hesitate to train “exiles and mercenaries” who might stage their own invasion.


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