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President Johnson Declares War on Poverty

Mar. 16, 1964 - President Johnson placed his controversial billion-dollar war on poverty on the Congressional firing line today and declared: “Our objective: total victory.”

His long-delayed program, embracing both new proposals and some similar to ones pending in Congress, would focus primarily on two areas: 
— Helping 380,000 underprivileged young people — in the first year alone — to break the cycle of poverty through job training and education in camps, centers, communities, and campuses. This would cost $412.5 million.

— Stimulating local communities throughout the nation into waging antipoverty wars of their own with Federal assistance. This would cost $315 million.

There are other proposals to create new jobs for the unemployed, to reduce welfare rolls by proving job training, and to create a sort of domestic peace corps.

“The war on poverty,” Mr. Johnson said in his special message on poverty to Congress, “is not a struggle simply to support people, to make them dependent on the generosity of others. It is a struggle to give people a chance.”

Already under attack in some quarters as an election-year bid for votes, the President’s program faces an uncertain fate in Congress. Its success may rest largely on the President himself and on the persuasiveness of the man he has named as his “personal chief of staff” for the war on poverty: Sargent Shriver, director of the Peace Corps. Mr. Shriver would probably resign from the Peace Corps to become head of the antipoverty program at a salary of $22,500 a year, if the program is approved by Congress.

The Peace Corps post carries a salary of $20,000, but Mr. Shriver serves without pay. He will be the lead-off witness when the House Education and Labor Committee, headed by Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Democrat of Manhattan, opens hearings on the Administration’s bill tomorrow.


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