Sunday, March 2, 2014

Hidden History: The War on Poverty at 50

Tuesday, 25 February 2014 09:50  
By Ted Morgan, Truthout | News Analysis 

Despite mass media attention to the War on Poverty at 50, its centerpiece, the Community Action Program, is ignored. Thus an important story - how the poor were empowered then cast aside - is lost.
Who controls the past controls the future;
who controls the present controls the past.
 - George Orwell, 1984
In the totalitarian world of 1984, Winston Smith was assigned the job of changing news accounts of past events so the total rule of the Party could never be challenged by facts that contradicted Big Brother's propaganda. Control of the past isn't quite so total in the United States, but to read about the 50th anniversary of the "War on Poverty" in the American press is to appreciate how significantly history is rewritten in this country, how information that doesn't square with the interests and propaganda of elites has disappeared down the "black hole" of memory.

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson declared "unconditional war on poverty" in his first State of the Union address. The centerpiece of the poverty program was passage of the Economic Opportunity Act, which featured most prominently the Community Action Program (CAP) and the Job Corps. The long-invisible history of empowerment, struggle and ultimately defeat and abandonment of America's poor under CAP contains powerful lessons of hope and despair that Americans need to understand. That hidden history holds important lessons about both the possibility and erosion of democracy in America.

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