Monday, June 14, 2021

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UncategorizedSan Francisco’s War on Poor People

San Francisco’s War on Poor People

By Tim Redmond

The federal War on Poverty is 50 years old, and a lot of the news media reports are calling it a failure: The poverty rate today is not much lower than it was when Lyndon Johnston started his famous social programs in 1964. But that’s something of a misleading statistic, suggesting that there’s nothing the federal government can do about poverty.

Look at the data in the chart here. The poverty rate in the US dropped pretty dramatically after 1964, from close to 20 percent to as low as my 11 percent in the mid-1970s. There were 35 million people living in poverty in the early 1960s; a decade later, after huge spending by the feds on housing, welfare, and urban development, that number was below 25 million.

In other words, the War on Poverty was working. Until the Age of Reagan.

After the Republicans cut taxes on the rich and decimated Great Society programs, both the poverty rate and the numbers of people in poverty started to rise again. Now, with the marginal tax rate less than half of what it was in 1970, and the federal budget for social programs that fight poverty reduced to a tiny fraction of what we spend on, say, wars, it’s no surprise that the gains this country made between 1964 and 1979 have vanished.

What failed wasn’t the War on Poverty; it was ending the War on Poverty.

At the same time, what hasn’t ended – and if anything, is increasing – is the War on Poor People in San Francisco. (more after the break)

Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at), follow @supermarke on Twitter.


  1. I think it was a mistake to ever call it the “War” on Poverty. War is just a bad word. Think of the War on Drugs or the War on Terror. When you say you are at war with something that is very hard to beat (especially in our political system) you make it too easy for the other side to say you “lost.”

  2. I live across the street from a recycling center that was closed down. The streets were cleaner, quieter and the riff was almost invisible. The center closed and a bar called the Wreck Room moved next store. Who is pissing, puking and leaving their empties on the street. Drunken Bro’s frequenting these bars. There has been puke on my street or on my doorstep every Sunday morning since football started. Seriously, how hard is it to puke on the curb instead of on someone’s door step, wall, driveway etc. Lets not forget Zeke’s and the party buses. Pretty disgusting when that behavior is tolerated and people trying to recycle get the hassle.

  3. I appreciate the historical perspective, comparing poverty rates under different federal administrations. That is certainly informative about the failure of the Republican agenda in meeting the needs of our poor.

    I also appreciated the larger perspective presented around a few mean spirited comments by tech workers – revealing that such comments are the exception and do not represent mainstream views.

    I also agree that the closing of this recycling center will only hurt the very poor – people who are not going to go away because they are made even more poor by being deprived of what little income they could earn from recycling.

    David Elliott Lewis, a San Francisco resident for three decades.

  4. You don’t allow the comments to get posted without moderation because people are not angels and if you give some people an inch they take a mile.

    The war on poverty is the same thing times ten. Give people a hand and they bite off your arm.

  5. Do you have a theory about why the war on poverty created such a backlash?

    I remember that the war on poverty was a time when my (black) grandfather began carrying a gun when he left the house.

    The crime rate exploded during that time, when third generation single underage psychotic welfare mothers unable to stop having children with illiterate, third generation imprisoned underage psychotic fathers turned urban schools into apocalyptic hell zones that white families were forced to either bus their children on hours long bus rides or else flee.

    It was a nightmare. Still is.

  6. During the years of the war on poverty the crime rate exploded, the opposite of what you would expect.

    Busing caused an incredible backlash as a white elite who sent their children to private schools forced middle class white parents to send their children to school with violent psychopaths raised by third generation welfare underage mothers. That is not an exaggeration. It is what happened.

    The war on poverty had a dark side you are free to ignore as you wish.

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