Johnson’s Great Society


“Great Society”

‘Dream’ included:

  • end of poverty
  • racial equality
  • educational reform
  • end of urban decay
  • renew sense of community
  • environmentalism
  • peace with other nations

Many Americans welcomed what Johnson was proposing

  • optimism and positivity

He had a 75% approval ting in the polls

Persuaded congress to enact a large quantity of his reforming legislation

  • impacted millions of lives
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Civil Rights Laws

Insisted that by pushing the CRB through Congress, they would be honouring Kennedy’s legacy

CRA - 1964
VCA- 1965

The Open House Law - 1968

  • supported integrated housing
  • imprisoning the negros in the slums
    — immoral and exaggerated racial tensions
  • Johnson received his worst hate mail over his plea for integrated housing
  • congress repeatedly rejected his proposals + appeals for legislation

Fair Housing act - 1968

  • prohibited discrimination in the sale/renting of housing
  • was difficult to enforce
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Johnson’s achievements in Civil Rights


Executive Order of 1965

  • required any institution to employ more non-whites
  • used executive powers to help Black Americans

Increased spread of his affirmative action

  • got liberal praise
  • criticism from the conservatives
  • opinions on it were varied

Helped improve the
Status of Black Americans: Civil Rights Legislation, Affirmative Action Policies and War on Poverty

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Poverty and unemployment

Eradication of Poverty: a big part of ‘great society’

Jan 1964 - declared unconditional WAR on poverty in the USA

Congress passed the Economic Oppertunities Act 1964

  • established an OEO
  • February 1965
    — 44 states had anti-poverty programmes
    — 53 job corp centres
    — 25,000 families on welfare were receiving job training
    — 90,000 adults enrolled in basic education programmes
    — neighbourhood youth corps
    — 8,000 VISTA assisting needy children, native Americans and migrant workers
    — loans given to small businesses and rural development
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Johnson’s achievements in poverty and unemployment

— enables poor preschool children to catch up with others before they formally start school
— nearly 1 million children enrolled

— linked higher education institutions to poorer students who had college potential
— 50,000 participants each year

— Food Stamp Act 1964
— 35% rise in the minimum wage

— 17% in 1965 to 11% in 1972
— federal expenditure on the poor increased
$13 billion in 1963 to $20 billion in 1966

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Johnson’s failures in poverty and unemployment


  • level of expenditure on poor was excessive
  • it cost more to put a youth from the ghetto into the job corps than into Harvard


  • war on poverty was underfunded

He failed to eradicate poverty like he promised to do so

  • 1/3 of non-white families were still below the poverty line
  • unemployment rates and infant mortality rates of non-whites were nearly twice than those of whites

Weaknesses in planning and implementation

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“Nothing matters more to the future of our country than education”

  • 54 million had never finished High School
  • 8 million had under 5 years of schooling
  • 100,000 high school graduates who had the ability, couldn’t afford college
  • schools overcrowded and run down
  • shortage of good teachers


  • education should be under local gov control
  • presidents didnt obtain funds for it
  • America spent 7x as much ‘on a youth gone bad’ than on one who had stayed in school
  • Johnson persuaded them to double federal expenditure on education to $8 billion
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Education acts

ESEA - 1965

  • Johnson: anti poverty programme
  • 1985: national institute for education estimated that 1/2 ofthe ependiture had go=ne to children above the poverty line
  • 6.7 million poor children benefitted
  • assistance to those above the poverty line was needed
  • ‘there was nothing wrong with helping ALL American children
  • some argued that the president paid little attention to how legislation worked in practice

HEA - 1965

  • aimed to help poorer students
  • 11 million benefited
  • $650 million provided
  • 15% on 1950, 34% in 1970 and 52% in 1990
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Johnsons achievements in education

  • millions of children benefited
  • % with a high school diploma rose
  • shortage of teachers ended
  • new buildings constructed
  • accessibility to a college education increased
  • reforms finally led to a better society in the USA
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Housing and urban problems

  • he envisaged an end to urban decay and urban housing problems
  • inner cities characterised by
    — poverty
    — poor schools
    — housing
    — pollution
    — congestion
    New Goverment department (HUD) - 1965

6 cities would be designated/model cities:

  • Chicago
  • Washington DC
  • Detroit
  • Houston
  • LA
  • Philadelphia

Demonstrations Cities Act - 1965
Programme was underfunded - only $1.2 billion

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Housing and urban problems cont.

“Central problem in American life” - Robert Kennedy

NYC - claimed they needed $6 billion
NY times claimed the model cities failed

6 cities \ 150 cities - money spent was spread too thinly to be effective

Ghetto housing

  • Omnibus Housing Act - 1965
    — $8 billion of low/moderate income housing in ghettos
    — federal loans and powers of persuasion
  • 1968 - end on discrimination in housing (hoped it would alleviate the overcrowding in the ghettos)
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Johnsons achievements/failures in housing and urba

  • 4/5 of Detroit ghetto rioters were arrested in 1967 had jobs paying over $150 weekly
  • it was housing and alienation rather than poverty was the cause of discontent

Taxpayers :

  • opposed integrated housing
  • didnt want to fund large scale improvements
  • ‘not in my back yard’ ideological thinking
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Medicare and Medicaid

Lack of healthcare was a major cause for poverty in the elderly population

Democrats - large advocates of federal financial support for healthcare
Republicans saw this to be a form of communism (free healthcare)

Social security act of 1965


  • federal funded health insurance for the over 65s
  • regardless of income/existing medical conditions
  • 1966 - 19 million Americans enrolled


  • funeral financial assistance to states to help provide medical assistance to those who couldn’t afford it
  • in one year, the amount spent by the federal government increased from $1.3 billion to over $2 billion
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Johnson’s achievements and failures in Medicare an

  • produced a ‘healthcare revolution’
  • lifted millions of the elderly out of poverty
  • gaps in coverage
  • both were more expensive than anticipated
  • was still a problem for reasonably priced healthcare
  • healthcare was still a problem for most Americans
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