Plight of the American city – Urban decay – urban unrest – poverty – no jobs – no schools – no alternative. These were the issues facing the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson as he declared a War On Poverty. It was a bold plan that sought to rejuvenate the decaying urban areas in the country. It sought to eliminate poverty by creating jobs, strengthening assistance programs, improving education by upgrading outdated classrooms. It was ambitious and many thought it would never get off the ground – or if it did, it was too little, too late, putting a bandaid on a hemorrhage. It was economically unfeasible because we were spending billions on a War in Vietnam – a war that was growing more unpopular by the day. War was draining out resources and our economy and programs such as the ones proposed by the Johnson Administration, though laudable, didn’t have much in the way of reality going for them.
In this episode of NBC’s Meet The Press, Senator Abraham Ribicoff, Chairman of the sub-committee which had recently completed extensive hearings on the problems of American cities, talks about the issue and his differing views on the solution from the Administration’s. Ribicoff concluded the problems facing American cities and the issue of poverty were far worse and far deeper than first imagined. He felt the responsibility for fixing the issue of the cities should be a shared one – between the government and the private sector, that it was too big a problem for the government to handle. When asked if The New Deal of FDR was a failure, Ribicoff said it absolutely wasn’t, but that the world was changing. He felt The Great Society was the final chapter of the New Deal and what was needed at this stage was a new approach.
Here is that complete episode of Meet The Press featuring Senator Abraham Ribicoff, as it was broadcast on January 1, 1967.