Great Society is a term coined by former President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960’s to describe his vision of a society where everyone has equal access to opportunities and resources. It was a comprehensive social policy that aimed to eradicate poverty, expand civil rights, and improve the quality of life for all Americans. While it did bring about significant changes in American society, it is not without its flaws. At the time, it was one of the most comprehensive pieces of social legislation ever passed, yet today, its legacy remains debated. People are still interested in finding the pros and cons of great society.
There were numerous pros of great Society at first; these included:
One of the most significant achievements of the Great Society was its success in reducing poverty. The War on Poverty, a key component of the Great Society, helped create programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Head Start, which provided healthcare and education to low-income families. According to a report by the Census Bureau, poverty rates in the United States fell from 19% in 1964 to 11% in 1973, partly because of the Great Society's programs.
One of the major pros of Great Society domestic programs was the expansion of civil rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed during the Great Society era, played a vital role in ending segregation and providing greater opportunities for African Americans. Women's rights were also addressed during this period, particularly with the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963.
Education was a critical focus of the Great Society, and significant investments were made in this area. Programs like Head Start provided educational opportunities to young children from low-income families. At the same time, the Higher Education Act of 1965 helped to make college more accessible to a broader range of Americans. This focus on education had a lasting impact on American society, contributing to higher levels of education and better career opportunities.
The domestic programs also provided all Americans greater access to arts and culture. The National Endowment for the Arts was created in 1965, providing federal support for various artistic endeavors. This increased funding and exposure for various art forms, such as theater, dance, music, literature, and film. As a result, American culture and creativity flourished during this period.
The domestic programs also made it easier for low-income families to access housing. For example, the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965 provided subsidies to help people buy homes or rent apartments. This was a significant step in addressing the nation's housing crisis and providing adequate living conditions for all Americans.
Despite its many achievements, there were also significant cons of Great Society. Some of these drawbacks included:
The programs and initiatives of the Great Society were expensive. This was due to their scope and ambition and the need for additional funding to support them. These programs' costs were initially paid for by increasing taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals, but eventually, this burden was passed onto the taxpayers.
The programs also encouraged an increased dependence on government programs. This could create a sense of complacency among recipients, as they no longer needed to rely solely on their own efforts to achieve success. Furthermore, this reliance on government support could decrease the incentive to work and save money.
Inefficiency was often touted as one of the cons of Great Society domestic programs. The large number of government programs created during this period and the need for coordination between them. As a result, resources were sometimes wasted, and results were slower than anticipated.
The Great Society also had a negative impact on small businesses. This was due to the increase in taxes and regulations brought about by the legislation, which forced many small businesses out of business or made growth more difficult.
The Great Society was often controversial because of its liberal agenda. It became a lightning rod for criticism from those opposed to its values or policies. This made it difficult for the legislation to pass, and it was often watered down or delayed by opposition in Congress.
Considering all the pros and cons of the Great Society, it had an incredible impact on American history and continues to do so even today. Its immense popularity in the 1960s helped define a generation, while its social reforms have been a blueprint for many subsequent policy developments since then.
Despite its successes, critics point out its costs and remind us not to take success for granted. As we approach an election year, now is a great time to think about our nation's needs and how they can be addressed. Great Society or not, understanding what we need and making a committed decision is essential for charting the right course forward.
In January 1965, the Great Society program emerged as President Johnson's ambitious agenda for Congress. It encompassed various initiatives such as aid to education, combating diseases, implementing Medicare, urban renewal, beautification, conservation, development of underprivileged regions, a comprehensive fight against poverty, crime prevention, and the protection of voting rights. These policies significantly expanded the federal government's role in American life.
The Great Society is considered one of modern history's most extensive social reform plans. In addition, Johnson's efforts helped establish greater civil and voting rights, greater environmental protections, and increased aid to public schools.
By the end of the Johnson Administration, 226 out of 252 major legislative requests (over four years) had been met, federal aid to people experiencing poverty had risen from $9.9 billion in 1960 to $30 billion by 1968, one million Americans had been retrained under previously non-existent federal programs, and two million new homes had been built.
Critics of the Great Society claim that it was primarily responsible for the growth of government spending, which led to a budget crisis in the 1970's. Others argued that federal aid had merely shifted money from one group to another without lasting effects on poverty or other social ills. Additionally, some conservatives claimed that Great Society programs created long-term dependency on welfare benefits and weakened the family structure.