The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987

Book Reviews

This reviewer finally established a full listing of the published and un-
published volumes of the expedition after consulting the card cata-
logue at his university library!
The University of Texas at Austin WILLIAM R. BRAISTED
President Johnson's War on Poverty: Rhetoric and History. By David Zaref-
sky. (University, Ala.: The University of Alabama Press, 1986.
Pp. xxiii+275. Preface, notes, selected bibliography, index. $24.50.)
This is an excellent book. One of the dust cover blurbs calls it "a bril-
liant analysis." I agree. David Zarefsky combines a scholarly historical
review with political and psychological insights into the rhetoric used in
the "war" on poverty. He adds considerably to the public knowledge
about the program.
The author clearly presents his reasons why utilizing the concept and
rhetoric of an unconditional "war" on poverty assured its legislative en-
actment and its eventual "stalemate." He also identifies several impor-
tant enduring results (pp. 192-196).
One new revelation in his study is that Walter W. Heller specifically
rejected an "income" strategy for the War on Poverty, "claiming that it
would touch only the symptoms and not the roots of the problem"
(p. 48). But, based upon my experience, President Lyndon Johnson's
own outlook would have rejected such an "income" strategy. Johnson
accepted an "opportunity" approach to reducing poverty, rather than a
redistribution of income approach, or a negative income tax, welfare
reform, or guaranteed income approach. Both Presidents Richard M.
Nixon and Jimmy Carter failed in their subsequent legislative advocacy
of a family income support program. Zarefsky does not consider the
wider perspective of these alternatives.
A probable misinterpretation arises when Zarefsky points out that
Daniel P. Moynihan "authored" Title I of the legislation, Richard W.
Boone "drafted" Title II, and the remaining titles were "written" by
other specifically named persons (p. 51). These various terms do not
necessarily disclose who originated the basic concept or decided the
major programmatic principles or who had the responsibility for de-
ciding on the inclusion of the title in the bill. From my experience,
there are always many drafters and writers who assist an "author" of
legislation.
Zarefsky, like many other writers, falls into a well-circulated error
when he unnecessarily wanders from his subject to refute "the myth"
that [social security] is a form of insurance (p. 200). He then documents
his error by a footnote: "The analogy to insurance is palpably false; in-
dividual contributions do not build up reserves but are used to finance

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/. Accessed April 20, 2014.