Text Item Type Metadata
JOHN W. GARDNER, Chairman
The Urban Coalition Action Council
Subcommittee on Employment, Manpower and Poverty
Committee on Labor and Public Welfare
United States Senate
April 23, 1969
Mr. Chairman, we are pleased to be here on behalf of the
Urban Coalition Action Council. The Action Council brings together
various leaders from segments that do not normally collaborate
for the purpose of reaching agreement or solutions to our nation's
domestic problems. We are here today to discuss poverty in the
By current Social Security Administration criteria there
are 22 million poor people in the United States. The number
has declined from 39 million in 1959. To lift 17 million people
out of poverty in 10 years is a considerable achievement, worth
bearing in mind in these days of discouragement. It should give
us courage and confidence to tackle the remaining task.
To let the achievement lead to a slackening of effort
would be the worst kind of folly. Twenty-two million poor people
represent a tremendous amount of human misery and deprivation.
In his excellent paper entitled "Who are the Urban Poor?"
Anthony Downs offers some highly relevant data. Of the urban poor,
-- the majority are white
-- almost half are in households that cannot be expected
to be self-supporting: the aged, the disabled, the
mother with infant children
-- forty-one per cent are children under 18
-- nearly one-third are in households headed by employed
men whose earnings are below the poverty level.
It is worth reminding ourselves that the poverty remaining
after decades of unprecedented affluence is not like the poverty
that was once widespread in this country. It is the hard-core
that remains. It is not the genteel, threadbare but benign
poverty of the 19th Century clergyman or teacher. It is poverty .
at its most stubborn, poverty rooted in the social disintegration
of urban and rural slums, poverty linked to severe cultural
deprivation, poverty complicated by illiteracy, physical handicap,
advanced age, or mental retardation. In such poverty, hunger and
malnutrition warp the normal course of child development; physical
ailments go untreated and turn into lifelong handicaps; children
are never exposed to the stimulation that would ensure their
intellectual development; the environment breeds hopelessness and
lawlessness. It is a world of victims and it breeds victims.
An individual born into such an environment does not--cannot--
enjoy the opportunity we regard as the birthright of every
American child. If our commitment to the values we so proudly
profess doesn't move us to right that wrong, our self-interest
should. Out of all proportion to their numbers in the population,
the children of poverty become, in later life, economic burdens
on the rest of the community. If we are unwilling to spend the
money to cure the problem at its source, we spend the money
later anyway--in the social cost of crime, narcotics addiction,
social unrest, mental illness, lifelong physical handicap and
The attack on poverty must be far broader and more varied
than is generally recognized.
We have to begin with management of the economy and with
attention to economic growth and full employment. Back of
everything we seek to accomplish is the economic strength of
the nation. That strength makes our social programs possible.
It provides the jobs and pay checks that enable most Americans
to eat well, keep their children healthy and function as
independent citizens living their lives as they please.
We often fall into the habit of talking about our economy
as one thing and our social programs as a completely different
subject. They are the same subject. Economic growth is our
main social program. The freest and best money a man receives
is the money in his pay envelope. The best program for creating
independent and confident citizens is a vital, full-employment
Thereforé we must expect the Administration and the
Congress to use the tools of monetary and fiscal policy to
avoid inflation or recession, to facilitate capital growth
where possible, to expand job opportunities and job training,
to seek wage-price stability, to encourage the development of new
products and services and the advancement of science and
technology, to foster increased productivity, and to protect
natural resources, .
The attack on poverty also calls for adequate programs
of income maintenance--unemployment insurance, social security,
public assistance, and probably new forms to come. These programs
have not been surrounded with the glamour that has touched some
other aspects of the attack on poverty; indeed the public
assistance programs have been the subject of widespread hostility.
But it is a plain fact that most of the poor are too old or too
young or too sick or disabled to enter the job market. No matter
how brilliantly we pursue remedial programs, there will always
remain a large number who can only be aided by providing cash
A comprehensive attack on poverty also requires that we
rehabilitate the victims of poverty and eliminate the urban and
rural slums where poverty is bred. To help the individual we
must have adequately funded programs of education, job training,
health care and social services. To change the environment
involves massive urban efforts, such as the programs called for
in the Housing Act of 1968; as well as regional and rural
development activities such as the Appalachian Program.
In short, the total effort to deal with poverty reaches
into every domestic department of government. As you know, the
Office of Economic Opportunity has controlled something less than
8% of all federal antipoverty funds expended during its life.
Agencies with far more resources at their disposal are concerned
with. housing, manpower, health and other needs of the poor. If
we do not adequately fund those broader programs, the attack on
poverty will be crippled.
1 would place particular emphasis on
-- modernization of the existing welfare program,
including Federal support of national welfare
standards, and hopefully, early consideration of
a more thoroughgoing revision of the national income
-- a stepped-up training program with built-in incen=
tives, better tailored to the needs of the several
categories of poor, e.g., the welfare mothers, the
unskilled teenager, the employed low earning family
-~- Job creation--an expanded JOBS program to increase
private employment, and a public service employment
-- education, health and nutritional programs to
counter the effects of poverty on the considerable
number of children growing up in poor families.
We must begin to think in terms of much higher levels of
funding in areas affecting the poor. Actual appropriations
generally are significantly below authorized appropriations,
We often hear that poverty programs are failures; that they do
not work. And yet, they seldom are given the necessary funds or
the long-range commitment to insure their success.
Some examples will show the glaring disparities between
authorizations and appropriations. The Model Cities program--
intended as a coordinated attack on blight and treating social
as well as physical problems--was given $625 million last year
although more than $1 billion was authorized. This year only
$675 million has been requested, with an authorized amount of
The home ownership and rental assistance provisions of
the Housing and Urban Development Act called for $150 million
the first year, and only $50 million was appropriated. These
funds have been fully committed for several months, and many
are beginning to question seriously the government's commitment
under the Housing Act. The Nixon Administration is requesting
full funding for these programs and Congress must act on this
request if the Housing Act is to meet its promise.
The Office of Economic Opportunity has consistently
failed to secure full appropriations. And in education and
health, there has been a noticeable failure to spend the
amounts necessary to have an impact on poverty. Title I of the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides federal
funds to school districts that have special projects for dis-
advantaged children, received an authorization of $2.726 billion
yet it was allowed only $1.123 billion in appropriated funds.
And so the story goes. It is unrealistic to believe we can
- solve our nation's problems if we do not provide even the authorized
funds after long and studied debate over proposed solutions.
And now let me turn specifically to extension of the
Economic Opportunity Act and the Office of Economic Opportunity.
Mr. Chairman, in preparation for this testimony, I
reviewed the history of the Office of Economic Opportunity
since 1964, and I must say that I am impressed with the role
that this Committee has played. The Committee has shown concern
and insight. It has worked hard to educate itself and to serve
as an advocate for the poor.
It is easy to criticize the hectic early years of the OEO.
But when the smoke clears away, I believe that history will record
significant achievements. The OEO's vigorous efforts stirred a
concern for the victims of poverty that made possible a
mobilization of resources reaching far beyond the agency itself.
Programs in behalf of the poor in every other domestic department
benefitted by the generative force of this new effort. Beyond
that, the OEFO has injected an element of innovation into a
number of programs addressed to the problems of the poor; it has
identified and fostered community leadership among the poor and
among minorities; and it has enabled many of us to gain valuable
insights into the impact of institutional inadequacies on the
lives of the poor.
Looking to the future, I want to speak very briefly of
three themes which were prominent in the early conception of
OEO's function: innovation, community participation and
The innovative approach must continue to characterize the
OEO. The infusion of "research and development" techniques
into social program areas should be firmly supported and
The innovative approach is well illustrated in the delivery
of services to the poor. Breaking out of the mold of
traditional agency patterns, the best poverty programs have
shown that legal and health services, pre-school education,
multi-service program integration in neighborhood centers and
other techniques could in fact reach persons long considered
It is not generally recognized that the innovative
activities of OEO had a far-reaching impact on the old-line
departments. The latter would be loath to admit it, but many
programs undertaken by the old-line departments between 1965
and 1968 were influenced by the philosophy of the OEO.
At the heart of the controversy surrounding the OEO has
been the question of public power for the poor. The "War on
Poverty" provided the first major tools with which the poor
could seriously affect some policies and programs at both the
national and the local levels. It is true that in a typically
American burst of enthusiasm, the OEO went at this task with a
maximum of energy and a minimum of reflection. But perhaps
such things can only be accomplished in a burst of enthusiasm.
I am thoroughly familiar with the problems, inconsistencies,
tensions and mistakes that have arisen from application of
the requirement for "maximum feasible participation." But we
are more skillful in handling those problems today than we were
two years ago, and we are still learning. It was wise to seek
to give a voice to the poor, particularly wise in the case of
minority groups (because of their systematic prior exclusion).
I believe that we will move toward increasingly sound and
effective forms of citizen participation. |
Even today, as my own staff moves about the country
helping to organize local urban coalitions and seeking the
cooperation of leaders from the black community, we find that
many of the ablest local leaders we can recruit for our purposes
are men and women who had their first taste of leadership in
the Community Action Programs.
I have emphasized that the attack on poverty, broadly
conceived, reaches into every domestic department. Such
multifarious activity cries out for coordination, and of
course the OEO was placed in the Executive Office of the
President to accomplish just that. As we all know, it never
did, partly because its energies went into operating new
programs, and partly because coordinating Cabinet members is
a difficult task at best,
OEO's achievements in coordination have not been
altogether negligible. It has worked out checkpoint procedures
through which federal agencies, grantees, state agencies and
local communities engage in mutual consultation before grants
are made. And it has developed joint projects such as those
involving displaced farm workers in the Mississippi Delta,
Indians, and migrant workers.
But much, much more is needed. I believe that my views
on the coordination of domestic programs are fairly well known.
I do not accept the widely shared notion that Cabinet members
Cannot be coordinated. They can be. The first requirement
is unflinching determination on the part of the President to
bring about that result. The second is a suitable instrumentality
(and I may say parenthetically that the Economic Opportunity
Council, properly used, would have been quite adequate to the
purpose). The third requirement is that the instrumentality
must be headed by a man of stature, implicitly trusted by the
There is a serious question as to whether OEO can ever
fill this coordinating function so long as it is an operating
agency -- and therefore, in a sense, a competitor of the
departments it hopes to coordinate. So we may have to look to
President Nixon's new Urban Affairs Council to accomplish
the desired result. It will do so only if the President himself
takes an active interest in it, and only if a strong and
substantial professional staff is provided to plan, evaluate,
sift priorities, develop alternative courses of action and make
recommendations to the President.
While we're on this subject I want to say a word about
rural poverty, because it involves the question of coordination.
We will not solve one most pressing urban problems as long as
widespread rural poverty exists. The heavy migration from rural
America to the blighted areas of our major cities clearly shows
how bad economic and social conditions are in rural areas;
despite the privations felt by the urban poor, dshononlains
urban conditions continue to represent a substantial improvement
over life for the poor in rural communities.
With improving agricultural technology, ever more persons
will have to find employment outside agriculture. Already the
great majority of the rural poor are not in any way involved
in farming. Industrial development in rural areas should be
vastly expanded wherever sufficient potential exists.
States are uniquely situated to combat rural poverty.
Programs of economic and community development in rural areas
frequently require multi-county planning and coordination.
Federal funds, including CAP funds, should encourage the
development of state-coordinated demonstrations in rural areas
-- perhaps several in each state -- with special emphasis on
economic development and on training of administrative and
program personnel for all phases of community development,
from public administration to staff for social welfare agencies.
Such demonstrations should extend to education, health,
industrial development, transportation and all other relevant
Obviously, programs of that scope are not the appropriate
primary function of the Department of Agriculture alone; rather,
there should be a coordinated attack by the Departments of
Agriculture, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation,
Health, Education and Welfare, and the Economic Development
Administration. The OEO might conceivably be the instrument for
accomplishing such coordination although -- as indicated
earlier -- its capacity to operate and coordinate at the same
time remains in doubt.
In the final analysis, substantial economic development
is the key to ending rural poverty. There is at present no
federal policy guiding the application of the nation's -
considerable potential in this area. Resources of the
Economic Development Administration can be brought to bear only
where the most severe conditions already exist, and even then
there is virtually no coordination between the Economic
Development Administration and major federal agency
procurement and contracting functions.
There has been much discussion of whether the various OEO
programs should be moved to the regular departments. I believe
that some definitely should be transferred under carefully
drawn conditions. I confess that I am equally impatient with
those who are totally hostile to the OEFO and those who want
to preserve it under glass, utterly unchanged.
I need not remind this Committee that about 40% of the
funds appropriated under the Economic Opportunity Act have
always gone into programs delegated among various federal
agencies. The great bulk of these funds has gone into a series
of work and training programs, and they have been the basis for
much innovation within the receiving agencies.
I am keenly conscious of the problems involved in transfer.
For example, federal departments presently function heavily
through state agencies; they do not, in the main, have strong
relationships to local leadership and organization. If the
departments receive programs from OEO they must continue to
foster the new constituencies developed around the programs
ie PF ces
at the local level, and Congress must encourage them to do so.
Similarly, they must protect the innovative values of the
If these programs cannot survive in the regular agencies
as the latter are presently organized, then there is something
gravely wrong with the regular agencies, something that
should be corrected forthwith.
To insure an appropriate outcome, it seems advisable that,
at least initially, delegation should be favored over outright
transfer. Transfer should occur only as the regular agencies
prove their capacity to nurture the delegated programs.
I have been asked my views on how many years the present
legislation should be extended. I do not have fixed views on
that subject, provided that two principles are observed. The
first is that every program should be open to periodic revision
as experience is gained. The second is that the nation should
exhibit an unwavering commitment to fight the poverty battle
continuously, this year and next and the year after, never
relenting until the job is done. It is not an off-again-on-
again kind of problem and it doesn't merit that kind of answer.
In closing, gentlemen, let me revert again to the
totality of the government's effort in combatting poverty. I
am firmly convinced that more billions must be poured immediately
into the broad spectrum of housing, education, health, manpower
development, and other federal programs which make up the
broader anti-poverty package. Millions are still hungry, or
live in inadequate housing; the majority of poor heads of
households work fulltime; health services are still inaccessible
to millions; school systems and entire cities across the country
are facing bankruptcy while providing minimal services to needy
citizens. We can and must deal with those problems at once.