National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent used the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech to claim that the Great Society programs of the 1960s are “responsible for more destruction to black America than the evils of slavery and the KKK combined.”
Conservatives frequently attack the federal programs initiated through President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, ignoring the major impact they have had in reducing the ranks of the poor, particularly among the elderly.
In Nugent's August 28 column for conspiracy website WND the conservative commentator also termed the Great Society “for all practical and statistical purposes, a War on Black America” :
While the stains of institutional racism have faded into our nation's past, Dr. King's dream of economic equality remains unfulfilled for many black Americans who remain mired in poverty.
Just one year after Dr. King delivered his memorable speech, President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society began a systematic and engineered welfare juggernaut that would do more damage, cause more harm and become responsible for more destruction to black America than the evils of slavery and the KKK combined.
President Johnson's Great Society's War on Poverty has turned out to be, for all practical and statistical purposes, a War on Black America.
Nugent added that the $16 trillion spent on the War on Poverty since 1964 “has largely been wasted.”
In fact, the President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiative -- which included Medicare, Medicaid and a variety of other anti-poverty programs -- was responsible for significant and lasting reductions in poverty. As Washington Post reporter Dylan Matthews noted, “the best evidence indicates that the War on Poverty made a real and lasting difference” :
First, there was a huge fall in the poverty rate throughout the 1960s, and in particular after LBJ announced the War on Poverty in 1964 and followed up with Medicaid, Medicare, greater federal housing spending, and other programs to fight that war. In 1964, the poverty rate was 19 percent. Ten years later, it was 11.2 percent, and it has not gone above 15.2 percent any year since then. Contrary to what you may have heard, the best evidence indicates that the War on Poverty made a real and lasting difference.
[The Washington Post, accessed 8/29/13]
Furthermore, Medicare was responsible for raising the insurance coverage rate of the elderly from 56 percent in 1963 to 97 percent by 1970.
Nugent has frequently held liberal policies responsible for poverty. In a 2011 Washington Times column, Nugent suggested that the Democratic Party is the “modern-day slave master” to low-income Americans. During a 2012 interview with the Times, Nugent claimed that liberal Democratic politicians had trained the citizens of Detroit to “scam, cheat and refuse to be productive.”
At the same time, Nugent has attacked black America itself for poverty within that community.
During a July 16 appearance on conspiracy theory radio program The Alex Jones Show, Nugent stated that that African-Americans could fix “the black problem” if they just put their “heart and soul into being honest, law-abiding, [and] delivering excellence at every move in your life” :
NUGENT: The food stamp scam. The welfare scam. Blacks can fix the black problem tonight if they just admit they can do anything I can do, anything that Alex Jones can do, anything [conservative author] Thomas Sowell can do, anything that any American can do if you put your heart and soul into being honest, law abiding, delivering excellence at every move in your life. I would like to reach out to black America and tell them to absolutely reject the lie of Al “Not So” Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and the Black Panthers and [Attorney General] Eric Holder and Barack Obama. They are enslaving you. And the real shackles on black America come 100 percent of the time come from black America.
Nugent has also smeared the recipients of government assistance, claiming that “Pimps whores & welfare brats” re-elected President Obama to “destroy America,” and has even called for the suspension of the right to vote for those who receive welfare. Nugent also believes that "[b]eing poor is largely a choice, a daily, if not hourly decision." As he explained to the crowd as an August 6 concert in New Haven, Connecticut, “Unlike these well-fed motherfucker food stamp cocksuckers, we got to earn what we get.”