Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” has been more destructive to Black Americans than slavery or Jim Crow or segregation, according to the only Black Republican running for president.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., made the statement during the Sept. 27 GOP presidential primary debate.
Scott began by criticizing fellow GOP presidential aspirant Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida for his state’s education policies, which require students to learn slavery did some good because slaves “developed skills.”
“There is not a redeeming quality in slavery,” Scott said.
“Black families survived slavery. We survived poll taxes and literacy tests. We survived discrimination being woven into the laws of our country. What was hard to survive was Johnson’s Great Society.”
But America ultimately stood against slavery and defeated it, he declared. “You talk about crime and education and health care — we always think that those issues go back to slavery. Here’s the challenge, though. Black families survived slavery. We survived poll taxes and literacy tests. We survived discrimination being woven into the laws of our country.
“What was hard to survive was Johnson’s Great Society, where they decided to put money — where they decided to take the Black father out of the household to get a check in the mail. And you can now measure that in unemployment and crime and devastation.”
The Great Society of the 1960s was the largest social reform plan in modern history, including Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, urban renewal and a series of environmental and crime fighting initiatives. The related expansion of federal government has been a target of conservative Republicans for decades, from Reagan-era debates about “welfare queens” to the anti-tax doctrines of the Tea Party.
Another part of Johnson’s Great Society agenda was the 1964 Civil Rights Act that removed barriers to voting for minority populations.
Scott’s attack on the Great Society lit up social media during and after the debate, with hard-core conservatives praising his bravery and other condemning the absurdity of his comparison.
Among those praising Scott was Fox News host Sean Hannity, whose guest was Larry Kudlow, former National Economic Council Director in the Trump administration.
“He’s very inspiring to say that kind of thing,” Kudlow declared. “The data, the evidence shows that Sen. Tim Scott is absolutely right. The worst thing to happen to minority groups and African Americans in particular in this country in the last 100 years was the Great Society.”
Among those excoriating Scott for his revisionist history was Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of The 1619 Project and a person scorned by political conservatives for opposing a white-centric view of America’s founding.
“The Second Middle Passage ALONE broke up about 1/3 of Black marriages. But, yes, anti-poverty programs are the problem,” she wrote on X.
“Also, just to be absolutely crystal clear, NOTHING Black people have experienced in this country is worse than slavery,” she added. “Btw, a lot of people did not survive slavery, Tim Scott. A lot of people did not survive poll taxes and were murdered for trying to vote. A lot of Black folks died for lack of health care and still do — see Black women and maternal health in your own state.”
According to the South Carolina Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Review Committee: “Between 2015 and 2019, 75 South Carolina women died within six weeks of giving birth, a rate of 26.2 deaths per 100,000 live births. The maternal mortality rate was 2.4 times higher for Black and other women versus white women (42.3. vs. 18.0 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, respectively).”
During the days of the slave trade, with captured Africans being transported over what came to be known as the Middle Passage, 15% died en route, not counting those who died or were killed before they ever got on the ship.
An estimated 10 million people were enslaved in America between 1619 and 1865.
Scott’s perspective, although starkly stated, is nothing new.
In 1982, then President Ronald Reagan said Blacks ”would be appreciably better off today” if the Great Society had never been inaugurated.
Reagan said the economic health of the 1950s — a time of racial segregation — was destroyed by the Great Society programs because ”government began eating away at the underpinnings of the private enterprise system. … The big taxer and big spenders in the Congress had started a binge” that ”threatened the character of our people.”
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