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Concerning Domestic Policy - LBJ has been our greatest Modern President

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/3/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 951 times Debate No: 39900
Debate Rounds (3)
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I am arguing that President Lyndon B. Johnson is the greatest modern President we have had when it comes to Domestic Policy.


Round 1 for acceptance only.
Must argue that LBJ was not the greatest President in Domestic Policy and argue who was.
Modern is any President from Teddy Roosevelt onward.


I am most likely going to argue for FDR, Truman, Eisenhower or a combination of the three.

Best of luck.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank Con for participating in this debate!

I will be arguing that Lyndon B. Johnson, who was given the nickname The Great Legislator, is our greatest modern President in Domestic Policy.

Lyndon Johnson was a very intelligent man that came into power at the right time; he pushed America into his Great Society which aimed at eradicating poverty and expanding the legislation of the New Deal.

After a meeting with LBJ Alabama Governor George Wallace stated: "That I"m glad I left when I did because if I stayed there any longer LBJ would've had me coming out in favor of civil-rights. (sic)"

LBJ's legislative achievements are numerous so I most likely will split them in between this round and the next. For this round we will look at his policies that expanded the public safety net of the New Deal.

1) LBJ started the so called "War on Poverty," and aimed to totally eradicate poor Americans; obviously he failed in this aspect but he did something more important - he brought the poor to the front stage of American Politics and they have not left since then.
Some programs created to combat this were: Headstart, Food Stamps, the expansion of community health centers and the passage of Medicare and Medicaid.

Headstart has probably been arguably the most successful program financially: for every $1 the America taxpayer pays for this the return to society is $3.50-7 in just crime alone. Children that attend Headstart are more likely to graduate from high school, attend higher education, and are less likely to have a run in with the police and have a child while still a teenager.

Medicare and Medicaid, were the most successful programs when it came to getting people out from below the poverty line. Although other groups did see a reduction of those below the poverty line, I want to focus on the elderly who up until the Great Society were the poorest Americans. Before the passage of Medicare and Medicaid over 28% of Elderly lived below the poverty line. A decade later? The number had been reduced by half where only 14% lived below the poverty line.

2) The above programs were products of the Great Society, but like I mentioned above the Great Society did more than create new legislation it expanded on the New Deal, as of this round I will focus on what I believe was the greatest legislative achievement of FDR:

Social Security: LBJ helped pass the Social Security Amendments of 1965, the Tax Adjustment Act of 1966 and the the Social Security Amendments of 1967 to increase the coverage of Social Security. I like the definition I found so I will use it: a "liberalization" occurred that rewrote who could get benefits under Social Security, including widows, disabled workers, etc. In total there was a 7% increase in benefits.

3) Another important area the Great Society targeted was Education.

For students like me it is LBJ we have to thank for Federal Loans that help us pay for higher education, along with Headstart and other education legislation aimed at the poor and minorities, legislation such as the Higher Education Act of 1965 created scholarships and low-interest loans for students attending college.

I will digress to talking about other legislation including the Civil Rights movement until round 3 and eagerly await your rebuttal in Round 2.



'Lyndon Johnson was a very intelligent man'

All politicians are intelligent, it's just a matter of whether they present themselves as that or not. For example, Bush II acted like he was a moron, but that was to discredit his critics when they said he was stupid. To be a politician, even one of Bill Maher's 'America's craziest congressmen', one must be intelligent, and any exhibitions of stupidity are largely facades.

I think you are skirting around the elephant in the room a little here. The Vietnam War was not just a foreign policy blunder. It was a domestic policy blunder as wes..

The War on Poverty, though noble in its intent, was crucially inefficient and underfunded; largely due to the Vietnam War sucking up government spending, and also due to the government's corporate allegiences.

The Vietnam War was a disastrous waste of money. As a percentage of GDP, defense spending rose to 9.5%, the highest it has ever been (today's defense spending amounts to 4% of GDP. (1)

Johnson also ran the highest deficit since 1946 in 1968, and never presided over a surplus (2).

Although, as you said, Medicare and Medicaid helped to lift many Americans out of poverty, it always has been a fiscal black hole. It was a process designed to win votes through the introduction of a social programme while still appeasing the corporations that funded the Democratic Party.

Universal Health Care would have been far more cost-effective, if a little illiberal. Nationalising hospitals would have kept costs under control by eliminating the middle man, therefore guaranteeing a healthy population in the long term. There was a large consensus for Universal Healthcare in the US at this time, as well as other social democratic policies and programmes, given the success of European social democracy under Wilson, de Gaulle and Erhardt at that time, which were experiencing economic booms in the mid-1960s.

Medicare and Medicaid were concessions rather than reforms, and though they benefitted millions, they were not and still are not cost-effective, and will forever remain glorified PFIs.

Let's compare the healthcare spending per capita of the United States, which has medicare and medicaid, to the country with the best quality healthcare in the world, France. In 2011, France spent $4,952 per capita, while the USA spent $8,606 per capita (3). In France, every citizen is covered, whereas in the USA, 48 million people were uncovered (4).

The Social Security Act of 1965 was the last of a series of enlargening legislation, each one raising the coverage for social security.

There was the original SSA of 1935, which created it for retirees, the unemployed and the recently deceased.

Then there was the SSA of 1939, which expanded it to families.

Then there was the SSA of 1950 for domestic workers, non-profit workers and self-employed workers.

The SSA of 1954 expanded it to include all hotel, laundry and agricultural workers, and all state and local government employees.

The SSA of 1956 raised taxes to 4% and included the disabled and lowered the retirement age for women to 62.

The SSA of 1961 raised taxes to 6% and lowered the retirement age for men to 62.

So by 1965, retirees, the unemployed, the families of the deceased, families of the non-deceased and all workers received social security. Johnson expanded it to include widows at younger ages and divorcees, as well as including Medicare and Medicaid.

So if we grade them by number of Social Security Reforms passed under them, it works out as follows:

Roosevelt - 2
Truman - 1
Eisenhower - 2
Kennedy - 1
Johnson - 1

If we take expansion of spending as a percentage of GDP (5):

Roosevelt - 0.2% (1935-1944)
Truman - 0.3% (1944-1953)
Eisenhower - 1.8% (1953-1961)
Kennedy - 0.2% (1961-1963)
Johnson - 0.5% (1963-1969)

Real GDP Growth (6)

Roosevelt - 10.08% (1933-1944) Average - 0.84%PA
Truman - 1.55% (1944-1953) Average - 0.17%PA
Eisenhower - 2.75% (1953-61) Average - 0.34%PA
Kennedy - 5.23% (1961-63) Average - 1.74%PA
Johnson - 4.76% (1964-1969) Average - 0.79%PA

Of the five presidents of the period 1933-69, America's Golden Age, Kennedy managed the best real GDP Growth per year of presidency. Johnson finishes third. After Johnson, neoliberalism takes hold, so GDP growth is not a good measure after 1969, since the economy largely grows based on financial transactions.

LBJ is definitely up there among the best presidents, but he was not the best.

Debate Round No. 2


Politician94 forfeited this round.


Sorry, need to make an amendment.

Ignore the PA figures for GDP growth, I didn't realise that they were already PA, so I divided them again. It makes no difference really, as it still puts Johnson in third for GDP growth.

Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by FuturePOTUS 5 years ago
Um no he had JFK killed
Posted by 1Historygenius 5 years ago
I am interested, but in a debate with someone else. I would like to debate this with you after I finish another debate, so we will see each other down the road.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by STALIN 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Con gave more examples and statistics to prove his point.