The Administration: The Poverty Plan

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∙ AID TO FARMERS. Since half of all U.S. poverty exists in rural areas, up to 45,000 farm families would get grants to buy stock or equipment to raise their income to minimum living levels. The idea is to keep farmers from joining the surplus of unskilled labor in the cities. Argues Shriver: "It is cheaper for the taxpayers to pay once to buy a low-income farm family a cow than to pay for milk for the children of that family day after day in the city." A more controversial provision would set up nonprofit corporations to buy up large tracts of land, improve it for efficient farming, then sell the land in economically sized subdivisions to low-income families.

∙ VOLUNTEERS. Five thousand people would be recruited to work (much like Peace Corpsmen) among the poor at an unspecified living allowance and $50 per month separation pay. Half of the volunteers would be available to local agencies that request them (with the approval of the state Governor), half would be assigned to projects such as migratory worker groups, conservation camps and Indian reservations.

Johnson's bill also calls for expansion of existing programs. There would be loans to new or expanded industries in depressed areas, loans to small businesses, literacy and vocational training for mothers who collect aid for dependent children, pilot projects to aid unemployed fathers.

The bill, in short, outlines a war plan that ought to warm the cockles of any social worker's heart. But mighty crusades have an unhappy way of getting mired in the implementation. Cabinet officers who would be responsible for various aspects of the program insisted last week that the whole scattershot package could be properly administered without creating any wasteful new bureaucracy. Each was satisfied with the role assigned to his department, none resented the vast powers that would be handed to "Poverty Czar" Shriver. If the Administration can ever convince the Congress of that, the poverty war itself may prove to be a pushover by comparison.

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