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A homeless man in Chicago prepares to settle down for the night on Jan. 7, 2014. Liberal and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, academics and political professionals and – critically – the president and the House speaker are all examining anew classic questions about the government’s role in alleviating poverty.
A homeless man in Chicago prepares to settle down for the night on Jan. 7, 2014. Liberal and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, academics and political professionals and – critically – the president and the House speaker are all examining anew classic questions about the government’s role in alleviating poverty.
(JIM YOUNG/REUTERS)

DAVID SHRIBMAN

How America’s War on Poverty took on a new life in Washington

Suddenly big questions are being asked in big ways in Washington.

Perhaps it was prompted by the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Maybe it was propelled by a flood of scholarly reports examining the broadening gap between rich and poor in the United States. Perhaps it was the return to American airwaves of Downton Abbey, which fairly screams themes of class consciousness and class conflict. Or maybe it was the capital debate over extension of unemployment benefits.