Winning the War on Poverty: Applying the Lessons of History to the Present. By Brian L. Fife. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2018. 236 p. Acid-free $60 (ISBN 978-1-4408-3281-9). E-book Available (978-1-4408-3282-6), call for pricing.

Fife is professor emeritus in the Department of Public Policy at Purdue University, Fort Wayne. He has written books and articles on many topics such as education reform and the electoral process.

There is no preface or introduction to the volume, so the user must make assumptions about what the author has set out to accomplish. By looking at the title of the book with the table of contents, the user can surmise the purpose of the book, but it would have been much more helpful to have an introduction by the author.

The volume starts with a table of contents that lists five chapters. The first chapter defines poverty, and while references are made to poverty in other countries, the focus is on the United States. Chapter one describes the standard measurement of poverty that has been used for over fifty years and the creation of that measurement by the economist Mollie Orshansky. Other poverty measurements are discussed as well as the criticism of the Orshansky model. The author ends the chapter by saying there should be room for more than one measurement tool.

Chapter two gives an overview of the poverty relief efforts in the United States, starting with the social welfare movement post War of 1812 to the passage of the Affordable Care Act under President Obama. Much of the chapter is devoted to the creation of programs under Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. The chapter ends with discussing the different viewpoints on poverty and how much help people should get from the government and how in the present-day Congress poverty relief efforts are not a high priority.

Chapter three discusses the history of income inequality in the United States with references to Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, and Robert Reich. The author paints a picture where the gap between rich and poor is worsening yet the country’s leaders are not crafting policies that would address the problem. The chapter ends with a plea for the national leaders to create policies that serve the diverse nature of their constituents.

Chapter four discusses how the Republican party and the Democratic party differ in their viewpoints of poverty and how to best help or not help those in need. The chapter also profiles several economists and their philosophies on poverty, such as Friedrich Hayek, Leo Strauss, and Milton Friedman.

The last chapter is the author’s eighteen-point plan for reforming welfare. The steps range from universal health care to enhancing educational opportunities to affordable housing for all and reforming the electoral college. The author goes into detail for each of his eighteen points and ends the chapter by acknowledging that poverty will always exist, but that as one of the wealthiest countries, the United States has an obligation to enact policies to help those people who live in poverty.

Each chapter ends with an extensive list of references, and there is a bibliography and index at the end of the whole volume. This title complements other books on this topic such as Poverty in America: A Handbook by John Iceland and A People’s History of Poverty in America by Stephen Pimpare. Recommended for all libraries.—Stacey Marien, Acquisitions Librarian, American University, Washington, DC


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ALA Privacy Policy

© 2023 RUSA