Maximum Feasible Participation

H H Leland lelandh at
Wed Feb 3 05:21:00 PST 1999

Katznelson's point is well taken. However, in addition to purely segregationist opposition to OEO, northern and western big city mayors and other elected officials opposed maximum feasible participation because in their view this could lead to federally-funded local political activism over which they had no control or influence.

Hank Leland Service Employees International Union

Michael Hoover wrote:

> Carrol Cox sent me an off-list message recounting his Bloomington-
> Normal experience with commnunity action programs established under
> the auspices of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) in the
> mid-60s. Created to coordinate the Johnson administration's
> poverty policies, OEO owed its existence to the 1964 Economic
> Opportunity Act. As I mentioned in a previous post, initially,
> Title II of the EOA called for 'maximum feasible participation'
> of those that federal funds & programs were intended to serve.
> Carrol mentioned that above local government refused to
> participate and very little money was ever forthcoming, save
> some for Head Start.
> Same was true here in Central Florida, some money for HS but
> little else, and HS served only 600 children in 1967 out of 10,000
> families living on incomes of less than $60/wk. The local program
> had a waiting list of 3000 children. Refusal of municipal (Orlando)
> and county (Orange) governments to participate resulted in the loss
> of funds for a neighborhood center, employment assistance, public
> health clinic, and day care and recreation centers. Almost no
> money existed for housing at all. Ira Katznelson has pointed
> out that southern politicians opposed economic opportunity programs
> because they feared they would hasten integration. As a former local
> community action agency activist here in Orlando has said, 'People
> like to say that the poverty programs were a great waste of money;
> really, they were never given a chance to work.'
> First, opponents stripped attempts to 'empower the poor' through
> 'maximum feasible participation.' Secondly, money was never
> available. In 1967, less than 2 cents of each federal tax
> dollar went to finance economic opportunity programs. The
> much ballyhooed 'war on poverty' was waylayed for a number of
> reasons, the 'conservative coalition' of southern Democrats &
> Republicans and the escalating costs of Vietnam among them.
> As for another kind of 'maximum participation,' AFDC participation
> of those eligible in 1995 (year prior to program's elimination) was
> about 50% nationally. At the low end were Alabama & Arkansas (Prez
> Klingon's state) at 21% while Alaska & Rhode Island were at the high
> end with over 80%. Others included South Dakota (21%), North
> Dakota (31%), Wyoming (36%), New York (56%), and California (59%).
> Michael Hoover

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