Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON - In the sixth year of his presidency, with his job approval polls in a nose dive, Barack Obama has suddenly decided to do something about growing poverty.

He chose to do it on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty" address that led to a massive expansion of the welfare state. Actually, LBJ's Great Society spending binge turned out to be a failure on many fronts, but more on that later.

When Obama took office in 2009 in the midst of a deep recession, it was obvious that poverty was a very serious problem. Unemployment was speeding toward 10 percent, poverty rates were climbing, homelessness was soaring, and an increasing number of families didn't have enough to eat.

He looked for answers to all of this in the past, way into the past, as in Great Depression. Like FDR, he hoped by spending hundreds of billions of dollars on "shovel-ready" infrastructure jobs, he could jump start the economy.

But, while FDR's programs gave people hope, they did not end the depression which lasted a full decade until we entered World War II when the economy was put on a war footing.

Obama's policies didn't work, either, and the economy drifted through the next five years, posting still stubbornly high poverty rates and a shrinking labor force as millions of discouraged, jobless Americans stopped looking for work.

Long-term jobless Americans, who were out of work for 27 weeks or more now make up nearly 40 percent of all unemployed workers.

So on Thursday, Obama unveiled a new program aimed at "income inequality" -- the White House's latest attempt to do something to help poor and middle income people.

Only this time, instead of borrowing from FDR, Obama borrowed from the late, great Jack Kemp, the high-energy champion of tax cuts, entrepreneurial capitalism and other pro-growth ideas to promote economic revitalization and jobs.

One of Kemp's ideas was "Enterprise Zones" to provide tax incentives to businesses, financiers, manufacturers and others to invest in poverty-stricken places like the South Bronx. He sought to turn public housing residents into owners, giving them a stake in their property and improving their communities.

Obama took this idea and renamed it "Promise Zones" He first proposed it in his 2013 State of the Union address, but it went nowhere.

Unlike Kemp, however, who wanted to expand his low tax zones all across the country, the president is starting small.

He wants them in five areas that have been hard-hit by his

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.