On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced a declaration of War on Poverty in America at his first State of the Union address. Later on that year, in August, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Johnson the freedom to do whatever he felt was necessary to defend and protect Southeast Asia, including using armed forces. This was not exactly a declaration of war, but it definitely played a significant role in the escalation of the Vietnam War. As a result of putting two wars into motion simultaneously, one of them was trumped. Unfortunately, it was the war that actually pertained to a serious problem in America at the time: the War on Poverty. Though Johnson’s creation of The Great Society did help some people crawl above the poverty line, it is accurate to say that the war in Vietnam took priority over the War on Poverty, slowing down the improvement of those who were at an economic disadvantage. The dominant effects that the Vietnam War had on the War on Poverty related to reasons such as the draft, shortage of labor/resources, and economics; all of these factors in combination caused the War on Poverty to be overridden by the Vietnam War.
When the Vietnam War began, the draft became active again. This meant that all men who turned eighteen were eligible to be picked to fight in the war. While the draft was active, so was college deferment. College deferment excused men from the draft who were planning on attending a college or university. Once this was enacted, there was a very clear direct relationship between Vietnam War escalation and college enrollments. So much so, in fact, that new college campuses began to appear everywhere in the country, even in rural areas. This, in turn, caused trouble for the War on Poverty. Many of the men who were impoverished or underprivileged could not afford to go to college and considered this an unfair since it mostly conscripted those from racial minorities and deprived backgrounds and allowed men who were more economically advantaged to exempt themselves from the draft by enrolling college (Spector). Since the majority of the men who could afford college did indeed attend and therefore avoid the draft, those who could not meet the expenses of college were very likely to be picked to enter and fight in the Vietnam War. This meant that the poor and/or minorities suffered an opportunity cost that made an immense difference in their lives. Had a poor draftee stayed home and never been selected to fight while wealthier person was drafted, they could have found a job and worked to earn money to go to college, or even helped provide food or labor for their family. Instead, they were forced into a war while the wealthier men attended higher education, something that the impoverished needed much more.
As the men who couldn’t manage to pay for college and (some) women volunteers left for the war, there was a significant decrease in labor. Approximately 25% of Americans lived in rural areas or on farms in 1970. This might seem like a small percentage, but when you consider America’s population it is far from small. Out of the 9 million people who served in the military over the course of the Vietnam War, an estimated 2.25 million of them left rural communities or farms while the war was taking place to go fight. The absence of workers due to the Vietnam draft significantly affected the work force (Ganzel, 2007). Less labor was being accomplished by fewer people, leading to a startling road bump in the efficiency of agriculture. Not only that, but the lack of labor meant less food and production in general. A decline in labor and production was nothing but trouble for the poor; it would lead to a spike in food prices, making everyday living expenses even more impossible for the them to afford. It was enough that it damaged the economic balance of average-income families but it financially ravaged those who were struggling through