In 2014, the state must turn its attention to poverty. In both human and economic terms, it's gotten too expensive.

Nearly 50 years ago, on Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the bold initiative that would become known as the War on Poverty. A half-century later many of its signature programs — Medicare and Medicaid, VISTA, Head Start, food stamps — are still part of our social infrastructure.

But while these programs have helped many people, they have not ended poverty, as Mr. Johnson hoped. After an expenditure of, by one estimate, nearly $15 trillion, the "war" is a stalemate, a holding action. The national poverty rate of 15 percent in 2012 (46.8 million people) is about where it was in 1965.