Monday, November 18, 2013

In Praise Of Conservative Democrat John F. Kennedy

PBS has some great programs that you can watch online.  See here for their website.  It's a terrific resource for you and your family.  

Recently I was watching the 2nd Part of the "American Masters" program about John F. Kennedy.   It was very good and interesting to compare Democrat John F. Kennedy of 50 years ago to the Democrats today.  He was surprisingly conservative.  Or perhaps current Democrats are so liberal?

JFK was not a "liberal" president as is commonly believed.  He was positively conservative compared to the current crop of Democrats.  I'd say that he might be best compared today to Joe Lieberman or even Ronald Reagan in his anti-communist fervor.   Remember Joe Lieberman was pushed out of the Democratic party to run as an Independent.  JFK might have even been a Republican today.

JFK, in fact, was not only an ardent anti-communist, but he adopted supply-side corporate and individual marginal tax rate cuts to spur growth.  He was a hawk when it came to Russia and he believed in peace through strength.  He stepped into the civil rights issue only because the "Freedom Riders" made it impossible for him to ignore their protests in the segregationist South.  Unfortunately, he also started our intervention in Vietnam to try to prevent another fallen domino to the imperialist communists.

JFK's Speech In Berlin in 1963


In 1963, JFK went to deliver an address to the beseized Berliners.  His brief message, in defense of Democracy, was a stern denunciation of Communism some 22 months after the Soviet Union had erected the "Iron Curtain."  Not only were people held captive behind the curtain, but the communists had also failed to allow free elections as demanded by Truman during the Potsdam Conference.  Here's an excerpt of the speech (from Millercenter dot org.):
Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin. While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.

What is true of this city is true of Germany—real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you, as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!"
The speech is reminiscent of Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech--which did result in the dismantling of the Iron Curtain some 30 years later.

JFK's Tax Cut Speech in 1963


JFK advocated and succeeded in lowering very high marginal tax rates (up to 91%) on both corporations and individuals, across the board, to spur the economy.  He said the following:
"In short," he stated, "to increase demand and lift the economy, the federal government's most useful role is not to rush into a program of excessive increases in public expenditures, but to expand the initiatives and opportunities for private expenditures."

"Our true choice is not between tax reduction, on the one hand, and the avoidance of large federal deficits on the other," he declared.

The "paradoxical truth" is that "tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now."
 Here's the speech (2 minutes):

video

Liberals pooh-pooh the conservative aspect of this by pointing out how high the marginal rates were, but the truth is that Federal revenues as a percentage of the economy is about the same as today--about 20%. There have always been itemized deductions and credits to reduce the bite of high tax rates.   But a tax cut is a tax cut.

President Kennedy would be welcomed as a great Republican or a great conservative Democrat today!

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