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The Slow Decline of America Since LBJ Launched the Great Society

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May 16, 2014George F. Will writes: Standing on his presidential limousine, Lyndon Johnson, campaigning in Providence, R.I., in September 1964, bellowed through a bullhorn: “We’re in favor of a lot of things and we’re against mighty few.” This was a synopsis of what he had said four months earlier.

“In 1964, 76 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing “just about always or most of the time”; today, 19 percent do. The former number is one reason Johnson did so much; the latter is one consequence of his doing so.”

Fifty years ago this Thursday, at the University of Michigan, Johnson had proposed legislating into existence a Great Society. It would end poverty and racial injustice, “but that is just the beginning.” It would “rebuild the entire urban United States” while fending off “boredom and restlessness,” slaking “the hunger for community” and enhancing “the meaning of our lives” — all by assembling “the best thought and the broadest knowledge.”

In 1964, 76 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing “just about always or most of the time”; today, 19 percent do. The former number is one reason Johnson did so much; the latter is one consequence of his doing so.

[Read the full text here, at the Washington Post]

Barry Goldwater, Johnson’s 1964 opponent who assumed that Americans would vote to have a third president in 14 months, suffered a landslide defeat. After voters rebuked FDR in 1938 for attempting to 41npsm-1StL._SL250_“pack” the Supreme Court, Republicans and Southern Democrats prevented any liberal legislating majority in Congress until 1965. That year, however, when 68 senators and 295 representatives were Democrats, Johnson was unfettered.

[Order the book “The Great Society at Fifty: The Triumph and the Tragedy” from Amazon.com]

He remains, regarding government’s role, much the most consequential 20th-century president. Indeed, the American Enterprise Institute’s Nicholas Eberstadt, in his measured new booklet The Great Society at Fifty: The Triumph and the Tragedy,” says LBJ, more than FDR, “profoundly recast the common understanding of the ends of governance.”

When Johnson became president in 1963, Social Security was America’s only nationwide social program. His programs and those they subsequently legitimated put the nation on the path to the present, in which changed social norms — dependency on government has been destigmatized — have changed America’s national character.

Between 1959 and 1966 — before the War on Poverty was implemented — the percentage of Americans living in poverty plunged by about one-third, from 22.4 to 14.7, slightly lower than in 2012. But, Eberstadt cautions, the poverty rate is “incorrigibly misleading” because government transfer payments have made income levels and consumption levels significantly different. Read the rest of this entry »

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Unicorns and Rainbows: Bernie Sanders’s ‘Democratic Socialist’ Price Tag: $18 Trillion

WASHINGTON— Laura Meckler writes: Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose liberal call to action has propelled his long-shot presidential campaign, is proposing an array of new programs that would amount to the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history.

“Sen. Sanders’s agenda does cost money. If you look at the problems that are out there, it’s very reasonable.”

— Warren Gunnels, Sanders’s policy director

In all, he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal, a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause. Mr. Sanders sees the money as going to essential government services at a time of increasing strain on the middle class.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

His agenda includes an estimated $15 trillion for a government-run health-care program that covers every American, plus large sums to rebuild roads and bridges, expand Social Security and make tuition free at public colleges.

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To pay for it, Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent running for the Democratic nomination, has so far detailed tax increases that could bring in as much as $6.5 trillion over 10 years, according to his staff.

“One of the demands of my campaign is that we think big and not small.”

— Bernie Sanders

A campaign aide said additional tax proposals would be offered to offset the cost of some, and possibly all, of his health program. A Democratic proposal for such a “single-payer” health plan, now in Congress, would be funded in part through a new payroll tax on employers and workers, with the trade-off being that employers would no longer have to pay for or arrange their workers’ insurance.

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“The Sanders program amounts to increasing total federal spending by about one-third—to a projected $68 trillion or so over 10 years.”

Mr. Sanders declined a request for an interview. His campaign referred questions to Warren Gunnels, his policy director, who said the programs would address an array of problems. “Sen. Sanders’s agenda does cost money,” he said. “If you look at the problems that are out there, it’s very reasonable.”

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Calling himself a democratic socialist, Mr. Sanders has long stood to the left of the Democratic Party, and at first he was dismissed as little more than a liberal gadfly to the party’s front-runner, Hillary Clinton. But he is ahead of or tied with the former secretary of state in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and he has gained in national polling. He stands as her most serious challenger for the Democratic nomination.

“By way of comparison, the 2009 economic stimulus program was estimated at $787 billion when it passed Congress, and President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts were estimated to cost the federal treasury $1.35 trillion over 10 years.”

Mr. Sanders has filled arenas with thousands of supporters, where he thunders an unabashedly liberal agenda to tackle pervasive economic inequality through more government services, higher taxes on the wealthy and new constraints on banks and corporations. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] This Day in History: Tragic Launch of President Johnson’s Titanic “Great Society”

“In 1964, 76 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing “just about always or most of the time”; today, 19 percent do. The former number is one reason Johnson did so much; the latter is one consequence of his doing so.”

— George F. Will

Source: The Washington Post – The slow decline of America since LBJ launched the Great Society” 

 


History: Roe v Wade Born, LBJ Dead

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[BOOKS] The Poverty of Benevolence

Fifty years of the Great Society have made things worse for blacks, not better.

20140702-fsA half-century ago, the Great Society promised to complete the civil rights revolution by pulling African-Americans into the middle class. Today, a substantial black middle class exists, but its primary function has been, ironically, to provide custodial care to a black underclass—one ever more deeply mired in the pathologies of subsidized poverty.  In Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed”Jason Riley, an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal who grew up in Buffalo, New York, explains how poverty programs have succeeded politically by failing socially. “Today,” writes Riley, “more than 70 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers. Only 16 percent of black households are married couples with children, the lowest of any racial group in the United States.” Riley attributes the breakdown of the black family to the perverse effects of government social programs, which have created what journalist William Tucker calls “state polygamy.” As depicted in an idyllic 2012 Obama campaign cartoon, “The Life of Julia,” a lifelong relationship with the state offers the sustenance usually provided by two parents in most middle-class families.

“Today, more than 70 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers. Only 16 percent of black households are married couples with children, the lowest of any racial group in the United States”

For City JournalFred Siegel writes: Riley’s own life experience gives him powerful perspective from which to address these issues. His parents divorced but both remained attentive to him and his two sisters. His sisters, however, were drawn into the sex-and-drug pleasures of inner-city “culture.” By the time he graduated from high school, his older sister was a single mother. By the time he graduated from college, his younger sister had died from a drug overdose. Riley’s nine-year-old niece teased him for “acting white.” “Why you talk white, Uncle Jason?” she wantedplease-stop-helping-book to know. She couldn’t understand why he was “trying to sound so smart.” His black public school teacher similarly mocked his standard English in front of the class. “The reality was,” Riley explains, “that if you were a bookish black kid who placed shared sensibilities above skin color, you probably had a lot of white friends.”

[Check out Jason Riley’s book Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed” at Amazon.com]

The compulsory “benevolence” of the welfare state, borne of the supposed expertise of sociologists and social planners, undermined the opportunities opened up by the end of segregation. The great hopes placed in education as a path to the middle class were waylaid by the virulence of a ghetto culture nurtured by family breakdown. Adjusted for inflation, federal per-pupil school spending grew 375 percent from 1970 to 2005, but revolt-massesthe achievement gap between white and black students remained unchanged. Students at historically black colleges and universitiesexplained opinion columnist Bill Maxwell, “did not know what or whom to respect. For many, the rappers Bow Wow and 50 Cent were as important to black achievement as the late Ralph Bunche, the first black to win a Nobel Peace Prize, and Zora Neale Hurston, the great novelist.”

[Also see Fred Siegel‘s book The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class” at Amazon.com]

“Why study hard in school,” asks Riley, “if you will be held to a lower academic standard? Why change antisocial behavior when people are willing to reward it, make excuses for it, or even change the law to accommodate it?” Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] This Day in History: Launch of President Johnson’s Titanic “Great Society”

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In 1964, 76 percent of Americans trusted government to do the right thing “just about always or most of the time”; today, 19 percent do. The former number is one reason Johnson did so much; the latter is one consequence of his doing so.”

— George F. Will

 

Source: The Washington Post The slow decline of America since LBJ launched the Great Society” 

 


[VIDEO] The Great Society’s Triumph and Tragedy

The Great Society was launched on May 22, 1964, during Lyndon Baines Johnson‘s address at the University of Michigan. The speech was a milestone in American history, heralding fundamental changes that advanced racial equality while also decisively expanding the scale and scope of government. It is no exaggeration to say that the Great Society created the foundation for America’s modern welfare state. Half a century later, has America achieved Johnson’s vision?

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The Great Society at Fifty

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What LBJ wrought

For The Weekly StandardNicholas Eberstadt writes: May 22, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s “Great Society” address, delivered at the spring commencement for the University of Michigan.

[Below: On Jan. 4, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson outlined his goals for a Great Society in his State of the Union. You can watch and read his entire speech at millercenter.org]

That speech remains the most ambitious call to date by any president (our current commander in chief included) to use the awesome powers of the American state to effect a far-reaching transformation of the society that state was established to serve. It also stands as the high-water mark for Washington’s confidence in the broad meliorative properties of government social policy, scientifically applied.

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No less important, the Great Society pledge, and the fruit this would ultimately bear, profoundly recast the common understanding of the ends of governance in our country. The address heralded fundamental changes​—​some then already underway, others still only being envisioned​—​that would decisively expand the scale and scope of government in American life and greatly alter the relationship between that same government and the governed in our country today.

In his oration, LBJ offered a grand vision of what an American welfare state​—​big, generous, and interventionist​—​might accomplish. Difficult as this may be for most citizens now alive to recall, the United States in the early 1960s was not yet a modern welfare state: Our only nationwide social program in those days was the Social Security system, which provided benefits for workers’ retirement and disability and for orphaned or abandoned children of workers. Johnson had gradually been unveiling this vision, starting with his declaration of a “War on Poverty” in his first State of the Union months earlier in 1964, just weeks after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In LBJ’s words,  “The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that,” he said, “is just the beginning.”

The Great Society proposed to reach even further: to bring about wholesale renewal of our cities, beautification of our natural surroundings, vitalization of our educational system. All this, and much more​—​and the solutions to the many obstacles encountered in this great endeavor, we were told, would assuredly be found, since this undertaking would “assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America.”

Memorably, Johnson insisted that the constraints on achieving the goals he outlined were not availability of the national wealth necessary for the task or the uncertainties inherent in such complex human enterprises, but instead simply our country’s resolve​—​whether we as a polity possessed sufficient “wisdom” to embark on the venture.
Read the rest of this entry »


Obama and the LBJ Delusion

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John Aloysius Farrell  writes:  Lyndon Johnson recognized opportunity when he saw it. The body of John F. Kennedy had been tucked into an Arlington hillside for but a few days when Johnson summoned the leaders of Congress to the White House in late 1963. They were going to seize this moment of national unity, he told the assembled lawmakers, and move the vital legislation—on civil rights, taxes and other pressing issues—stalled in congressional cul de sacs.

LBJtallTo get the tax cut through the Senate, Johnson told the leaders, hewould have to pare federal spending. That meant chopping wasteful programs, like funding for antiquated Navy yards, from the Pentagon budget. They were relics from the world wars, LBJ said, barnacles in an era of ICBMs and nuclear warheads. At his side was Kenneth O’Donnell, Kennedy’s chief of staff.

“Where are you going to close them?” asked House Speaker John McCormack, a flinty Democrat from South Boston, knowing well that the yards were huge employers. Philadelphia, the Speaker was told. Brooklyn. And Boston. At which point McCormack drew on his cigar, turned in his chair, and blew a mighty cloud of smoke in Ken O’Donnell’s face.

“How did it go?’ Johnson wanted to know, after the meeting was done. Well, said O’Donnell, the Boston yard in Charlestown sat in the district of McCormack’s protégé—Rep. Thomas “Tip” O’Neill Jr. —who happened to be the deciding vote on the Rules Committee. “You’ll never get a piece of legislation on the floor of the House of Representatives as long as he’s there,” O’Donnell said. Read the rest of this entry »


JFK’s murder soured liberals on America

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Daniel Pipes writes: In three main ways, the JFK murder still has repercussions for Americans and the world. It also has a unique place in my life.

First, had the assassination attempt not succeeded, arguably neither the Vietnam War nor the Great Society expansion of government would have afflicted the United States as they did. The Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived project concludes that “JFK would have continued to resist a US war in Vietnam. Even though the Saigon government, weak and corrupt, was destined for the dustbin of history, he would have resisted those calling on him to send US combat troops to Vietnam. He might have ended all military involvement.”

As for government expansion, American historian Don Keko writes that Kennedy “lacked Lyndon Johnson’s legislative abilities which would have doomed much of what became known as the Great Society. . . . Without the Great Society, the nation does not experience massive budget deficits and the economy would have been stronger.”

Second, Kennedy’s assassination profoundly impaired American liberalism. James Piereson’s 2007 book Camelot and the Cultural Revolution (Encounter) establishes how liberals could not cope with the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald, a Communist, murdered Kennedy to protect Fidel Castro’s control of Cuba. Kennedy died for his anti-Communism; but this wildly contradicted the liberals’ narrative, so they denied this fact and insisted on presenting Kennedy as a victim of the radical Right, reading Oswald out of the picture.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Kennedy Curse

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For a half-century, John F. Kennedy has mesmerized Democrats.

Robert Costa writes: It’s a black-and-white picture we’ve all seen before: an earnest, 16-year-old Bill Clinton shaking hands with President John F. Kennedy. It was snapped in July 1963 in the Rose Garden, soon after Kennedy addressed a group of Boys Nation delegates. Ever since, and most notably during his 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton has recalled the moment. For him, it was more than a brief encounter; it was an experience, and one so powerful that Clinton once said it caused him to have “arthritis of the face.”

Clinton’s deeply felt connection to Kennedy is hardly unique. Memories of Kennedy’s presidency, from his inaugural address to the horror of Dallas, live on in the American imagination. But they linger particularly with Democrats, and for the past 50 years, generations of them have venerated JFK as their party’s tragic hero. Democrats may have long ago abandoned the Kennedy program, but JFK’s flame flickers elusively in their hearts.

Read the rest of this entry »