“The future ain’t what it used to be,” Yogi Berra famously quipped. As concerns postmodern Democrat politics, neither the past, present nor future is what it used to be.
In the past, Democrats and Republicans, who often came together off the campaign trail to click glasses and propose mutually amicable toasts to each other, used to be concerned with profligate spending, which leads, unsurprisingly, to profligate tax increases.
The general idea animating both parties during the John F. Kennedy administration (January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963) was that businesses, relatively unmolested by tax thirsty politicians, produced jobs and government facilitated the production of jobs. Naturally, the government, national and state, was interested in carving out a modest piece of the business pie.
Kennedy visited the New York Economic Club about a year before he was assassinated and unveiled his new economic program. Marginal taxes were too high, Kennedy said. His program envisioned a severe reduction in taxation and, when Kennedy asserted that a reduction in business taxes would be accompanied by a corresponding surge in budget dollars, no one in the audience batted an eye.
The accumulated evidence of the last five years showed, Kennedy said,” that our present tax system, developed as it was, in good part, during World War II to restrain growth, exerts too heavy a drag on growth in peace time; that it siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power; that it reduces the financial incentives for personal effort, investment, and risk-taking. In short, 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 incentives and opportunities for private expenditures.”
After Kennedy’s Reaganesque budget policy had been adopted, the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) surged. Indeed, so mighty was the stream of dollars flowing into the federal treasury, that Kennedy’s Democrat successor, President Lyndon Johnson, was able to use a portion of the burgeoning tax receipts to finance his Great Society program. That program, Johnson boasted at the time, would secure for Democrats the (N-word) vote for the next few generations.
Federal spending during the Kennedy administration was $18 billion. Federal spending today is about $4.829 trillion, a giant leap forward for postmodern progressives, some of whom would have been regarded during the Kennedy administration as rose-tinged socialists. The current Democrat Party’s own rose-tinged socialist, US Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, is more popular in some national polls than President Joe Biden. The debt to GDP ratio in 1963, the last year of the Kennedy administration was 40%. The current debt to GDP ratio is an eye popping 124%.
The rigid concentration in the current election season on the vanquished former President, Donald Trump, insures that permanent long term cuts in spending within the postmodern progressive Democrat Party of Biden and Governor Ned Lamont , the principal engine of inflation, is mentioned as infrequently as the vanished Camelot of the Kennedy years. The notion that state and federal governments can spend their way to prosperity always has been a useful campaign fiction. Political parties, everyone knows, can spend their way to electoral victories through the usual Tammany Hall process of buying votes with tax money acquired from middle class voters.
A healthy and vigorous contrarian media would do well – in the service of overburdened taxpayers and their children, who will shoulder the accumulative debt of postmodern progressive profligate spenders – to explode such transparent fictions.
“The American Republic,” Author of Democracy in America Alexis De Tocqueville told us long ago, “will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
Having done a bang up job of bribing the voting public with the public’s money, Biden has now sounded the Democrat’s principal 2020 campaign theme: Trump, still out of office, is a danger to American democracy, and those who voted for him in the past or in the future are fascists little different than Benito Mussolini.
Biden sounded the opening salvo of the Democrat Party’s 2020 midterm campaign by shoving nearly half the country into Hilary Clinton’s seemingly abandoned “basket of deplorables.” The Biden speech in Philadelphia -- a kick off, some said, of the upcoming 2020 elections – seemed to some of Biden opponents a repeat of a 1920 political Chautauqua minus the tents and snakes. Only someone like Henry Mencken could do justice to Biden’s awkward stem-winder. Alas, no one like Mencken is writing commentary in Connecticut’s overpriced newspapers.
“What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy,” said Biden. It’s not just Trump; it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something, it’s like semi-fascism."
All those red “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hats, we are to understand, are emblems of semi-fascist swastikas. Biden has not been asked to define the difference between semi-fascism and the old time fascist religion of Mussolini and Hitler.
Campaign wars have often covered a multitude of sins. Apparently, the “political sins” covered by these campaign catcalls – see, for one example of many, the above national debt to GDP ratio – is of little interest to Connecticut’s putative non-partisan media.
Kennedy, the king of Camelot, really did think tricky Dick Nixon was soft on communism, but he drew the line at accusing Nixon’s supporters of being fascists. Then too, Kennedy cut marginal taxes on American businesses, the engine that, then and now, produces the bulk of federal revenues by spurring business activity and ultimately enriching middle class working taxpayers.
Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.