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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why JFK was a very good President

Tomorrow as most people know is the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination in Dallas.

There's been much written and discussed on JFK both in the present and over time since the event took place so there isn't a whole lot of new information we can provide on this topic.

We do feel its a good opportunity to fairly evaluate the actual Presidency of Kennedy during the thousand or so days he was in office free of the illusions of 'Camelot' and all the syrup that accompanies it.

And we do not concern ourselves a wit about his intimate dalliances, Jackie's stylish wardrobe or anything else which captures people's imagination that had nothing to do with policy.
While we do not embrace the idolized fantasy that had Kennedy lived and undoubtedly won then finished a 2nd term he'd have been the greatest President ever and we'd never have gotten into Vietnam etc.. etc..

We do say overall he was a very good President deserving of a B+ grade minimum, and that's based on Kennedy the elected official and none of the romanticism or mystique aspects that are always connected in some way..

And to be clear, we here at A&G are not doe-eyed Dems..  We think LBJ had the chance to be great if not for Vietnam, Jimmy Carter's Presidency was terrible and Obama's current administration is perhaps among the Worst in this nation's history.

We do think Clinton was a good President overall however and as stated previously, we give high marks for JFK.
~ Famous pic of young Bill Clinton meeting the President

So we're going to explain some of the reasons why Kennedy was deserving of such a high grade:

1)  Kennedy greatly improved the US economy..

As the 1960 presidential election campaign got under way, the 1960-1961 recession began. with unemployment spiking to 5.5%

Once elected, Kennedy sent Congress an economic growth and recovery package consisting of many measures including:

1) Increase in the minimum wage from $1.00 to $1.25 per hour

2) Extension of the minimum wage to a larger pool of workers
3) Increase in unemployment compensation

4) Increased aid to children of unemployed workers

5) Increase social security benefits to a larger pool of people

6) Emergency relief for feed grain farmers

7) Area redevelopment

8) Vocational training for displaced workers

9) Federal funding for home building and slum eradication
By mid 1962 he was convinced the economy needed additional stimulation that could be provided through a tax cut. Kennedy suggested that business needed the tax relief that would be provided by liberalizing the depreciation allowance on new plants and equipment and by giving business a 7 percent investment tax credit.

Notice the tax cut was on businesses not personal income.. the top wage earners still paid a top bracket rate of 63%.  To give perspective, the billionaire class pays a rate today of 47% which lets them pocket $160,000 more per million earned today then under Kennedy

By early 1963 inflation was stable, corporate profits were at a record high, and the stock market had rebounded, and unemployment dropped to around 4.5%
As an aside, we at A&G have no problem seeing strong corporate profits and a vibrant stock market when based on real economic fundamentals and where everyday people are able to experience a true benefit to coincide...

Currently everything is artificial and manipulated, and has been for some time.

So Kennedy gets high marks for improving and stabilizing the economy...
2)  Kennedy showed strength and leadership in foreign matters.

Most people know about the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1962) so we don't need to go through the particulars, and if you're interested in learning more, we recommend a genuinely good film called 'Thirteen Days' starring Kevin Costner.

Specific to that event or rather standoff was the courage and resolve JFK showed in not tolerating nuclear missiles to be placed in Cuba, a mere 60 miles from US soil and while he wanted peace at all costs, he was not about to capitulate on this.

Compare Kennedy's handling of the crisis with Obama's handling of Syria.
So after a 13 day standoff, the Soviets backed down and agreed to remove the missiles and Kennedy showed the rest of the world the US would not be bullied or intimidated, and did so without firing a shot...

Compare that to that dual-incompetence of LBJ and Nixon in Vietnam.

Now the Bay of Pigs (1961) most people point to as Kennedy's big foreign policy blunder but the missile crisis made up for that misstep and beyond.
3)  The importance of the Space Program

Before Kennedy, no President contemplated nor concerned themselves with outer space exploration, and few Presidents since JFK really have given a fig about it.

Think of the advancements during the Kennedy years.. While JFK was alive the first American was shot up into space and orbited the earth (1962).  In a mere seven years, we landed on the moon.

Aside from participating in an international space station, what have we done in terms of space exploration since Challenger explosion in 1986?
Sending satellites and probes into space... that's about it..

Back in the 1960s people dreamed it was truly possible for man to one day step foot on Venus or Mars and beyond.. that possibilities in life both through the cosmos and on Earth were boundless.

Kennedy inspired people and put money where his mouth was with the funding of NASA.

Now instead of looking up at the sky, we once again look at our feet.. or our cellphones and are completely devoid of any spark as people and as a nation; we're a country just trudging along..  just meandering through..
Its easy to talk 'Hope'.. words are cheap.    It takes a great person to actually instill it in others; to let that seed germinate inside a person so their lives feel brighter and more sincerely optimistic for their short and long term future...

Others have failed miserably at this..  Kennedy succeeded.

We honestly don't know what a true eight-year JFK Presidency would have looked like..  History tends to suggest 2nd terms are worse that 1st terms and involve a scandal or controversy of some sort that distracts the President in office..
Nixon's Watergate, Reagan's Iran-Contra, Clinton's Impeachment trial, W Bush's Iraq war and now Obama and his 'Obamacare'...

So who knows honestly how popular Kennedy would have been had he completed two terms.

We do know he had overall a very good 1,000 days..

And for that and much more, he will be always missed and mourned.