Thursday, September 9, 2010
Tax-cutter Agitprop and JFK - Again!
JFK - Left, would have been appalled at the spectacle of reducing the taxes on the wealthy to barely 36.5%
Charles Krauthammer, resident WaPo neocon, used it in 2001 when the initial Bush tax cuts were being discussed, and now rathole Repuke thinktanks are using it again - faced with the prospect of the expiration of those same cuts. What is it? None other than cleverly edited videos and words of John F. Kennedy to try to convince Democratic voters in Dem districts (up for grabs in November) to pressure their congress critters to preserve the Bush tax cuts, ALL of them!
In March, 2001, selected snippets were televised and others broadcast on radio, from a JFK speech before the New York Economic Club in December, 1962. The snippets-ads ran continuously in three conservative states in which Dem Senators were up for re-election: Louisiana, South Dakota, and Georgia. All three voted heavily for Bush the previous year.
JFK's speech endorsed a general tax cut, and let's bear in mind at the time that the top rate was 91%. JFK proposed lowering it to 65% for the wealthiest, still nearly two times what the current top rate is for them (after the Bush tax cuts). Seldom mentioned in conjunction with JFK's tax cut proposals were the other aspects he had in mind, including:
-the elimination of all tax breaks set up in the form of foreign investment operations or companies
- the repeal of all tax advantages by corporations operating in low tax countries, such as Switzerland
- the repeal of the 100% charitable contribution write-off by the wealthy
- Withholding tax on the investments, dividends and capital of the wealthy to ensure revenues could not be lost by too many shelters or at the 'end point'.
- Tax on investment dividends so that all those earning in excess of $180 k would pay a much higher rate.
-Devices that would prevent 'high bracket taxpayers' from concealing income from 'personal holding companies'.
- An anti-speculation provision that would ensure property or investments were kept at least one year - else no benefit from existing capital gains rates would apply
-The elimination of special 'gift' transfers as well as repeal of the $50 dividend exclusion and the 4% dividend credit.
(Source: 'Battling Wall Street - The Kennedy Presidency', by Donald Gibson, Sheridan Square Press, 1994, pp. 22-23)
In addition - again omitted by the conservos - JFK targeted large oil and gas producers who had been manipulating a (1954) law to avoid taxes and gain an advantage over smaller producers. Granted that most of his provisions didn't survive the compromises forced by congressional committees (which held JFK's Medicare, and Civil rights legislation up for ransom, and btw, it isn't widely known that JFK first proposed these, though LBJ saw them to fruition after the 1963 assassination)
The dubious Republican pro tax cut (2001)ads blared repeatedly:
"If Jack Kennedy can support tax cuts so can..........(Name of Democratic candidate)"
But the difference between taking a top 91% rate down to 65% and keeping already ridiculously low rates of 36.5% is the difference between night and day and these cynical political admen damned well knew it. Alas, most of the populace didn't, which was why they indeed pressured their Dem reps to vote for them, and these 12 Judases were responsible for losing one of the largest surpluses amassed, and paving the way for the humongous deficits we see today). However, those who lived in the Kennedy years knew the comparison was bogus, since: a) Kennedy despised the Repukes (comparing them to elephants who had to hold on to each other's tails to find their way) and b) he was a champion of federal solutions to problems and redistribution of wealth that would make Obama look like a Hoover, or Bush Jr. or Reagan.
But don't take my word for it, just consult the financial press at the time, to see how they actually felt about JFK's proposed policies and initiatives. One of these, which appeared in Fortune accused him of an attempt to "manipulate the tax level against the business cycle". ('Activism in the White House', June, 1961, p. 117). Two years later, Fortune implored Congress to stop JFK from using tax policy "as instruments to manage the economy". ('The Dream Businessmen Are Losing', Sept. 1963, p. 91).
These aren't just fiction, but historical records of the press of the JFK era and what THEY actually thought of his tax proposals. They are available to anyone with the diligence to seek them out.
Along the same lines, the "central organ of finance capital" - The Wall Street Journal, launched various articles and diatribes accusing JFK of being a "statist" and other things. Some of those articles include:
- 8/6/62 'No Cause for Celebration'; p. 6;
- 3/26/63 'Too Much Money, Too Little Thought', p. 18;
- 8/15/63 'When Friends Become Foes', p. 8
Meanwhile, Henry Hazlitt, contributing editor at Newsweek (The Washington Post's sister publication) was airing many of the same complaints against JFK. These polemics, appearing regularly in Hazlitt's 'Business Tides', included taking JFK to task for his tax policies - including the proposed tax on U.S. business earnings abroad while he also chastised Kennedy for "welfare spending".
Never mind! The cynical manipulators out to brainwash citizens are betting that most are ignorant of recent American history and they will surely exploit that deficiency to play their little game.
Sadly, if people knew more, became the alert citizens Jefferson hoped for, the manipulators and their slick ads wouldn't stand a chance. I leave readers with those famous words, from Thomas Jefferson's Notes on Virginia:
"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. AND TO RENDER THEM SAFE, THEIR MINDS MUST BE IMPROVED"