Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Liberals Can Also Be Misinformed And Ignorant In Parsing Our History

On reading an article ('Can We Ever Recover from the Murder of John Kennedy?') by Harvey Wasserman, on the liberal blog two nights ago, I was impressed by the insight displayed and why we as a people still haven't come to terms with his killing. However, many of the comments were another thing - demonstrating every manner of ignorance and idiocy one could imagine. It confirmed my belief that liberals are as woefully ill-informed about our 35th President and his record as right wingers. And while not quite in the "Larry Schweikart" "mold they aren't far behind from what I read.

Some examples:

1) One bonehead who goes by the monicker 'RE James50' claimed Kennedy had issued "Reaganesque supply side tax cuts"when President  This ignorant bollocks came straight from the playbook of Charles Krauthammer, resident WaPo neocon, who used it in 2001 when the initial Bush tax cuts were being promoted. It ought not be necessary to say this, but any liberal who incorporates false arguments and claims from the likes of Krauthammer is as misinformed as he is. (Krauthammer attempted to convey a veneer of truth by citing  a JFK speech before the New York Economic Club in December, 1962.  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).

When a well-informed commentator tried to correct James he simply doubled down on this bullshit - even after the sane contributor presented evidence of Kennedy's proposals from Donald Gibson's excellent monograph: 'Battling Wall Street- The Kennedy Presidency'. To remind readers of what that evidence was,  JFK's tax cut proposals included:

- 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.

The character ('RE James') on smirkingchimp averred it didn't matter because Kennedy "didn't get his proposals passed". But this is unmediated rubbish that fails to grasp that what ended up on the table was a compromise that was the best Kennedy could do with a Repub congress,  Granted then 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)  but it represented the best he could do under the circumstances- and in no sense were the cuts "supply side" - first because supply side hadn't even been invented yet! (By Arthur Laffer). and second because supply side is always tilted much more to the richest.

A bit of background:

In 1974, Arthur Laffer,  then an economist at the University of Chicago,  traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Donald Rumsfeld, Gerald Ford's then chief of staff (though Rumsfeld subsequently fobbed him off on Dick Cheney).   Laffer had a new theory on why tax rates were inefficient and high, or one might say "inefficiently high. Laffer then proceeded to sketch his infamous diagram on a napkin on why the rich could be said to be "over taxed".

Laffer's crude napkin diagram is shown here for reference. As drawn, it was totally convincing! Especially for a guy like Cheney with minimal math skills. Note the line defining the highest marginal tax rate of 70% for Gerald Ford's presidency. What Laffer's curve sought to show is that by cutting that rate down, say to 50%, one could increase the revenues by nearly 35%! Of course, the 50% turned out to be wholly arbitrary and in fact after Reagan became President in 1980 the rates were cut down to 50 by 1981, then to 28% (by 1988). After all, if one could increase revenues by cutting taxes 20%, imagine what one could do by cutting them more than 40%!

Thus did Laffer's curve become the basis of Reagan's tax cuts and the whole tax cut meme ever since, despite the fact that in reality no community or even human body has mamanged to GROW by virtue of starving! But try to tell the bulk of Americans, who continue to buy into this codswallop at a mind-boggling rate! (Or that Kennedy actually prescribed them too!)

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 imposing tax cuts of the magnitude of Reagan's in an already debt exploding environment ($1.5 trillion already splurged on defense by mid -1985) is fiscal insanity. By comparison, idiots like James were totally unaware Kennedy still had a healthy surplus (as opposed to deficit environment) to work in, so could afford his tax cuts without doing untold damage.

Were Kennedy's tax policies really as maimed as RE James suggests? Go look at the record in the press at the time then decide!   For example,  Fortune accused him of an attempt to "manipulate the tax level against the business cycle". ('Activism in the White House', June, 1961, p. 117).  Why the hell would such an organ of finance capital bellyache like this if Kennedy's tax law was a hollow fake?

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).  Again, why the whining if Kennedy's tax cuts were so wussy and "supply sided"? All James had to do was look at the media record, but like too many liberals he was more invested in buying into Kennedy's weakness than his strengths and accomplishments. (Something I partially blame on Kennedy "historians" like Robert Dallek who have no remote clue what the man actually did, and also critics like Noam Chomsky and Seymour Hersh - with his several books, articles on JFK's dalliances)

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. As long as useful idiots and tools such as RE James exist, they will keep on doing it.

Sadly, in scanning the comments, James' foolishness didn't stop there, he actually also took the sane and rational commentator to task for "quoting Curtis LeMay" as evidence that Kennedy  saved the world by refusing to bomb and invade Cuba. In fact, the commentator had referenced the actual transcripts of the tapes at the time in the book, The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis’, by Ernest R. May and Philip K. Zelikow (1997, President and Fellows of Harvard College).

The transcripts included the specific reference (p. 347) that "Strategic Air Command moved from the general Defense Condition 3 to Defense Condition 2, the level just below general war. In addition to ICBMs and submarine-based ballistic missiles, every available bomber – more than 1,400 aircraft- went on alert. Scores of bombers, each loaded with several nuclear weapons and carrying folders for pre-assigned targets in the Soviet Union."

But the moron insisted "Khrushchev deserved as much or more credit as Kennedy". He did, in the aftermath, in finally resolving the crisis - hence proposing  the removal of U.S. Jupiter missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets removing theirs from Cuba. But, Khrushchev was not in the Crisis room with JFK facing down the rabid Joint Chief hawks like Lyman Lemnitizer and Curtis LeMay. Thus, it was on Kennedy - man on the freaking spot- who denied them the bombing campaign they wanted followed by invasion. If Kennedy doesn't stand his ground in the Crisis Room, nothing Khrushchev does later matters.

Indeed, as Robert McNamara makes clear in his 'Fog of War' documentary ('Lessons 1, 2) , had Kennedy succumbed to the Joint Chiefs'  demands nearly 160 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (and 93 tactical nukes)  would have been unleashed on the eastern U.S. This McNamara learned when he met with Castro in 1992 for the 30th anniversary of the event. McNamara asked Castro if he;d really have seen his country destroyed in the potential altercation and he responded firmly, "Yes, and you'd have dome the same if faced with massive bombing and invasion of your country -with likely takeover".

McNamara could hardly believe what he heard, but he likely forgot - 30 years after the fact - that the motto circulating in the US of A was "Better dead than Red"

Another doofus weighing in on the comments thread claimed that Kennedy had only managed to get "one minor piece of legislation passed in all his time in office". Which is yet more ignorant drivel and I have noted JFK's major accomplishments in other posts, including:

1) JFK established and promoted the "Alliance for Progress' to enable low-interest loans for Latin  American nations, thereby outraging the 'Street" and the other capitalist bastions of thought which believed this to be a "giveaway"    Because of the program, economic assistance to Latin America nearly tripled between fiscal year 1960 and fiscal year 1961. Between 1962 and 1967 the US supplied $1.4 billion per year to Latin America. If new investment is included, the amount of aid rose to $3.3 billion per year during this time span while the total amount of aid was roughly $22.3 billion. Sadly, once LBJ got in, the amount of aid did not equal the net transfer of resources. 

2) Perhaps the one move that may have signed JFK's death warrant was when he attempted - via Executive Order 11,110 issued on June 4, 1963 - to challenge Fed control of the money supply. (Which under the Constitution authorizes only Congress to create paper money not a private entity) This EO authorized the creation of some $4.2 billion in U.S. Notes - to replace Federal Reserve Notes. These U.S. Notes were issued by Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon, and bore his signature.

After the assassination nearly all the notes were recalled. I was fortunate in being able to obtain two from my brother who still had them- a $2 note with Jefferson on the front, and a $5 with Lincoln. Both display the serial numbers in red ink. Not green, like Fed notes. See e.g.

In effect, JFK's issuance of U.S. Notes was a shot across the Federal Reserve's bow, as well as the banking class. By releasing all those debt-free notes out of the Treasury he not only undermined the Fed's financial hegemony but challenged their national authority and decision -making powers on money matters. Many observers believe that this alone might well have been enough to put JFK in assorted cross-hairs.

On the level of executive orders, it was perhaps the most daring ever issued, and we remind ourselves again (as RE JAMES  and Robert Dallek ought to) that Presidents can wield power in other ways apart from legislation.

3)Issuance of  National Security Action Memorandum 263, to pull out of Viet Nam by 1965. Many still quibble about whether this was actually done or mere smoke and mirrors  - but any energized citizen can find out for himself if he gets off his butt and digs into the document track!  He would find the main body of the memo actually appears in The Pentagon Papers, while the preface letter (to McGeorge Bundy) is what lazy researchers usually cite.  Bottom line is that NSAM 263 shatters another absurd trope put out by this same "liberal" poster that JFK actually was responsible for all those deaths in Vietnam by first sending personnel - oblivious to the fact it was LBJ's "Tonkin Gulf Resolution" in August, 1964 that ushered in the expansion of the war and tens of thousands of deaths.

4) Though JFK was reluctant for sure, since he could foresee the effects would lead to the now dominant GOP "southern strategy" - he nevertheless federalized the Alabama national guard in the fall of 1963, to protect black students trying to attend academic institutions.

In August, 1963 he outraged the extreme right fringe by signing the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with Khrushchev. (They were particularly enraged at the ban on anti-missile systems)   Another useless dolt on smirkingchimp  ('J Madison') asserted that the "generals were always in favor of doing that anyway" - trying to diminish the achievement again, but he's as clueless as his bosom buddy RE James. In fact none of the military or Pentagon wanted any part of it! As McNamara shows in his documentary (Lesson 2) they were well on the way to developing a 100 megaton H-bomb - one of which had already been tested. So why the fuck would they be in favor of a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to outlaw such tests? Don't these people read? Don't they think? Are they this clueless about recent history? 

In addition, the Pentagon and Generals wanted no part of any Treaty that prohibited the development and use of anti-missile  systems, which they believed left the U.S. open to attack with no credible defense strategy.

6) Launching the Peace Corps, in which more than a quarter million volunteers have already served around the world - helping millions of impoverished people while letting them see the best face of America - as opposed to the usual 'war, invasion and bombing face'.These PC volunteers have 
worked in such diverse fields as education, health, agricultural development, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, protecting the environment and developing water resources,.

  I myself served 4 years and an damned proud to have been a part of Kennedy's program, teaching science to rural kids in Barbados - many of those kids having since gone on to productive careers, i.e. as airplane mechanics, electricians, pharmacists, librarians, college lecturers and police- security officers. Making a solid contribution to their nation as opposed to joining a "brain drain" leaving it.

7) Rapprochement with Fidel Castro, starting in late 1962. This has been well documented by National Archives contributor Peter Kornbluh, and paved the way to normalization of relations, including trade. (cf. 'Kennedy and Castro: What Might Have Been', by Peter Kornbluh, in The Baltimore Sun, Aug. 22, 1999, p. 1C)

National Security Archivist Kornbluh shows (by reference to documents he has accessed), it was William Attwood,, a Washington lawyer (who had negotiated the original release of the Bay of Pigs prisoners), who was instrumental. Attwood was charged with becoming the first American emissary to secure Castro’s ear and trust in a year-long rapprochement. In particular, to show good will and good faith, Attwood arranged for $62 million in medicines and food aid as part of the prisoner deal. All this was approved by JFK and likely sealed his death warrant in the Agency.

8) Space- The Apollo Moon Program:   
After the ignominy of the Russian satellite Sputnik, launched on Oct. 4, 1957, the U.S. received a wake up call in respect to its science and technology deficiencies. JFK knew that in order to technologically compete, a single program and focus was needed to capture the nation's imagination and to propel it toward a future where it wouldn't be left behind. Thus the manned space program was launched, and Kennedy declared in 1961 that "before this decade is out we will land a man on the Moon". With this single -minded focus the national resources were summoned through NASA, and he was as good as his word, with the Apollo astronauts setting down on July 20, 1969. Look at most of us who became interested in math or space science, especially physics - at the time - and they will tell you it was Kennedy's challenge of going to the Moon, and manned space exploration in general.

Sadly, if people (including professed liberals)  knew more, became the alert citizens Jefferson hoped for, the manipulators and their slick propaganda and disinfo wouldn't stand a chance in diminishing accomplishments such as those of John F. Kennedy. 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"

No comments: