JFK, Tax Cuts, Vietnam, LBJ, Great Society, Hippies, Race Riots, Keynesian Spending, Nixon, Carter and Ronald Reagan

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 21st, 2012

History 101

Ronald Reagan would follow the Kennedy Example of Cutting Taxes to Grow the Economy

In 1961 West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard gave John F. Kennedy (JFK) some good advice.  During JFK’s visit he told him not to make the same mistake the British had.  He told Kennedy NOT to follow their policy of high taxation.  Because it killed economic activity.  And economic growth.  England was suffering from her bad tax policy.  He urged the American president not to make the same mistake.

JFK heeded Erhard’s advice.  And cut tax rates.  This did not please liberals in his Democrat Party.  Who were all Keynesians.  And believed in large government interventions into the private sector.  Funded by large government expenditures.  Which in the Keynesian world you got in one of three ways.  Tax, borrow or print money.  You did not cut tax rates.  Which was blasphemous in Keynesian doctrine.  You never, ever, cut tax rates.  But Kennedy did.  Arguing that “an economy hampered by restrictive tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance the budget—just as it will never produce enough jobs or enough profits.”

A message Ronald Reagan would give time and again some 20 years later.  And would follow the Kennedy example of cutting taxes to grow the economy.  Generating more tax revenue without having to cut spending.  The result of JFK’s ‘trickle-down’ economics were impressive.  He cut the top marginal tax rate from 91% to 70%.  And cut the 20% rate to 14% at the other end of the scale.  What did people do with these tax savings?  They saved.  And invested.  Savings rose from an annual growth rate of 2% to 9%.  Business investment from 2% to 8%.  New jobs grew at a rate of 100%.  And unemployment fell by one third.  With GDP rising some 40% in two years.  And despite cutting tax rates tax revenue rose.  The booming economy generating more tax revenue even at the lower rates.  Even more than the Keynesians said Kennedy was going to cost the government with his tax cuts.

The Social Upheavals of the Sixties, the Race Riots and his Unpopular Vietnam War all took their Toll on LBJ

Liberals love JFK.  But for none of these reasons.  They prefer to wax poetically about his fight to end economic and racial injustice.  Which were in reality low on his priority list.  Addressing civil rights only after trouble was escalating in the south.  But that’s the Left’s cherished memory of him.  And of Camelot.  The American royal family.  They don’t talk about JFK’s trickle-down economics.  His Bay of Pigs fiasco (the plan to oust Fidel Castro from Cuba that he withdrew support from after it met difficulty on the beaches).  His Cuban missile crisis (near nuclear war with the Soviet Union) which his indecision at the Bay of Pigs may have invited.   Or his war in Vietnam.  No.  They stay silent on the best part of his presidency.  As well as the worst parts.  And focus instead on the fairy tale that was Camelot.  Ignoring completely his excellent economic policies and the strong economy they gave us.  And all that tax revenue that poured into the treasury.  Yes, they may have liked having that money.  But they didn’t have to like how it got there.

Following JFK’s assassination Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) ascended to the presidency.  An old school politician that knew how to make deals to advance legislation.  And boy did he.  He declared unconditional war on poverty.  And unleashed the Great Society to spend America out of poverty.  Keynesian to the core.  Pure demand-side economics.  Give poor people money which they will use to buy consumer goods.  That Keynesian consumption that was so crucial to a healthy economy.  So Johnson made good use of all that tax revenue JFK created with his tax cuts.  And LBJ’s Great Society consumed enormous amounts of that tax revenue.  As did JFK’s Vietnam War.  Now LBJ’s war.  Which LBJ escalated.  Government expenditures exploded during the Johnson administration.  And the spending obligations he put into place were only going to escalate future expenditures.  Oh, and we were also trying to land a man on the moon during this time.  All during a time when the world was changing.  When a bunch of filthy hippies began to protest anything that didn’t somehow gratify them (their rallying cry was sex, drugs and rock & roll).  And racial tensions simmered to the boiling point in our crowded cities.

The social upheavals of the Sixties.  The race riots.  The unpopular war on our living room televisions.  They all took their toll on LBJ.  The race riots especially hurt him as he had spent so much money on ending economic and racial injustice.  On a televised address he told the nation that he was through being the president.  He wasn’t going to run for another term.  And he wouldn’t accept a nomination for a second term.  He basically thanked an ungrateful nation.  And planned for his retirement.  Leaving a fiscal mess for the next president.  As well as a mess in Vietnam.  And the job for cleaning up these messes fell to Richard Milhous Nixon.

When Nixon entered the Presidency all those Spending Obligations of the Great Society were Coming Due

Nixon had a lot of liberal tendencies.  He was actually a member of the NAACP since 1950.  Long before JFK or LBJ talked of civil rights.  He believed in New Deal economics.  Of the good government could do.  He was also an environmentalist.  Giving us the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  And giving us emissions standards for our cars.  He gave us the Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA).  And a flurry of other regulations.  Not what you would expect from a Republican these days.  Of course, few probably know this.  But they probably do know about Watergate.  At least the word ‘Watergate’.  Which was pretty tame by today’s standards.  Spying on the political opposition.  Then lying about it.

When Nixon entered the presidency all those spending obligations of the Great Society were coming due.  The cost of LBJ’s Great Society really hit the Nixon administration hard.  Enormous amounts of money were flowing out to poor people (so they could spend it and buy consumer goods).  To the war in Vietnam.  To the Cold War.  To the space program.  To the enlarged federal government.  Government spending was going off the chart.  But it wasn’t having the affect on the economy the Keynesians said it would.  They were taxing, borrowing and printing money like good little Keynesians.  But they were devaluing the dollar in the process.  And igniting inflation.  Worse, the U.S. dollar was the reserve currency of the world.  Foreign nations pegged their currency to the U.S. dollar.  The U.S. pegged the dollar to gold.  As the Americans devalued the dollar, though, the foreign countries traded their dollars for gold.  Gold began to fly out of the country.  So Nixon did what any responsible Keynesian would do.  Instead of playing by the rules of the game he changed the rules.  And decoupled the dollar from gold.  The Nixon Shock.  Ushering in the era of unfettered Keynesian economics.  Deficit spending.  Growing debt.  High inflation.  High unemployment.  Stagflation.  And malaise.

Jimmy Carter would see the worse of LBJ’s Great Society.  As it left his economy in a mess.  Despite all of that government spending.  And Carter suffered because he, too, was a Keynesian.  He believed in that GDP formula where GDP equaled the sum of consumption, investment, government expenditures and net exports (exports – Imports).  And the formula clearly states that the way to increase GDP (and increase the number of jobs) was to increase government spending to give money to people so they could buy consumer goods (increasing government spending and consumption in the formula).  It was simple arithmetic.  But the formula left out about half of all economic activity.  The intermediate business spending that takes place before any consumer goods enter our stores.  Think of things consumers don’t buy.  Like railroad track, blast furnaces, construction front-end loaders, etc.  Economic activity that JFK encouraged with his tax cuts.  As Ronald Reagan did so, too, some 20 years later.  Which is why the JFK and the Reagan economies were far better than any Keynesian administration.

Even after more than a decade of unfettered Keynesian spending consumption was only 34% of all economic activity in 1982.  Even though official GDP figures reported it at 65%.  Why the discrepancy?  Intermediate business spending.  The stages of production before consumer goods.  Coming in at 54% of real economic activity in 1982.  Which is why the tax-cut policies of JFK and Ronald Reagan worked.  And the spending policies of JBJ, Nixon and Carter didn’t.  Trickle-down works.  Because it creates jobs.  And those lower tax rates generate higher tax revenues because more people are working and paying taxes.  All things a Keynesian wants.  But they will reject them because they resulted from the ‘wrong’ policies.  Because Keynesians want to tax, borrow and print.  Regardless of their effect on the economy.

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Wisconsin Takes a Step Forward, the UK Takes a Step Back

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 9th, 2011

 A Foul Stench Wafts across the Rheine

Empires come and go.  But one truly transformed the world.  And still is today.  The British Empire.  Their representative government, property rights and economic policies unleashed unimaginable growth and prosperity.  They gave us the Industrial Revolution.  And we’ve never looked back.  Great nations started as British seedlings.  Canada.  Australia.  India.  New Zealand.  To name a few.  And, of course, the United States.

Sadly, the UK strayed in the 20th century.  As many nations did.  Including the US.  Thanks to a foul stench that wafted across the Rheine.  Karl MarxFriedrich Engels.  They wrote a book.  The Communist Manifesto.  And their goal was to replace capitalism with socialism.  And then replace socialism with communism.  The ultimate welfare state.

The British government exploded in the 20th century.  They nationalized industries.  Raised taxes.  And empowered unions to the point that the nation was at their mercy.  If they didn’t get the pay raise they wanted you didn’t have any electricity.  Their strikes were notorious.  People called them the British Disease in the Seventies.  But help was on its way.

Thatcher and Reagan cut Taxes to Economic Prosperity

Margaret Thatcher was prime minister during the Eighties.  And she started turning the UK around.  Like her counterpart did in the US.  Ronald Reagan.  Both cut taxes.  And nearly doubled their tax receipts (see High income tax will cost the country dear by Telegraph View posted 3/9/2011 on the UK’s Telegraph).

Between 1979 and 2009, UK corporation tax rates fell by half, even as the revenue from the tax rose by half – hard evidence that lower taxes encourage economic activity and boost Treasury receipts.

People deride ‘trickle-down’ Reaganomics in the US but it worked.  And it worked in the UK, too.  Because jobs are everything.  If you don’t have jobs your economy goes into the toilet.  If you have jobs your economy soars.  It just doesn’t get simpler than that.  And how do you create jobs?  You give people a reason to be brilliant.  Give entrepreneurs an incentive to create something.  Let businesses be profitable and they will take every opportunity to grow their businesses.  To be even more profitable.  All the while creating jobs.  Every step of the way.  The more they grow the more jobs they create.  And the better life gets for everyone.

Of course, remove that incentive and it’s the opposite.  If you raise taxes you reduce profits.  And that removes incentive.  Well, they are raising taxes again in the UK.  And what will the genius entrepreneurs do?  Well, what would you do?

Behavioural changes prompted by the higher rate – with entrepreneurs departing for more benign tax regimes or devising ways of avoiding the new tax – are set to flatten economic growth and lead to a collapse in tax revenues. The think tank estimates that the cost to the Treasury over a decade could be as much as £350 billion… Why should wealth-creators stay here when almost two thirds of their income is taken from them? The answer is that they won’t.

History has shown that higher tax rates rarely bring in the money the government expects.  While lower tax rates bring in more money than any of the naysayers ever dreamed.  So why, then, do they keep raising taxes?  Politics.

The Deed is Done in Wisconsin

Big Government needs supporters.  With the wane of private sector unionization, it’s getting harder and harder to get people to support Big Government.  Because people who work and enjoy life have no need for government help.  So they need to find people who do.  Or create them.

Enter the public sector unions.  These people beg for high taxes.  Because they are paid with tax dollars.  So the more people in the public sector, the more people there are to support big government spending.  It’s a little of the old you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.  And to sweeten the deal, public sector workers not only get pretty decent pay, they get outrageous benefits.  All paid for courtesy of the taxpayer.

And this is what is at issue in Wisconsin.  The union was ready to cave on everything but the collective bargaining.  Because that’s how they pass the full cost of their benefits onto the taxpayer.  Without the taxpayer having any say in the matter.  Until now, that is (see G.O.P. Tactic Ends Stalemate in Wisconsin Union Fight by Monica Davey posted 3/9/2011 on The New York Times).

The bill makes significant changes to most public sector unions, limiting collective bargaining to matters of wages only and limiting raises to the Consumer Price Index unless the public approves higher raises in a referendum. It requires most unions to hold votes annually to determine whether most workers still wish to be members. And it ends the state’s collection of union dues from paychecks.

So now if they want a raise larger than the Consumer Price Index (as a lot of raises are determined in the private sector for COLA raises), they have to ask the taxpayer to approve the raise.  And you can see why they are against this.  They want to keep getting big raises without the people paying them having any say in the manner.

And the whole choice thing about staying in the union?  And making people write checks for their union dues?  Why, if people do that, some are not going to stay in the union.  Not all union members vote Democrat.  But nearly all union dues go to Democrat candidates.  So, of course, the unions don’t want any of these changes to come to pass.  Or government.  Because the little arrangement they had was a nice way to dump bushels of taxpayers’ money into Democrat pockets.  Often against their will.  Or without their knowledge.

Public Sector Union – A Vehicle to Steal Money from the Private Sector

Everyone knows what we need for economic prosperity.  Thatcher and Reagan showed how to do it in the Eighties.  And they turned around nations that were in a pretty sorry state.  Tax cuts spurred that economic activity.  And filled government coffers.  However, Thatcher cured the British Disease.  And Reagan fired the air traffic controllers.  They stood up to the unions.  And that choked off a lot of money funneled (i.e., laundered) to the opposition parties.

And this is what the Left fears in Wisconsin.  That responsible government beholden to the taxpayer may waft out from Wisconsin and infect other states.  Thus turning off the great spigot of coerced political contributions.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #55: “Liberals are all for trickle-down economics as long as the wealth trickles down from those who support liberals.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 1st, 2011

 Under Carter it was ‘in Government we Trust’

Mention Ronald Reagan in a room full of liberals and no doubt you’ll hear some derisive comment about trickle-down economics.  You see, liberals don’t like Reagan.  They liked Jimmy Carter.  But hated Ronald Reagan.  Because Reagan dared to say the king was wearing no clothes.  Metaphorically, of course.  But not Carter.  He clung onto the illusion of Big Government as the people’s savior.  Though a practicing Baptist, for Carter it was ‘in government we trust’.

Carter was a one term president.  Liberals may have liked him but the rest of the country didn’t.  Granted, he came into office with some pretty bad economic problems.  He can thank LBJ‘s Great Society for that.  The greatest explosion of government spending since FDR‘s New Deal.  And then Nixon decoupling the dollar from gold didn’t help.  The left doesn’t much care for Nixon, either.  Which is funny.  Because he governed as a liberal.  He spent money and grew government.  And when he decoupled the dollar from gold he called himself a Keynesian (i.e., a Big Government guy when it came to economics).  Carter’s misfortune was to follow all of this financial devastation.  Well, that, and the fact he didn’t have a clue about how to fix things.

Reagan did.  “Government isn’t the solution to our problems, government is the problem,” Reagan said in 1981.  And the warning Klaxons went off throughout liberal-land.   There was imminent danger.  And his name was Ronald Reagan.  You see, Carter did all the right things.  For those on the left.  And what did he get?  High inflation.  High interest rates.  And high unemployment.  They measured the economy with the misery index as we wallowed through the stagflation of the Carter years.  During the 1980 presidential campaign, Reagan asked the simple question heard round the world.  Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?  Reagan went on to win the election.  So the answer was ‘no’.

Reagan Fixed the Economy and Fired Air Traffic Controllers

Reagan cut tax rates.  And the economy eventually exploded.  We said goodbye to stagflation.  And the misery index.  They were relics of the Carter years.  It was a new morning in America.  People had jobs.  They were happy.  Optimistic.  And this infuriated liberals.  Because Reagan’s conservatism flew into the face of everything they held dear.  And then came PATCO

The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization.  A federal government union.  They went on strike in 1981.  Which was against the law.  Government unions could not go on strike.  The strike shut down much of air traffic in the U.S.  This was big.  No business travel.  No sports travel.  No vacations.  No mail.  A small group of some 11,000 controllers shut down air travel.  And greatly disrupted the economy.  Reagan ordered them back to work per the law.  They refused.  He fired them.  And the left howled.

So you can see why liberals hate Reagan.  He was a destroyer and debunker of liberalism.  And the people loved him.  He won reelection with 49 states.  The man was more popular than sliced bread.  Worse, people were happy.  Whistling a happy tune while they went on their merry way.  Which is all well and good if you’re one of the ones whistling.  But when you’re part of that tiny 20% of the population that wants to run the other 80%, there was nothing to whistle about.  Reagan had become liberal enemy number one.

Reaganomics Replaces Failed Keynesian Economic Policies

So they attacked.  Then.  And now.  And they zero in on those tax rate cuts.  Sure, they say, the tax cuts stimulated the economy, but at what cost?  Huge deficits and a skyrocketing debt.  This, of course, is not true.  The cuts in the tax rates nearly doubled tax receipts.  The Democrat House (Tip O’Neil and his fellow Democrats had the power of the purse) just went on a spending spree with all that cash pouring into Washington.  Remember, all spending bills originate in the House of Representatives.  Defense.  Entitlements.  And all discretionary spending.  And when tax receipts nearly doubled with cuts in the tax rates, it proved that Reagan was right.  And liberals were wrong.

But they keep repeating the lie.  Hoping that if people hear it enough people will believe it.  Then they move on to trickle-down economics.  Supply-side economics.  Reaganomics.  They love to disparage this term.  Despite the fact that under Reaganomics, the 1980s was one of the most prosperous periods in American history.  So what is supply-side economics?  Well, think of it this way.  When do you live better?  When you have a job?  Or don’t have a job?  It’s pretty hard to pay your bills if you don’t have a job.  You can’t buy gasoline.  Food.  Clothes.  Electronic toys.  Etc.  So I think most will agree that life is better when we have a job.  And where do jobs come from?  From businesses.  That are pursuing a profit.  If they can make a profit they expand their businesses.  And hire more people.  Thus creating more jobs.  And this is supply-side economics in a nutshell.  They’re economic policies that are business-friendly to encourage their growth.  So they will hire more people.

Makes sense.  To the sensible.  But not to a liberal.  Because liberals are Keynesians.  They want to redistribute the wealth.  Take money from the rich.  And give it to the poor.  They believe that is how you create economic activity.  By giving other people’s money to other people so they can spend it.  And we tried it.  Under LBJ, Nixon, Ford and Carter.  Didn’t work.  Liberals will blame everything under the sun why it didn’t work.  But never the ideology itself.  Which is flawed.  Because higher taxes reduce profits.  Which hinders business expansion.  Which hinders job creation.  Which hinders economic activity.  And this is exactly what happened under LBJ, Nixon, Ford and Carter.  Which is why Carter was a one term president.

Trickle-Down is Okay as long as it Fills Union Coffers

The funny thing is that the left often supports trickle-down economics.  Whenever they are supporting the UAW.  They support high pay and benefits for unskilled labor on the assembly line.  Because it stimulates the economy. Yes, we pay these people a lot.  But they go out and spend that money.  And that pumps a lot of money into the local economy.  We’ve all heard these arguments.  Whenever liberals are defending high union wages and benefits.  Of course, liberals got so greedy that they killed the golden goose.  Assembly plants left the country.  Robots replaced workers on the line.  The few jobs remaining have nice wage and benefit packages.  But at what cost?  Hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost in the deal.  A terrible cost as jobs drive the economy.  The more the better.  While fewer higher-paid jobs just don’t help anyone but the few who have those jobs.

It’s the same thing with public sector workers.  No one has a better salary and benefit package.  For many it’s like getting two paychecks for one job.  For every dollar in pay they get something like $0.75 in benefits.  Mostly health care and pensions.  Teachers are often some of the greatest beneficiaries when you factor in all the time off they get.  There’s a reason why these public sector workers strike and never quit these ‘horrible’ jobs.  Because they can’t find a better job.  So when states and cities have trouble balancing their budgets because of out of control health care and pension costs they raise taxes.  Make the rest of us live on less.  To save these jobs.  For these good people.  Sure, we pay them a lot.  But they go out and spend that money.  And that pumps a lot of money into the local economy.

So that kind of trickle-down economics is okay.  But Reaganomics was nothing but tax breaks for the rich paid for by the working poor.  While fat union pay and benefits stimulated local economies.  A double standard?  Yes.  But there is a difference.  Trickle-down from job creators doesn’t generate a lot of union dues.  Trickle-down from union workers and the public sector do.  That’s why the liberals support unions.  Because liberals get a lot of that dues money.  And loyal foot soldiers to advance their agenda.

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