The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a seminal event in the history of our country, but not for the reasons that most people believe today. As we celebrate his life on the 50th anniversary of his death, most Americans see the killing of Kennedy as marking the end of an era of innocence, the end of Camelot. That’s all good stuff for the media and revisionist historians but the actual world-changing result was not the end of Camelot, it was the ascension of Lyndon Johnson as Kennedy’s non-elected successor.
America’s political/economic course moves in almost straight lines that are periodically re-directed by major waypoints in her history. There were probably four substantial directional changes in the 20th century. First, World War I forced America, for the first time, to enter the world community as a super power. Unbeknownst to the citizens, it was also the launching pad for economic growth based upon the assumption of leadership in international trade by the United States. This change allowed America to eventually supplant Great Britain as the richest, most powerful nation state ever known. Even as America’s economy took advantage of trade based prosperity, reaction to the war brought political isolationism, the seeds of the world conflict to come.
With the impact of the Great Depression, the country accepted the Roosevelt philosophy of massive Federal expenditures and social programs. These programs, now discredited as the actual cure for that economic crisis, left a legacy that we suffer under today. All of these expenditures were paid for with resources derived from a philosophy rooted in the levelling of wealth through internal transfer plus the end of free market capitalism marked by ever expanding government intervention. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now.
The political/economic direction that Roosevelt embarked upon was abruptly interrupted by the Second World War; a global conflict that was truly a continuation of the political upheavals of the First World War as well as the end of European absolutism that was the underlying force behind that first conflict. These upheavals could have perhaps been eased had America understood its potential and exercised its strengths. Whatever might have been, the explosion of prosperity after the Second World War resulted from America’s return to economic freedoms; a return to prosperity that would never have happened if the war had not interrupted the policies put into place by Roosevelt.
When Kennedy, a product of the post-World War II boom, died, America, under President Johnson, embarked upon a sudden return to Roosevelt’s policies – but this time on steroids! Johnson was an old-school populist Democrat. His political philosophy was shaped by principles that came out of the Great Depression and the Democratic Party’s answer to it. He was an anachronism, a throw-back to a time that had been written off by Kennedy and his generation. Though a product of the same party as Johnson, Kennedy was a man of the future, not of the past. He understood that America’s power, economic and political, came not from big government and wealth transfer, but instead was based in the freedoms from government interference and taxation. He was lionized simply because of the bright future that he represented to the people.
The death of Kennedy brought, not by the will of the people but by a sudden shock, a dramatic return to pre-war policies. Sold as the way to fairly share the benefits of being an American, policies such as the War on Poverty were actually a repackaged European socialist agenda. Ironically, these programs were very similar to the props that once supported the dictators which were overthrown by the Second World War. Johnson’s coup was to disguise them by blending then with revisionist historical linkage to Roosevelt’s answer to the Great Depression. Amazing as it seems, the American people willingly accepted the very policies that the Kennedy administration cast aside. In one blinding moment, Lee Harvey Oswald ended America’s Camelot and the bright future it offered and thrust the country onto a course of socio-economic demise that was interrupted only briefly during the tenure of President Reagan. Now, fifty years after the end of the Kennedy administration, we are faced with an economy that has lost its wealth creation potential, a society that has become ever more government dependent, and a total loss of stature as the leader of the world.
President Obama’s policies are not new or original. These policies are the very same family of policies that President Johnson imposed on the nation fifty years ago. During the Johnson era, the country’s political direction suddenly changed and as it embarked on a course that led to Obama’s destructive dogma. Instead of the expanded growth that Kennedy would have perhaps continued to inspire, the country reverted to the abandoned policies of the past. The result is the malaise of 2013.
But how can this be? After all, fifty years is a long time. That answer lies in the structure of America’s constitutional form of government, as it is responsible for the manner in which our political/economic system functions. This structure, by its very nature, is conservative and provides for checks and balances that, in general, maintain the direction of the political/economic path of the country on those more or less straight lines; that is until major events or upheavals occur. Unfortunately, Kennedy’s death started the country down our current unsustainable path and, incredibly, President Obama’s path represents a mere continuation, in a different guise, of the very policies that were tried and abandoned after the Roosevelt years.
As we celebrate Kennedy, the historical significance to be remembered was not his death or the youthful lifestyle that he brought to the White House. No, his untimely death marks the point of embarkation onto our current political/economic path. The real significance of his loss is when do we reach the next seminal event that will change the course of America and lead us into its next glorious epoch? And perhaps unfortunately, as an adjunct to that question, can America’s greatness survive the continuation of the policies started after crash of 1929, were subsequently abandoned after 1945, and were then thrust back upon the American people after the events in Dealey Plaza?