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View Diary: What JFK Would Have Done with Today's Senate (155 comments)

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  •  You're right, I glossed over (4+ / 0-)

    and failed to give due credit to the legislative accomplishments of the 1966-68 period of LBJ's presidency.

    However, it is also the case that this period did not see anything on the scale of Medicare, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, or the War on Poverty.  In fact for most of 1966-68 the War on Poverty was stuck in a defensive crouch against conservatives in Congress emboldened by the growing backlash amongst the white working and middle class against the Great Society.

    In addition there were budgetary pressures from the enormous deficits (at least for the time) created by spending on Vietnam, which gave conservatives further justification to cut spending, and the result was that spending on many War on Poverty programs slowed or were cut, in some cases significantly as with the Teacher Corps, a prized program of LBJ's, which was cut by 2/3 in 1967.  The Office of Economic Opportunity, the central antipoverty agency, requested $3.5 billion for its operations in 1967, but in the end got just $1.77 billion (Dallek, Flawed Giant, 405).

    And lest anyone think Johnson's legislative skills were irresistible, the reason for these cuts was that Congress refused to act on his request for a temporary surcharge on income and corporate taxes.  Despite all of LBJ's efforts, both public a private, to get the surcharge passed, he "made little headway in convincing reluctant House members or the mass of Americans that he was right."  (Dallek, 396)  When Johnson eventually did get a tax surcharge, it came in exchange for a significant cut in discretionary spending.

    There were many significant things that got done from 1966-68 as pointed out.  There were also amendments to Social Security that greatly increased benefits.  The last half of 1968 was a flurry of legislative activity that saw  increases in food stamps and a program providing handicapped vocational eduction, among many other items.

    But by and large Johnson did not propose any really big, bold legislation along the lines of a Medicare or Civil Rights Act of 1964 because the political will was not there.  The years 1966-68 were spent mostly on protecting and building on previous gains, and playing defense against those seeking to exploit budgetary shortfalls caused by Vietnam to cut and dismantle the War on Poverty programs.  

    “Th’ noise ye hear is not th’ first gun iv a revolution. It’s on’y th’ people iv the United States batin’ a carpet.” - Mr. Dooley

    by puakev on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 10:22:49 AM PDT

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