Monday, August 7, 2017

Lyndon Baines Johnson: The Great Liberal Society

Lyndon Baines Johnson
Liberal Lyndon Baines Johnson was chosen by John F. Kennedy to be his running mate. This was an assignment made to balance out a ticket that featured a young and inexperienced Senator from Massachusetts. When Kennedy was assassinated by a radical socialist on November 22, 1963, Johnson would be sworn in as the 36th President of the U.S. He would go on to become one of the most liberal, and worst, Presidents of all time.

Here are some of his accomplishments (good and bad).

Inauguration. He was inaugurated President in Dallas on Air Force One less than 3 hours after Kennedy was pronounced dead. He was then rushed back to Washington D.C. amid fears someone might be trying to assassinate him too. He made a name change request to Congress for the NASA/Air Force Cape Canaveral launch facilities be changed in honor of Kennedy.  It was called Cape Kennedy for about 10 years before being changed to the Kennedy Space Center in 1973.

Warren Commission. Immediately after the assassination rumors of conspiracies started to swirl. To head these off he created a commission headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. The commission extensively investigated the issue and concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President Kennedy. Of course this did little to allay conspiracy theories. My theory is that Kennedy was assassinated by Oswald with the specific intent of replacing a conservative Democrat with a liberal Democrat. So, chances are that Johnson would not be a target of a socialist assassin. We will reserve judgement on this.

Tax Cuts. One of his few real accomplishments was pushing through Congress the Kennedy tax cuts. He then signed the Revenue Act of 1964. This would spur the economy and would nearly double income to the U.S. treasury over the next ten years. This was good.

Civil Rights. Many historians teach that Kennedy had started to work with Congress to get a new civil rights bill passed. Johnson took up the cause. They say Johnson was able to get the bill through Congress, and he eventually signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It outlawed segregation.  It makes it illegal not to hire someone because of race, sex, color, religion, or national origin. While it's true Johnson did sign the bill, it was actually the creation of the republican party, who had started working on the bill in 1957 and 1960. In total, 34 republicans voted against it, but a whopping 96 democrats voted against it. Also, democrats went as far as to filibuster the bill. It's also neat to note that the bill mirrored a republican bill in 1875 that failed to pass due to democrat opposition. So, while most schools teach this was a democrat created, the truth is that it was a republican bill that had some democrat support, inducing both Kennedy and Johnson. This was a good bill. He also signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and this bill guaranteed African Americans the right to vote. These laws are good.

Election of 1964. Johnson ran for election for the first time and defeated the great conservative, Barry Goldwater, with relative ease in a landslide. While Goldwater lost, it would set the stage for future great conservative President Ronald Reagan. This was a time when the nation wasn't quite ready for a conservative, as liberalism was still at a high. He won with 61% of the vote

The Highway Beautification Act of 1965
made it so road signs and garbage
would not become so obtrusive
that it would block the view
of natures beauty.
The Daisy. During the 1964 Presidential campaign, Johnson ran the most mudslinging ad in political history. It was a commercial with a little girl plucking daisies, and she is struck by a nuclear bomb. This was to imply Barry Goldwater would be too willing to push the button. The ad only ran once. But some say it made Goldwater look so bad that he lost in a landslide. You can see the Daisy Ad here on YouTube.  This was bad.

Great Society. Congress got busy right away passing the various pieces of the Great Society Agenda.
  • Public Education. Lots of money spent on public education under the guise that the way to make education better is to spend more money. Prior to this notion, prior to 1964, hardly any Federal funds were given to public education, and we had the #1 education system in the world. Since that time, since all this money has been thrown into education, our education system has failed. Yet you still have people saying we need to throw more money at it. The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act nearly doubled funds to education from $4-8 billion. This was the first time large amounts of Federal dollars went to public education, and education in the U.S. has spiraled downward ever since. (not as good as some think)
  • Public Broadcasting. In 1967 he also signed the Public Broadcasting Act, which increased federal dollars for public broadcasting, leading to stations such as Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR). The problem with this is these news stations were run by liberals. So, basically, it meant that all Americans were paying for the public advancement of the liberal agenda on TV and radio. (not good)
  • Medicare. The 1965 Medicare to Social Security Act created medicare, which assured people over the age of 65 had access to "free" healthcare. (good)
  • Urban renewal.  As many businesses left the areas of inner cities to get away from the rioting, poverty got even worse. For the next 50 years democrats controlled many cities (like Detroit). Detroit went from one of the most successful cities during the 1950's to one big slum laden city in 2017. This is often cited as proof that liberalism fails anywhere it is tried.  Still, in an effort to help the poor in these cities, Johnson signed the Housing and Urban Development Act in 1968, along with the New Communities Act the same year. These were attempts to offer public assistance to create affordable housing. These were essentially considered failures. (bad)
  • Beautification. He signed the Highway Beautification act in 1965. This was a good bill that limited billboards and other junk from interfering with the views of landscapes along public roads. It also limited the number of junkyards and other junk and clutter that might impede with the natural beauty of the United States along roads and highways. I personally think this was Johnson's most significant achievement. This was a very significant good. The person who spearheaded this movement was Johnson's wife, Ladybird. (good)
  • Conservation. He signed over 300 environmental regulations into law. Many were clean air and water acts, such as the clean air act of 1963. He signed many to protect nature and land, such as the Wilderness act of 1964. He signed urban environment acts, such as the Beautification Act of 1965 mentioned above. He signed many laws to help natural parks, such as the Wilderness Act of 1964. 
  • War on poverty. This was created to end poverty as we know it. It created unemployment. Between 1964 and 2014, $20.7 trillion would be spent on unemployment benefits, on the war on poverty, on the Johnson belief that this would create economic growth and end poverty. That's $20 trillion transferred from producers to non-producers. However, the poverty rate was unaffected by the war on poverty. In fact, if anything, we can effectively say that war on poverty has made poverty in the country even worse. That's $20 trillion that has been taken away from people to end poverty and it failed. That $20 trillion trillion is more than our national debt was in 2014. Take away this one program and we'd have no debt. But, because it makes people like Johnson feel good to spend other people's money, such programs, such government waste, will not end even though they continue to fail. The only thing about the war on poverty that succeeded was growing the size and scope of government and wasting money. Poverty was 14% in 1964 and it was 14% in 2014. (horrible)
Vietnam. Things did not go well for Johnson in Vietnam. He increased troop involvement from 16,000 in 1963 to 550,000 in 1968.  He was unable to quell political pressure from his own party to end the war. This lead to failure to give the military the go to do what they needed to do to win. This was an utter disaster for the liberal Johnson. (bad) In retrospect, we could have won the war in Vietnam our Presidents hadn't allowed it to get so political. There's also people today who believe that liberal democrats actually sympathized with socialists, and so their hearts weren't into defeating them in Vietnam or anywhere else for that matter. I wouldn't lump Johnson into this group, but you never know (and never will know) for that matter.

Unrest and rioting in black neighborhoods in 1964-1967. In Detroit, Michigan, in 1967, rioting got so bad that governor George Romney had to send in the national guard. The city burned for three days and 43 died. In April 1968, rioting occurred in over 100 cities, although this was mainly in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  This, coupled with failure in Vietnam, caused Johnson's popularity to plummet. (bad)

Space Exploration. He continued the NASA vision started by Eisenhower and Kennedy. He was determined to commit whatever resources were necessary to land a person on the moon. (good)

Attempt at re-election in 1968. He initially was going to try to gain the nomination as incumbent President  in 1968, but decided against it. Part of the reason he decided not to run was because of all the failures of the Vietnam War. Figuring he would not be able to win re-election, he decided to drop out. This would set the stage nicely for liberal republican Richard Nixon.

Legacy. Lyndon Johnson became President only because Kennedy was assassinated. He was a liberal President who had a liberal agenda, and most of it was passed (unfortunately). We generally list him as one of the worst Presidents of all time.

Further reading and references: