Icily indifferent to the perverse entertainment that is American elections, my friend Rick Smith asks of me more specificity as to Jack Kennedy’s tax proposals and, in same vein, Dr. Steve and young Daniel have called me jesuitical. They have presented a compelling case for the Crown, now is the turn of the defense.
Yesterday afternoon, I sent my friend Rick Smith this note to read about Jack Kennedy’s tax policy attitudes:
Rick himself has penned a masterly work, most in need of reading by all enlightened men–Who Stole the American Dream, to be found at a very reasonable price for what is a great deal of alacrity in his reporting of a most startling story here:
Last night, Rick wrote back to me about my commentary respecting Jack Kennedy and taxes–these observations of Rick’s own–for which I thank him:
On Sun, Nov 4, 2012 at 12:53 AM, Hedrick Smith wrote:
But Kennedy’s top marginal tax rate was 77% vs today’s 35%, and the nation’s economic growth rates of 3-4% during his Administration were ones that we would die to achieve today, whether under George W. Bush or Barack Obama,, when the top marginal tax rate is 35%. So you have left that enormous fact out of all the words that you quoted. How about making the record more complete?
I must here hasten to add that I have been similarly admonished–even upbraided, by others– to dig deeper in like manner by young Daniel and, more vociferously, Dr. Steve–who suggests I have been jesuitical in my selective use of pull quotes from JFK on taxes–Jesuitical!!–Steve–I can’t even think where a nice lad such as yourself ever encountered a word such as jesuitical –we need to discuss that privately!!
At events, I have this morning responded to all these fellows as follows:
I agree with you and others–I do–respecting how high taxes were–most particularly in the marginal brackets when young Jack Kennedy came to Washington to lead us–and my response to you and others in brief is that, rather than specific tax policy and such like, what needs to be addressed is ideas–specifically–what is America–what do we want her to become if she has lost her way? If she is lost, how does she find her way home? How did she become what she is today–this is what you talk about Rick, in your superlative book, Who Stole the American Dream– and likewise what I talk about– from different points of vantage–and in different venues.
My point of vantage is to encourage capital accumulation at all levels and to foster a view of government as a necessary nuisance–not a higher calling. The message from JFK was that tax rates are, in their very conception, detrimental to the very concept of growth and prosperity–so they need to be as small as possible.
I do not go to the ideal of Dr. Paul who wants a 1910’s America–but–incidentally, attend gentlemen that–if Americans understood the concept of 1910’s America–the candidate who promises to lead them to that land would be President in a landslide–an America with a wall around the country–no military entanglements but for cases in which we are directly attacked–no involvement in international institutions of any kind–and, as Will Rodgers would say of his political philosophy—“leave the people the hell alone.” But that is an ideal. The trouble we have in this city in my 60 years of viewing it is that attitudes have changed here to where, rather than being viewed as a necessary nuisance–and keeping the nuisance as small and unobtrusive as possible–this city now venerates government–this is wretched excess of the extreme other end.
Bored insensate by the elections of 2012, I have spent summer with Mr Jefferson who, dreamt an admittedly childlike dream of–no government at all. He had seen the ravages of poverty, helplessness and ceaseless war-mongering in the Empires of Europe first hand and had no taste for government–at all. Like Dr Paul, he was an idealist and juvenile–for–of course, we must have some government–but let’s agree it is a nuisance–and keep it as small and insignificant as possible.
Rick–I am interested in your notions of the new economy and how that has frozen wages and capabilities for social advancement in the lower and middle orders. I want to explore that more with you–specifically–what you propose to do about it. Again–before action, before policy–there must come the idea–what is the idea you want to put forward, your having dissected the problem–that is–how to undo that which was both deliberately and inadvertently done to kill the American Dream for most Americans–your message of the conception of the tiny seed that became the ubiquitous cancer of 401Ks is an entertaining and riveting tale–but what to do to redress that horror? It may be that as, your initial background was as a reporter, you feel compelled to report facts–but we need to go beyond the facts to divine solutions.
This massive asset separation between the middle and lower orders and the higher order is troublesome to many–including myself, because that is the destruction of the dream. How to get the dream back–that is the task–you have laid good groundwork in describing the trouble–I likewise think and write on these things from other angles–but–we both need to put heads together and discern the solution to the problem of, the now codified, spread of assets between the middle and lower orders and the upper order.
Here’s specificity–the past 2 days have been a showcase of horse racing at the very highest levels at Santa Anita in Arcadia, California. On one level, this, my sport, my true passion, truly is the sport of Kings–literally. That said, 2 of the races were won by horses owned by men who came to America literally penniless–one Cuban, one Italian–and they are not now that old either!!- and they started here as dishwashers and such like and they are now rich as Croesus. Add to that–ALL of the jockey boys riding come directly from Hell itself: rural Peru, Argentina–all over South and Central America where they grew up in poverty that Americans cannot possibly imagine–and the top boys earn–$30-$40 million a year in purses–so the DREAM LIVES–the issue at bar with us is how to let more people, in the now overburdened and truly demoralized middle and lower orders generally, have a clear shot at that Dream once again–if they want to take it. I suspect fiddling with tax codes may play some sort of part but it is more a function of putting the requisite number of men with functioning brains together at the table to figure a way for that Dream to once again be returned to the great mass of men–some–but not all–of whom desire to have their Dream fulfilled.
Let’s meet up soon–ideas move mountains–whilst tax codes and the like, you are correct, are simply emblematic of good or bad ideas. As you and I are on page to a large extent–from different points of vantage yes, but on page in that we want that Dream returned to potentially all Americans–let’s try to work together to get the discussion going as to how to best make that return to the American Economic Eden possible for all once again.
As for government–her job is to be a small and polite nuisance and to otherwise stay out-of-the-way to the greatest extent possible so that the miracle of America, that to this day continues to draw immigrants from all shores, can come to the homes and hearths of as many of her citizens as possible.
JOHN DANIEL BEGG
john daniel begg public affairs and speechwriting
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