Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Great Society reborn?

Jesse Jackson offers a rather unique--in my opinion--take on the current state of America in this piece from the Chicago Sun-Times.

Essentially, Jackson argues that government can be good, can solve problems--and did so under LBJ--but has been derailed since the time of Reagan by conservative forces largely opposed to government, in general. In light of the release of Gallup's annual Governance Survey, his timing is impeccable.

Jackson argues for a return to the ideas of LBJ, to an era of true hope and change:
He accompanied his soaring words with action. Medicare and Medicaid are his legacy. A dramatic boost of Social Security and increase in the minimum wage lifted millions out of poverty. Head Start, summer youth programs, college work-study and scholarship programs enlisted the young. The Job Corps, Vista, Community Action Agencies, Upward Bound hit pockets of poverty. Food stamps and the school breakfast program dramatically reduced hunger. Johnson was the great education president and the greatest conservationist. He ushered the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts into law.
 Jackson, of course, lived through that period and walked the walk, something that should always garner him praise and respect from American citizens. And looking over the list of supposed accomplishments by the Johnson administration, how could anyone question the logic of arguing a return to those times?

But here's the thing: most all of those programs and policies are still with us. Many of them have grown substantially, in cost and/or extent. Despite eight years of Reagan, they represent a far larger stake in the Federal budget than they did at the end of LBJ's reign. So what is Jackson actually recommending? Another period of massive growth of federal power, bureaucracy, and programs? An expansion of such, until "gains" similar to those of LBJ are reached? And fifty years from now, as the business cycle turns and we're enveloped in another period of economic turmoil, double down again?

Americans are becoming increasingly unhappy with government growth for a very simple reason: government keeps growing, no matter what. There are no tests for expansion. In fact, the typical solution for a failing policy/program is not the dismantling of such, but the expansion of it, the idea that simply adding dollars will make it work. And this is a pipe dream. It doesn't even work in the private sector, as we can see from the Solyndra debacle.

But perhaps Jesse Jackson just desires a return to the spirit of the age, an effort to--as he puts it--"recapture the enthusiasm and the moral courage that Johnson once summoned from a young generation." Sounds good.

But what was the real "spirit" of LBJ? Reportedly, LBJ said--in reference to the passage of the Voting Rights Act--the following:
I'll have those niggers voting Democrat for the next two hundred years.
Nice spirit.

Cheers, all.

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