Meet John F. Kennedy – Tax Cutter

I’d like to depart from the new Van Lines, where I summarize what’s inside the magazine, because we are in the process of selecting a new government, including the occupant of the White House. The current resident, a charming and engaging fellow with whom I often disagree, likes to pin our current economic slump on the policies of his predecessor, but he’s never asked to specify.

Since he’s referred to tax rate cuts as “fairy dust,” I’ll assume that’s what he means. My first thought is this: If cutting tax rates was so economically ruinous, why didn’t the President either let them expire or pursue legislation to raise them? He’s only talked about raising them, which has caused job creators to hesitate.

Secondly, I wonder if President Obama is aware that President John F. Kennedy once argued for, and eventually enacted, tax rate cuts? Everyone links modern tax cutting with Ronald Reagan, but Reagan got the idea from Kennedy, whose views on the subject were outlined in a December 1962 speech to the Economic Club of New York.

We had just gotten past the Cuban Missile Crisis, and while the economy was growing, Kennedy did not believe it was firing on all cylinders. In a beautifully crafted and delivered speech, which was one of his trademarks, Kennedy made the case for tax rate cuts to, as he put it, “raise our entire economy to a new and higher level of business activity.”

During the speech, Kennedy made a number of assertions that would confound today’s Democrats. Among them:

“The final and best means of strengthening demand among consumers and business is to reduce the burden on private income and the deterrents to private initiative which are imposed by our present tax system.”

And this: “Corporate tax rates must also be cut to increase incentives and the availability of investment capital.”

And this: “The new tax bill should improve both the equity and the simplicity of our present tax system. This means the enactment of long-needed tax reforms, a broadening of the tax base, and the elimination or modification of many special tax privileges.”

There’s much more, but I can’t help but think this speech could have been delivered by Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan, and how much the Democratic Party has changed – and not for the better. 

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