In 1963, Ayn Rand wrote The Fascist New Frontier. In Bob Rucho’s telling, John Kennedy’s 2013 self would have seen his 1963 self as a fascist and joined the Tea Party. History suggests that Rand’s disciples would have despised Kennedy and he would have hated them back.
Rucho’s claim leans hard on the 1964 Kennedy-Johnson tax cut. (Is LBJ also a Tea Partier?) The tax cut reduced the top rate from 91%-70%, and from that conservatives conclude that JFK was a supply-sider. Actually, it was a Keynesian–the horror!–tax cut aimed at increasing demand. In stark contrast to Rucho’s “reform” plan, the Revenue Act reduced the tax liability of poor Americans. As Rucho himself might say, it rewarded the “lucky duckies.”
Kennedy’s platform also encouraged direct redistribution. Although foreign policy distracted him from passing them, he proposed new government programs in housing, education and health care. The New Frontier, in other words, set the stage for a vast expansion of the welfare state. That’s why the Great and Mighty Ronald Reagan warned we’d spend “our twilight years telling our grandchildren what it was like when men were free.”
The Tea Party’s forbears, then, hated Kennedy. The feeling was mutual. In private, he groused about conservative “Southern bastards” who obstructed his agenda. The day before his death, he referred to Dallas–a seething hotbed of reaction–as “nut country.” Had President Obama said the same thing, Tea Partiers would’ve gone mad with resentment.
In an especially inconvenient case, JFK contradicted Rucho in his dealings with this very state. He appointed moderate-progressive governor Luther Hodges as Commerce Secretary. Most dramatically, records indicate that Kennedy planned to drop LBJ from the ticket and run with Terry Sanford in 1964. Sanford was a New Deal Liberal. So, I’m afraid, was John F. Kennedy.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.