|NUMBER 284||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||SEPTEMBER 2009|
In this latest addition to the "Politically Incorrect Guide" series, critic and playwright Jonathan Leaf takes a careful second look at 1960s protest movements, the Warren Court, the sexual revolution, drug culture, the Vietnam War, and more. Leaf shows that most Americans in the 1960s were conservative, but a radical minority has forever colored modern perceptions of the decade.
There is a corollary today. "A large number of student radicals went on to graduate school in order to maintain their [draft] deferments," Leaf remarks. "After completing a higher degree, it made good career sense for them to become professors and adopt the comfortable, bourgeois lifestyle they had spent the previous decade denouncing." From positions of authority in the academy, 60s radicals still disproportionately affect our culture.
Enthusiasts who liken Barack Obama to liberal icon John F. Kennedy may not know that JFK advocated massive tax cuts on both income and capital gains. The tax cuts he promised, which Johnson carried through after JFK's death, spurred a decline in unemployment from 5.4% in 1964 to 4% in 1966.
Of course, Johnson later reversed these gains with a string of tax hikes and restrictive policies. Leaf gives careful attention to Johnson's presidency, especially to the "Great Society" policies affecting the nation's poor. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, the poverty rate declined, hitting a low of 13% in 1968. It has never fallen below that level again, and Leaf believes the War on Poverty's unintended consequences are to blame.
The caseload of Aid to Families with Dependent Children increased 71% between the 1964 announcement of the War on Poverty and the end of the decade. "Great Society" policies paid employable people not to work, and paid young women not to marry the fathers of their children. Such policies horribly undermined the low-income black family. In 1963, before widespread abortion, the black illegitimacy rate was 23%. That rate rose to 48% by 1980, and now approaches 70%.
This history is very pertinent today. "Originally presented as a low-cost public benefit program for the indigent, Medicaid now costs $276.4 billion a year, with its accumulated costs accounting for around half the total U.S. debt. The expense of Great Society entitlement programs far exceeds all military spending even when, as currently, the country is at war in multiple theaters."