John Kennedy's Oratorical Fraud
It was one of the most memorable statements ever made by an American orator: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."
But how sincere was that?
The thesis behind the chiasmus in John Kennedy's inaugural address was that our nation would "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship ... to assure the survival and success of liberty."
In other words, on Jan. 20, 1961, six months before Barack Obama was born, John F. Kennedy described the United States as a nation of citizens serving America, but not dependent on its services. He also described a citizenry ready to endure extreme hardship to keep the independence that was the product of liberty.
But Kennedy did not mean one word he said.
In 1963, he declared in a New York speech, "There are hundreds of thousands without resources, and we have a responsibility for all of them." That "responsibility" turned into an entitlement once Kennedy and successor Lyndon Johnson created the modern welfare state. By 2012, those thousands became 44 million receiving food stamps alone.
In 1960, just before the inaugural, the federal government spent $92 billion, or about $715 billion in present dollars, adjusted for inflation. Today, that spending is $3.8 trillion, or about an adjusted 5.3 times higher than that spent in 1960. In that year, we spent 52 percent of our outlays on defense, and we were at peace. Today, we spend 21 percent on defense, and we are supposedly at war.
So what has happened since 1960? The American government has been transformed from one whose primary mission was national defense to one whose primary mission is social welfare.
We are a people who ask not what we can do for our country. We demand to know what our country can do for us.
Next year, out of $100 billion spent on "agriculture," $80 billion will be spent on food stamps. This year, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget, out of $3.8 trillion in total spending, $2.5 trillion, or 66 percent, is dedicated to the support of human welfare.
Now, no one wants to have people starve. We need some food aid. But today, 15 percent of America's entire population receives food stamps. In 1960, the federal government spent about $50 billion in today's dollars toward supplementing income of people other than Social Security recipients. Today that spending is $579 billion.
1960 was not all that bad. In order to get money, most people had to work. There was no earned income credit allowing a tax filer to receive a refund even if he paid no tax. While there were not very many channels on television, one channel still showed Lucy and Desi together. And, that was better than Charlie Sheen in any role.
Every once in a while, aging Gene Krupa would show up on a variety show secretly under the influence of banned substances playing drums better than Ringo Starr would play a few years later while publicly announcing his consumption of other banned substances.
Nor was 1960 a panacea. The federal government, indeed, had work to do. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act needed to be passed. Taxes needed to be lowered to create more private commerce and increase revenues. But what really happened after 1960 is that the federal government freed minorities with civil rights legislation and quickly enslaved them again with a welfare state that gave them subsistence, but robbed them of a desire for excellence.
Within a few decades of Kennedy's address, the system that created enough talent to put an astronaut on the moon abandoned the moon in favor of free condoms. The country that created the most massive road system in world history, the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, dedicated its resources to substandard public housing.
John Kennedy's inaugural speech was a combination of poetry and alliterated prose crafted by a genius, probably Theodore Sorenson, and delivered by an oratorical master who made legs tingle before Barack Obama could speak.
But, like much poetry, its meter was more memorable than its message. Its thesis reflected what many people wanted to believe, but it was delivered by an orator dedicated to its antithesis. It was an oratorical fraud.
Robert M. Levy is chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. Contact him at Law52@prodigy.net.
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