Barack Is All Teddy

By Tanner, Michael | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Barack Is All Teddy


Tanner, Michael, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Perhaps nothing so symbolizes the promise and peril of Barack Obama's presidential campaign as his claim to the mantle of John F. Kennedy.

Obama's endorsement by Sen. Edward Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy's glowing commentary about him in The New York Times and Obama's endorsement Sunday last by Maria Shriver -- once known as JFK's niece, now more commonly recognized as the wife of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- all hark back to the glory days of the 1960s.

Obama repeatedly has compared himself to JFK and his campaign casts itself as the second coming of Camelot. Obama's supporters see in him the same youthful optimism that made JFK an iconic symbol in the decade that saw the start of the civil rights revolution, an anti-war movement and the march to women's equality.

It was an era when anything seemed possible. And this is clearly the legacy of 1960s liberalism Obama hopes to remind voters of.

But the surviving Kennedys are also symbols of the darker side of 1960s liberalism: the bloated, bureaucratic welfare state.

Teddy Kennedy's liberalism gave us welfare as we knew it and spent $11 trillion on federal programs fighting poverty without reducing it. It raised taxes until they discouraged work, investment and innovation. It created an ethic of entitlement and dependence on government. In his policy positions, as opposed to his bipartisan rhetoric, Barack Obama calls to mind this side of 1960s liberalism as well.

Indeed, in his appetite for big government, Obama is quite unlike JFK.

JFK called for cutting taxes -- and not just income taxes, where he slashed the top rate, but capital gains taxes as well. "It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low," Jack Kennedy said, long before the advent of Supply Side Economics, "and the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut rates now."

The increases in government spending during JFK's term were modest. …

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