Economic Policy in Practice: Perspective on the 1960s
Since the advent of Reaganomics and the administration's budget-cutting policy measures, a good deal of popular rhetoric has sought to contrast the new administration's supply-side-cum-monetarist approach to economic and social programs with that of previous (especially Democratic) administrations. The substance of the arguments has been that, since the Roosevelt administration, the policies of most Democratic administrations have tended to benefit the disadvantaged sections of American society and to promote employment at, if necessary, the expense of big business profits and organizational mergers.
This "glamorization" of the past may be "all too human" by those who have been, or feel, displaced from positions of influence and power, but it is hardly a realistic assessment of it.
After the Truman administration the country floundered through the economic policies of the Eisenhower years. Finally, in 1960 the Kennedy election provided the opportunity for adoption of the "fiscalist" economic policies of the New Economics--as the liberal neoclassical synthesists ( Samuelson's term) came to be dubbed by such phrasemakers and moulders of the popular mind as Time and Newsweek. Thus, the Kennedy-Johnson economic policies of the 1960s constitute the most recent foundation for the claim that Democratic policies are more favorable to the disadvantaged. Let us examine those years.
John F. Kennedy's ascension to the White House, with his entourage of scholars and graduate students from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) led by MIT's Paul Samuelson, was considered as marking a decisive turning point by the New Economists. Economic policy would now be devoted to curing the ills over which Eisenhower's witch doctors merely made incantations. America, and, indeed, the world, would now proceed to move to the New Frontier--at the borders of the Great Society.