John F. Kennedy and the 1964 Revenue Act: The Politics of Formulation/Legitimation
Phillip M. Simpson
John F. Kennedy stands as a vital link in the post-Depression attempt to develop a suitable economic policy based on both sound economics and political feasibilities. This chapter focuses on the 1964 Revenue Act, the keystone of President Kennedy's economic program. More specifically, this study seeks to explicate Kennedy's role in the formulation and legitimation of the 1964 Revenue Act. 1 In discussing his role, the following aspects of the policy process will be developed: (1) the long- and short-run policy debates that identified a lagging economy as a central problem and produced tax rate changes as a solution, (2) the politics of formulation which proposed the Kennedy tax cut, and (3) the politics of congressional legitimation of the tax cut. It is hoped that an analysis of this policy period will shed light on several aspects of the Kennedy presidency: the style and quality of his economic/political thinking; his political tactics and strategies; the content of his character and person as a leader; his economic vision for America; and the economic/political tenor of the times which provided the backdrop for policy development.
The Great Depression ushered in an era in which the federal government assumed greater responsibility for maintaining economic growth and prosperity. 2 As the federal budget grew, the use of fiscal policy as an economic policy tool became more acceptable. Tax policy, to fight both recession and inflation, was widely discussed as one of the more important elements of fiscal policy. 3 The recessions of the 1950s ( 1954 and 1958) produced calls for anti-recessionary tax cuts, especially from liberal Democrats. In 1958 Senator Paul Douglas (Democrat