JFK, Jr.: Hope dies hard and yet springs eternal
From the 7-25-99 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Updated 11-22-2012 and 11-24-2012

We will laugh again, but we will never be young again.
—Daniel Patrick Moynihan [1]

So said the future senator from New York back in the winter of '63 when it felt like the world would freeze.

He was wrong.

As a nation, we have been forever young. In many respects, we have yet to progress beyond adolescence. Last week, we showed signs of maturity.

The citizenry's deeply personal reaction to the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., represented a hopeful sign not so much for what it said about him, but what it revealed about us.

It appears that the people of this country still harbor the same undiminished American Dream.

As the nation kept a prayer watch over the Atlantic, those old aspirations shot to the surface.

"I've been feeling like part of my family passed away," retired longshoreman Benjamin E. Dias, 51, told the New York Times.

"They're the type of family you fall in love with because they're not out to get you, they're out to help you," he added.

The president's son personified our hopes. Only hope is strong enough to both die hard and yet spring eternal.

The United States of America peaked five years after Pres. Kennedy's assassination. People's earnings have never bought as much since. In today's dollars, 1968 minimum wage earners made about $7.50 per hour.

The tax system was progressive in the Eisenhower-Kennedy-Johnson years. The rich paid higher taxes because they could afford to. Spreading the wealth fueled the strongest economy the world has ever seen.

The Vietnam War started reversing all that.

In 1966, economist Pierre A. Rinfret pointed out that nations had acquired the rough tools with which to manage their economies.

Spending money on war constituted the equivalent of throwing dollars into the ocean, Rinfret said. Taxpayer-built tanks did not produce any goods or services as a return on investment. Warbucks only fueled inflation.

Rinfret proved correct.

"Remember the wonderful saying of my mentor: peace is bullish," he wrote me recently.

Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker broke the back of the inflation of the seventies by causing the great recession of the early eighties.

Concurrent with efforts to combat inflation came tinkering with the tax code to benefit the rich.

The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 brought discredited, Roaring Twenties trickle-down economics back into vogue. Cut taxes for the rich and they'll benevolently spend the extra money to the benefit of everyone, the Reaganauts asserted.

Never worked, never will.

When Sen. Eugene McCarthy, D-Minn., declared his candidacy in the 1968 New Hampshire primary against President Johnson, I thought McCarthy committed political suicide by saying there was nothing wrong with the tax code.

McCarthy was right. We were reaping the harvest of progressive taxation which congress and corruption promptly began to erode in 1969. (See "America: Who Really Pays the Taxes?" by Barlett & Steele, Simon & Schuster, 1994.)

The regression of the tax system began by perverting a 1962 proposal by President Kennedy, signed into law by President Johnson in 1964. Kennedy had wanted his tax cut to be revenue-neutral by simultaneously broadening the range of taxable income. (See Barlett & Steele, page 48; and "Why JFK Cut Taxes" by Herbert Stein, Wall Street Journal, 5-30-96.)

The revenue-neutral part was soon lost. Interlarded into laws shamelessly promoted as help for the poor, cutting taxes for the corporately rich became business as usual with the introduction of the Tax Reform Act of 1969.

Families felt the reverse flow. Only the working wife kept middle-income families close to breakeven in the 1970s. The Reagan Revolution which began in 1981 was closer to robbery than rebellion. Reagan's "Tax Reform Act of 1986...gave wealthy taxpayers the same rate as middle class Americans," Barlett and Steel wrote. (At page 91)

As a college student in 1968, I supported Sen. McCarthy. He deserved it, having knocked the president of the United States out of the race. I considered Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, D-NY, a cynical political opportunist for his late-starting campaign.

Nonetheless, when Bobby Kennedy defeated McCarthy in the June '68 California primary, he became the only hope of maintaining a progressive government with fair taxes. Kennedy was murdered the very night of his Golden State sweep. McCarthy didn't have the power to wrest the nomination from Vice-President Hubert Humphrey who went on to lose to Richard M. Nixon.

Milhous began an unbroken string of leaders who escalated screwing over the little guy to benefit the rich. JFK admirer Bill Clinton lets babies starve while he does PR tours of poverty-stricken regions.

Our politics have become more and more sold out to the highest bidder. The voters see it, hold their noses and wisely split government power between "two Republican parties separated by the issue of abortion," as commentator Mark Shields recently noted.

Not surprisingly, the madcap Ross Perot and the moderately refreshing Jesse Ventura have become viable presidential candidates in a two-tiered America of haves vs. have-nots.

Which is why the death of JFK, Jr., hurt so bad.

"An unwavering commitment to the poor, to the elderly, to those without hope, regardless of fashion or convention, is the greatest reward of public service," he told the Democratic National Convention on July 19, 1988.

JFK the Younger alone possessed the name, fame, fortune, education, image, independence, articulateness and sensibility which could have galvanized America as his father did a generation ago. The public watched him and increasingly judged him worthy of respect and responsibility.

Alas and alack, outrageous fortune cut his youth in twain and there is no one to take his place. For the fourth time in four decades, hope has died a violent death and spring seems an eternity away.

Be well. Raise hell.

John F. Kennedy's 2013 inaugural address
Barbwire by Barbano / Daily Sparks Tribune / 11-22-2012

Your better life today had President Kennedy lived
Barbwire by Barbano / Daily Sparks Tribune / 12-28-1997

[1] Longtime Nevada journalist and historian Dennis Myers advises that the Moynihan quote is incorrect. It has undoubtedly been oversimplified over time but that has enhanced its impact in much the same manner as H.L. Mencken's famous "nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." Mencken sorta kinda said that, but the simplified version remains better and much more memorable. Perhaps a better example lies in early Spanglish rock 'n' roll. Richie Valens' unexpected 1959 double-sided hit (Donna b/w La Bamba) never would have gotten that way had he tried to translate the Mexican folk song La Bamba's lyrics, which are nonsensical, even in Spanish. A sage commented that "La Bamba is a song of emotion."

Myers advises "The (Moynihan) quote is slightly incorrect. Moynihan’s own version, from page 110 of Pierre Salinger’s compilation of essays A Tribute to John F. Kennedy (1964), is as follows: 'For some of us you’ll say it won’t be the same in other ways. Mary McGrory said to me that we’ll never laugh again. And I said, ‘Heavens, Mary. We’ll laugh again. It’s just that we’ll never be young again.’

Copyright © 1999, 2012 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413. He is a 30-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and head of Casinos Out of Politics (COP). In 1998 he served as gubernatorial campaign manager for State Senator Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas.
Since 1988, Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune, where an earlier version of this column appeared on 7/25/99.

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