Hey GOP, Leave JFK Off Your Economic Stimulus Talking Points

It was bad enough when opponents of Obama’s economic recovery plan decided to drag FDR’s New Deal through the mud, quite wrongly, I might add. But there is a new talking point from the GOP, this time appropriating another liberal icon in support of their supply-side alternative to the present stimulus package.

Their contention is that JFK—along with Ronald Reagan, usually mentioned within the same breath—showed policymakers how to remedy recession woes back in the 1960s.  JFK’s economic prescription?  Tax cuts.

The Republicans are right, up to a point. Kennedy did push tax cuts, and his plan, which passed in February 1964, three months after his death, did help spur economic growth. But they’re wrong to see the tax reduction as a supply-side cut, like Reagan’s and Bush’s; it was a demand-side cut.

The above quotation is from historian, David Greenberg.  He wrote it way back in 2004 when the conservative group, Club for Growth, invoked Kennedy’s name in an effort to rail against Howard Dean during his run for the Democratic nomination.

Before you question what this has to do with our present economic crisis, here’s another bit from Professor Greenberg:

This distinction, taught in Economics 101, seldom makes it into the Washington sound-bite wars. A demand-side cut rests on the Keynesian theory that public consumption spurs economic activity. Government puts money in people’s hands, as a temporary measure, so that they’ll spend it.


Ultimately, in the form that Lyndon Johnson signed into law, it reduced tax withholding rates, initiated a new standard deduction, and boosted the top deduction for child care expenses, among other provisions.

The most significant of the “other provisions” within Kennedy’s tax bill was its closing of massive loopholes within the corporate tax code, in effect, making it closer to a tax hike.

So, why is it that the GOP desires the association with JFK? I think it has a great deal to do with, as Greenberg mentioned, the Washington sound-bite wars.

Yes, the constant conflict of talking-point-driven propaganda from opposing ends of the ideological spectrum can be frustrating.  Don’t think for a moment that I’m suggesting that this culture exists only in the GOP.  To be sure, this problem crosses party lines.

What do you think?  Is talking-point culture somehow a constructive force in our democracy?  I suppose not.  What made me want to address the JFK supply-side example was that I kept hearing it without anyone responding to the contrary. On Meet the Press last Sunday, for example, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) used it:

John F.  Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and after the towers fell in 2001 proved that the way you, you jump-start the economy, the way you jolt a free market economy…

David Gregory just let it go by, unchallenged.  At least Jon Stewart made a crack about Pence being unable to mention George W. Bush by name.

For me the issue boils down to the results of the above mentioned tax cuts.  JFK’s “tax cut” has been viewed as successful.  Reagan’s tax cuts were arguably disastrous over the long term, and Bush’s results?  Well, consider our present economic predicament.

I don’t think it’s a useful comparison.  It would be better if they left JFK out of it.



Lester S.
Lester S8 years ago

I am really saddened by the "Grand Ole Party" of Abraham Lincoln. It's very sickening to see the GOP continuously deny involvement in ANYTHING negative which they were responsible. While Obama is going out to the people, the GOP is staying home and making asses of themselves. Who is living in the real world??

Eric Wodening
Eric Wodening8 years ago

The Republicans are also overlooking the result of JFK's plan vs Ronald Reagan's plan. Under Reagan, the economy never did well. While inflation was low, unemployment was high. Farm foreclosures were at all time highs. When talking about fiscal responsibility, the only thing that keeps Reagan from being the last president who should be mentioned is the fact that George W. was much worse.

Alice Pitcher
Alice Pitcher8 years ago

Obama’s job is not one I would want. No matter
what he may or maynot accomplish is a matter we
will not know till in the future. We cannot blame him for the financial mess he inherited. Both
party's will have to work together.

Tim F.
Tim F9 years ago

Wow...what revisionist history. GOP liars are now claiming that JFK was on their side? Yeah, right. JFK, the conservative, who took on US Steel and won the everlasting enmity of big business for doing so. Next they'll be telling us that JFK shot himself in Dealey Plaza.

Tim Fleming

Samantha T.
Samantha Trosky9 years ago

The Rebuplican party is called the "Grand Old Party" for a reason. They are like bitter old people (not all old people are bitter) stuck in an awful nursing home, rocking in their chairs not going any where, talking non-stop, and not making much sense, and so stuck in the old, outdated ways they are unable to move forward.

Kevin P.
Kevin P9 years ago

It's the "Grand Old Party" that is the nickname for the Republican Party.

Susan B.
Susan d9 years ago

Being non American - what on earth is GOP?

Dan M.
Dan M9 years ago


In all fairness, I think you should consider the roll of Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and even Senator Obama in the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac mess. We'll be better off if we recognize everyone who had a roll.



Marc G.
Marc G9 years ago

To serve their own propagandising ends, conservatives have tried to co-opt progressive luminaries for decades. It should be clear, however, that JFK would have no alliance whatsoever with present day conservative economic thought. The track record and the economic goals of his administration prove it.

Just once, I would like to hear conservatives own up to the fact that they have presided over the largest financial meltdown in history. They held the White House for eight years, and all three branches of government for six. In that time, numerous departments of government endured the highest levels of internal corruption in history, two tragic, costly and completely unnecessary wars were started and not finished, and unbridled greed on Wall Street was not only tolerated but encouraged. So off-loading the blame for this mess on Bill Clinton or any other Democrat is just ludicrous. And suggesting that JFK would have supported any part of it is equally ridiculous.

Remaining steeped in absolute denial is an indicator of intellectual and psychological immaturity, and that summarises the conservative viewpoint succinctly and aptly. What they finally owe the nation is an apology for their arrogance, corruption, greed and unbelievable incompetence.

Kenneth Notgiven
Kenneth Notgiven9 years ago

I'm saddened when I read this policical garbage where liberals denigrate conservatives without defining rational solutions. And before you emotional Liberals think I'm Republican, conservative or right wing--I'm not--I didn't vote for either side in the last election, although I did vote.