Wednesday, August 13, 2008

60's Liberal "hubris"???

What is it that made Vietnam "hubris", but not Korea -- same casualty to population ratio -- and in 1950 Russia and China were flat on their backs; while by 1965 their common threat was at high tide (only 20 years after the two little countries that almost took over the world could not bite the two big countries off)?

LBJ's war on poverty wasn't "hubris" just because it did not reach effectively into the ghetto. Even though labor got a much better (relative) deak in the 60s (at half today's average income) that would not do you any good if you could not go downtown and get a job because of color -- which is exactly what LBJ (and MLK and the movement) was bringing to an end with the civil rights acts.

Further I would not say LBJ's era was about hope and idealism (was for some of course). Compared to FDR's emergency era where everybody was up in arms for the president to do something, LBJ's era was much more one of complacency. As everybody who was around then knows, all those acts that JFK couldn't push through Congress LBJ pushed through with his bribery/blackmail/cajolery/whatever-it-took steamroller (what Hillary was referring to when she was mistakenly blamed for dissing King) -- the most powerful Senate majority leader of all time at the age of 36 now had the presidency at his disposal.

But as my brother so eloquently put it: "When the blacks finally got on the up [economic] escalator, it started going down for everybody." Black people got to go to work just as work started to pay less and less. The minimum wage eventually dropped from LBJ's $9.90/hr to 2007's $5.35/hr (2008 dollars -- at double the average income).

The latter reflected what LBJ and nobody else could contemplate: that American labor bargaining power was about to drop to zero -- that the checks and balances were about to disappear. If American labor had Europe's awareness of the need to defend itself in the free market (and knowledge of the easy modality: sector-wide labor agreements), nobody black or white would be talking about where liberalism went wrong today.

Posted by: Denis Drew | Link to comment | August 13, 2008 at 07:09 AM

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