It is said that the war against American conservatism was in high gear by Lyndon Johnson’s administration; it was Johnson who conferred the Medal of Freedom on the socialist A. Philip Randolph in 1964, and Randolph’s closest confidant was admitted communist Bayard Rustin – who organized MLK’s mass demonstrations. The liberal-dominated Republican party in the 1960’s went along with the unprecedented expansion of the federal government, abandoned efforts to abolish affirmative action, did little to restrict illegal immigration, oppose gay rights or gun control. Also, the most dangerous Supreme Court appointees – Warren, Brennan, Blackmun, O’Connor and Kennedy – were advanced by Republican presidents. The very first Republican president reportedly issued an order for the arrest of the Chief Justice for upholding the United States Constitution.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Liberal Republicans Triumphant
“[The] fifteen years from 1960 to 1975 were a time of unprecedented expansion in government domestic spending. Spurred by the plight of the blacks and Puerto Ricans in Northern cities and the deplorable health and education opportunities available to the poor in the South, the national mood turned toward reform.
A sufficient number of liberals were elected to Congress to wrest control of crucial committees from conservative Southern and Midwestern congressmen and substantially change a longstanding system of Federal priorities.
The country’s underlying prosperity made it all possible. In 1964 [President Lyndon B.] Johnson was able to sign on successive days the Economic Opportunity Act, which created a national War on Poverty, and legislation directing across-the-board tax cuts for almost everyone. Social conscience was free.
As the barriers to change came down, a stream of legislation poured out of Washington – besides the War on Poverty, there were Model Cities, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and greatly improved social security benefits.
When concern for civil rights and the poor was generalized to problems of pollution and congestion, the federal government responded with subsidies for urban mass transit, tough new air and water quality standards, and sharply increased levels of funding for sewage treatment and air pollution control.
By 1967 even cataloguing the immense range of new initiatives was a formidable task . . . more than $15 billion in aid available, scattered through four hundred separate grant-in-aid programs – although beleaguered local officials insisted that the programs numbered more than a thousand.
With the rush of programs, federal domestic spending increased sharply, as did the involvement of the federal government in local affairs. Aid for manpower, education, and social service programs jumped from $1.3 billion in 1960 to $10.3 billion in 1970, and to $18.2 billion in 1975.
While the overall federal budget tripled from 1960 to 1975 . . . the federal share in local and State budgets increased by 40 percent. [By] 1975 cash income maintenance programs alone were budgeted for a larger amount than national defense.
In many ways the device hit upon by the lawmakers for increasing federal involvement in local affairs – the categorical grant-in-aid – was as important as the absolute volume of the new federal commitments. Funding was allocated for specific purposes, and usually with detailed operating conditions attached, reflecting a prevailing lack of confidence in State and local administrations. In the South local autonomy too often meant racial discrimination; too many State legislatures in the North and West seemed sleepy, rural-dominated, special-interest societies.
[To change the emphases of State and local governments], a common device was to include generous federal funding in the early stages of a program, with the expectation that local funding would pick up the program later. Community mental health programs, for example, receive 90 percent of their finding in the first year from federal sources, but the federal share is phased out entirely over a seven-year period, leaving the local government with an expensive program, a high standard of service, and an organized set of supporters.
Public employment programs began the same way . . . but local officials were left to face a financing problem or the pain of reducing a popular program as the federal support was reduced in subsequent years.
Programs developed “vertical autocracies” of their own, a chain of officials stretching from the local government through the State and regional federal bureaucracies to Washington and the halls of Congress.
Elected officials rarely could afford the time or trouble to master the complex laws and regulations and were increasingly the captives of their program-oriented bureaucracies, who held the secret to the continued expansion of outside financing.
The powerful expansionist impulse that Nelson Rockefeller brought to [New York] State government was in his family tradition – they had long tried to live down their legendary wealth with a broad range of philanthropic undertakings – and was consistent with his basic personality.
Rockefeller was a perennial presidential candidate, and at least until 1968, his national aspirations rested on his position as spokesman for the Northeastern liberal wing of the Republican party, which was in competition throughout the decade with the hard-line conservatism of the South and West.
Republicans were hopelessly outnumbered nationally, the reasoning went, and the route to victory lay in capturing the center of the national consensus. At least through the first half of the 1960s – or until the bills began to come in – that seemed supportive of the drive toward government initiatives to equalize opportunities between blacks and whites and rich and poor, to put out lifelines for the cities, and to make up for decades of underinvestment in the public sector.”
(The Cost of Good Intentions, New York City and the Liberal Experiment, 1960-1975, Charles R. Morris, McGraw-Hill, 1980, pp. 34-36)