Amazingly, less than five years later, the greatest expansion of government since Roosevelt's economically ill-fated New Deal was firmly in place. Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiatives turned Kennedy's challenge on its head: Government and its politician masters were to make available to the citizenry whatever they, as leaders, desired in social services and economic direction.
The seeds of perpetual entitlement were thence sown - but not so much by The People asking what government could do for them. Instead, a new class of political leader came forth, bestowing upon a not entirely wanting public the fruits of a great society paid for by highly progressive taxation and deficit spending, i.e. newly created money. Between 1964 and 1966 well over 100 new bills, laws, and "programs" were enacted which massively expanded the federal government, and its role in our daily lives.
In a total inversion of the Kennedy call to service, over the next 45 years, government didn't ask what it could do for us, but instead told us we really didn't have to do anything for our country. They - the political class - would now do all things necessary for us.
Entitlement creation has become a profession, perfected by our politicians. In the process, they have created a society - not so much great - but certainly fully dependent on their spending whims - which they design to both look good publicly, and ensure their multi-decadal power. Success of these efforts is well documented, not only in incumbency but also in nearly 50 percent of the country's adults paying no income taxes while being completely on the receiving end of government largess.
Unfortunately, perpetual expansion of entitlements has a limit: Someday, someone has to pay for all that government "generosity." Paraphrasing Margaret Thatcher, eventually one runs out of other peoples' money, whether in terms of cash, monetary value, or productivity. Worse, the problem with being a liar is new lies are nearly always required to cover old lies.
Both situations apply perfectly to our political class in general, and specifically the methods and motives of Congress, particularly of recent. So deeply are they entrenched in their lies, they can no longer tell us the actual provisions of given legislation - before passage. So inept are they in their management of government, they pass new laws just to hide the lies they were forced to tell in defense of earlier laws that failed. So desperate are they for money to feed their power addiction gained by granting largess - they "fund" new spending with money reportedly taken from other allegedly funded accounts, then once the dust settles, the "de-funded" accounts are mysteriously re-funded, often with even more funny money.
Talk about lies to cover lies. And we actually trust these people to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?
Thanks to our supposed leadership class happily kicking the can down the road, passing the bill for the costs they impose upon our current productivity to the next generation, the personal responsibility fabric of society that actually did make America great in years past is further and perhaps inexorably unraveled. This must stop.
We have reached the logical conclusion of endless entitlement spending. The political Ponzi-scheme we have been force-fed is quickly collapsing. A society that can't pay its bills is not great, regardless of how many government programs for social betterment exist.
It is time, therefore, to once again reflect on Mr. Kennedy's challenge of 50 years ago as we approach the elections of 2010 and 2012: It is time for us as Americans to "man up" - to restore our country to the foundation of responsibility for our society and our government, as opposed to expecting more from our government, a condition we simply (and literally) can no longer afford.
It is also time for our political leaders to man-up and act for their country, not for themselves and their cronies.
A new class of leadership is needed.
Tom LaBarge is a Realtor in Marietta.