1963 to 2021 Still No Great Society

And in 1965 all eyes were on Mississippi over the struggle for civil rights and the author of The Great Society also writes that people were watching Stanley Kramer’s film Judgement at Nuremberg which was watched by 48 million or more people at the very moment when state troopers in Selma were attacking people on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. ABC News cut away from the film to show the news in Alabama to our nation. The suffering of Jews and African Americans was linked together a long time ago for all to see. See!

The minimum wage in 1962 was $1.00 an hour and during the Kennedy Administration there was a proposal to increase it to $2.00 an hour. The stock market Dow Jones is around 30,000 today and back then it was around 820 points or even less since there had been a drop of 35 percent that people worried about. I had a conversation about the minimum wage and in 1981 which I was told was $3.25 an hour. The question for me right now is just how long was the minimum wage $1.00 as people recognized that it was too low. The raising of the current minimum wage to $15.00 an hour over a short period of time is problematic for people in power, but history and education matter. Based on all this information, is the public adequately informed?

As I got further into the book, there were objections from Mayor Sam Yorty of Los Angeles about the slightly higher minimum wage that federally funded program employees would obtain, just a few cents more. Of course back in those days those few cents would appear to be a great sum of money over the $1.20 being paid to Angelenos. Yorty was anti-Kennedy and came out for Goldwater in 1964 even though he was a Democrat.

And workers in the auto industry were being provided with shares in the corporations by George Romney, the father of Mitt Romney. And soon we learn that those shares were being pealed back reducing the gains of the workers.

1963 was an important year and it will bring to mind many things, but even as I was reading about it in the book Great Society A New History by Amity Shlaes my guard was down as I read and the events quickly shifted to 1964 because John F. Kennedy had lost his life in Dallas, Texas. And the plan for The Great Society came quick and furious as Lyndon B. Johnson wanted to add on a lot to the things that Kennedy had stood for. And chief among those things was a Southerner now demanding equal rights for African Americans, an unbelievable element.

In filling in more of what was taking place, this was the America of Head Start for children who were three and four years of age, talk of spending a billion dollars on poverty which was unheard of, extending Social Security benefits, and more. Republicans who usually spoke about suffering or something similar would point to those feelings about the “New Deal” of FDR and the “Fair Deal” of Harry Truman and now they had in their spotlight what they called the “Fast Deal” although that was not its name. This was American politics as usual and this information, already, should tell you that something is seriously wrong today as Make America Great Again is being replaced.

And The Great Society brings back some topics that we are familiar with from having lived it and things that we probably never heard about. There was talk of communism at home, sexual identifications, affordable housing, urban renewal, local rights, states rights, voting rights, seating of new groups at the Democratic National Convention which was disturbing to Southern Democrats, there was mention of John Lewis and other young leaders, reducing unemployment which stood at 3.5 percent, providing educational programs for youth, the role of unions such as the United Auto Workers, Medicare and Medicaid to help Americans, protests and Watts, and much more.

And specifically cited in the book that must have been on lips of people in and around Washington, D.C. and that may not have filtered to us is that the countries of Northern Europe which were democracies already had systems of health and education that were admired and our nation with no real make a wish foundation in those days had difficulty to bring forth a new system and continually perfect it over sixty years so that right now during the biggest crisis that we have ever faced in our lives things would be much better. And do I need to remind you that Republicans under George W. Bush gave us No Child Left Behind that forty years later was a failure.

The point being made also in the book that American pay could be higher than European pay, but government benefits were greater and that was and is the great equalizer that Americans can easily not notice. I noticed it in France in 2002 on a trip there. People do live as well as we do on less pay.

Upon arriving home only minutes ago, I was informed that COVID-19 is raging in Poland. And I had another thought only minutes before that as a vehicle went through a red light by the railroad crossing. I and everyone else knew that the red light by the track that we all saw was not the time to proceed as we could expect the gate to be lowered for a passing train to come through. In relation to government failure and the pandemic, it’s really clear. We had no choice to go forward to the green light that was only about forty feet away like the car mentioned did. We had an obligation to stay put and not a ridiculous order such as Americans should have a choice in the matter. That choice is killing people. We needed a better medical system and for everyone to wear masks. And that my friends is an example of a Great Society that continues to be lacking in America.

We could turn back the page of our history to Obama Care and read about the Republicans who were telling their constituents and other Americans that the government shouldn’t be telling the people what to do and that they could choose for themselves if they needed and wanted medical insurance or not. Then the pandemic hit and conditions worsened for everyone and now our nation is paying the price anyway. It was a trick that conservatives play on the people. Everyone needs insurance just like needed car insurance. The judge in court will frown upon the person that went through that red and light and if the person is uninsured that would make things worse.

And today we are reading that 10,000 lives could be saved if only people would wear masks and not a single journalist or news program or article has written about Jesus Saves Lives to bring Christians back to the real Jesus.

And in 1964 there was talk about providing extra money for the poor, particularly to African Americans in great need in Southern States. Thomas Sowell is mentioned and he wanted African Americans to uplift themselves and felt that Civil Rights pushed by the federal government would not work. Well guess what? Civil Rights works and more is about to be done to protect all of US. The talk about poverty in America caused a discussion of whether to provide African Americans more income since money was badly needed. The long hot summer that we started to talk about was on the minds of our nation’s leaders and a 1964 filled with violence would derail all or most of the plans of Lyndon B. Johnson. With triple the unemployment in places around our nation, young African Americans were the focus for new opportunities. Eunice Shriver Kennedy was particularly concerned about “juvenile delinquency” at that time.

And that takes US to America today. Violence is up around our nation as I just read the article by Jason Johnson in USA Today. Here is one illustration from the former police chief of Baltimore. He wrote about the “weak case” of the prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, as charges were dropped against the police in the Freddy Gray case. I should interject that I had been in close touch with Demetrius Malasham in the City of Baltimore about providing information that I felt would have been of great help. Mallaisham passed away many months after I started my outreach.

That takes me again to Donald Trump and his talk to police about roughing up the Freddy Grays of America before taking them into the paddy wagon. And in 2020 major police organizations endorsed Trump, unwisely as I had learned from others in law enforcement. But cops went along when they should have stayed an arm’s length away. And the violence continued and now people in hotels across America have picked up USA Today where much of the blame has been placed on tying the hands of the police and causing the loss of morale among them. I know that Johnson mentions the need to have better police training, but “come on” as Joe Biden would say. Where is the mobilization of that kind of talk? Where is the walk? Where is the beef?

I want to go back to those old days of Camelot when Kennedy started to produce changes and he loved Camelot. We can go back to 1961 or even before as we recall Officer Krupke. Do you remember these lyrics “Gee, Officer Krupke we’re very upset

We never had the love that every child oughta get

We ain’t no delinquents, we’re misunderstood

Deep down inside us there is good.”

Today I may be living in a cocoon. Do they use the words “juvenile delinquents” anymore? I have repeatedly written for years that we need more police and a critical assessment that you will not read in USA Today is that Donald Trump did not provide US with more protection over the first few years and as the pandemic progressed things got much worse. There was a need prior to February 2020 for more police and the man who got the most in value about the statement that “Mexico is sending us criminals and rapists” did little or nothing to support our nation’s police with more men to put on the streets in preventing crime and in investigating crime.

And today, for the moment, education is the key as youth are being counseled and have access to earning a high school equivalency. Where have the companies that operate these programs been for the last several years? I have been here all along to advocate strongly in a desert instead of in an oasis.

And I previously mentioned No Child Left Behind and here is another comment. An ingredient of No Child Left Behind put an awful lot of blame on the staff in schools. I reached out to a system in Rhode Island back in those days. Americans and others should take note of the fact that the Bush Administration and people who supported No Child Left Behind were okay with causing 50 percent of the teachers in a school to lose their jobs with the stipulation that they had to reapply. At that time I had already thought about the police, but kept things quiet. I can assure you that my first thought was would the police and others allow such a measure to severely impact on them. In the last year we have noticed the news about defunding and even eliminating the police. The police and their unions did not support the teachers back in NCLB days.

 I continue to support the police, but much more has to be done, especially since some police are a danger to our democracy as has been demonstrated in the violent attack on The Capitol.

And just minutes after writing this, I had to read about how Donald Trump delayed the help from arriving at The Capitol as frantic requests for help were made and little or nothing was done for hours. And Freddy Gray got arrested and he died? And a sitting president was sitting there doing nothing?

I had to do one more thing before ending this article. I had to skip to education pages so that I could support my theory about one way that America had gone wrong. It was information from 1960 and it revealed that only 20 percent of African Americans over the age of 25 had earned a high school diploma compared to 40 percent for White Americans. Things were getting better and in 1965 the numbers were 27 percent for African Americans and 50 percent for White Americans. And by 1970, there were 31 percent of African Americans who had earned a high school diploma. This is another book that I have encountered where the author had no inclination to research GED or high school equivalency. Lunacy! It’s true that more people back then could work with their hands and backs than later on, but education did matter back then and lots of things worsened for African Americans and the poor across America, setting up far too many of the problems that we still have today. So The Great Society’s failures have to be told as we tell the failures of Make America Great Again. And if something major isn’t done soon (after two decades of my attempt to wake up our nation), history will only continue to repeat itself. The GED was part of the Job Corps program, I learned only this morning. It was promoted during the “War on Poverty.” I also read that the unemployment rate for youth 16-24 years old rose steeply from the 1960s to the 1980s.

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1 Comment

  1. It’s a lot of words. But what’s the point? Things haven’t improved very much? The Great Society wasn’t so great? Policing hasn’t changed much? White cops are still killing AA kids. Actually, at the time, the Great Society represented huge changes in America. Today, Biden is about to make huge changes again. They may not meet with your approval, but they will be huge for most Americans. What you should be looking at is why the changes you want can’t be made.

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