Surrebuttal On President Biden and LBJ

Reading rebuttals in our local paper are always interesting and fun because they appear when you touch a nerve or come a little too close to the truth with the original letter.  With all that has happened in recent politics, residents often offer correct assessments of President Biden’s handling of the economy and events on the world stage.  The rebuttals are predictably short on facts, personal attacks, and read like nothing more than emotional talking points.  But it is facts that win the day, and the facts are real and ugly.

To offer a surrebuttal (a rebuttal to a rebuttal) of those responses we can only offer this.  Any trip to the grocery store, gas station, or restaurant forces us to all feel the current economic pain.  Any news report recapping events in Afghanistan or Ukraine are constant reminders of blunders on the world stage.  Any report on schools now involves emotional attacks by the far left on issues like gender reassignment surgery, school curriculum, and teacher malfeasance.  Parents are now in revolt against school boards and teachers who are trying to shape the minds of their children in undesirable ways.

Our current mess with Executive power and budget deficits has its genesis with Lyndon Johnson and his “Great Society” programs.  President Johnson ignored all historical precedents and tried to prove you could have both “Guns and Butter.”  This arrogance led to the financing of the Vietnam War.  It has served as a model for unsustainable social programs and set a precedent for future Presidents and politicians to finance rather than pay for their actions.  Successors to LBJ have compounded these issues from Administration to Administration, and Congress to Congress.

Both parties share blame for not halting the reckless spending.  Every Administration and Congress inherits from its predecessor a set of conditions it must deal with during its tenure.  To get elected they always promise to fix them, they never do!  As a fifty-year veteran of Washington politics, President Biden is a master of this game.

When wars and social programs are financed rather than paid for through taxes, there is no shared sacrifice, no accountability, and they become political events alone.  When Congressional actions are not paid for by the current generation (or ever) politicians are more likely to vote for anything that will garner votes.  This disconnection between actions and accountability is at the root of our societal conflicts.

All politicians run for office and serve with their eyes wide open.  Post-election they rarely acknowledge that they knew or understood what was in store when seeking power.  Voters are little better because they will vote for politicians who promise lower taxes and to “kick the financial can down the road.”  As voters we need to demand accountability to fix these issues.  We also need to be ready to suffer pain through higher taxes to get the financial underpinnings of our nation back in order.  For voters this may involve new concepts like voting the most qualified person into office regardless of party.

In an 1814 letter to his son John Quincy Adams, John Adams detailed his concerns for trends he saw emerging in the nation because of affluence:

“I believe you have often heard me Say that human Nature cannot bear Prosperity. It invariably intoxicates Individuals and Nations.  Adversity is the great Reformer.  Affliction is the purifying furnace.  Prosperity has thrown our dear America into an easy trance for 30 years.  The dear delights of Riches and Luxury have drowned all her intellectual and physical Energies.”

Politicians need to understand that if you want the job, you must prove you can do it once you are there.  No excuses, no blaming your predecessors, or the other party, nor foreigners.  This is especially true with the job of President of the United States.  This is the most powerful position in the world.  As President you have vast resources at your disposal, and you cannot blame others for your failures.  Once President Biden took the oath of office, he owned the actions of the Executive Branch from that point forward.  As the leader of his Party, he owns the agenda brought forward.  The Afghanistan withdrawal led to tragic loss of life that did not have to happen.  This disaster opened the door for Russia and China to advance a radical agenda as we signaled weakness on the world stage.  Sadly, President Biden now has the blood of thousands of Ukrainians and several of our own service members on his hands.  These are his decisions, and he must own them!

The pandemic brought on challenges on all fronts.  Historically President Trump will get high marks for his removal of red tape to get the vaccines done and the first round of financial relief, and poor marks for communications.  President Trump always is all about himself first, even though he is genuinely patriotic.

President Biden and the sitting Congress must own all the recent budgetary disasters.  The Democratic Administration and Congress have put us into a financial hole for which there may be no return.  They must own their actions, no excuses!  They inherited a financial mess that originated with LBJ, and then compounded the problem with unprecedented deficit spending in a time of shortages of goods.  History tells us this always leads to inflation.

As voters and citizens, we need to be ready to vote in a new regime, pay higher taxes, and sacrifice for the nation.  We also need a taxation system that requires all citizens to pay income taxes.  Paying income taxes is a shared sacrifice and even if one pays only a little, they feel a part of the solution and not the problem.  This also has the positive effect of not separating citizens between net payers versus net receivers.

If John Adams were alive today to see his observations and admonitions come true, he would be sad indeed.  We must not let our prosperity overshadow our need for responsibility and shared sacrifice.  If we do, then the consequences may be dire.

DISCLOSURE: This commentary is being communicated as general information and observations only and should not be taken as investment advice.  It is not investment research or a research recommendation, as it does not constitute material research or analysis.  The actions that you take as a result of information contained in this document are ultimately your responsibility.