American history – Domestic Policy of John F. Kennedy

 Kennedy impressed on ‘New Frontiers’ during his campaigns. When he became President, a wave of reform was supposed to follow especially with the Democrats with the majority. However, what did happen was a slight shift to the left of Republicanism. Most of his proposals were eventually carried into law but in a very watered down form. Here are the major achievements of the administration:

  1. Trade Expansion Act:

In 1962, Kennedy asked Congress to pass a bill into law that would allow the executive to negotiate trade agreements for the country. He also wanted to reduce duties on goods and to let the government help the American companies in modernization and diversification to protect them. The bill was passed by Congress eventually but due to various interests, the administration did not have much power. This meant that they could not favor any socialist blocs which included China and Russia.

  1. Tax Revision:

Kennedy sought to give a 7% tax credit to businesses to stimulate the sluggish economy and to recover the losses by charging income tax on dividends and interests. This move was opposed by Congress and was eventually passed but without a majority of the original program. Congress did cut excise on train and bus fare and reduce excise on plane fare to 5%.

  1. Plan to fight recession:

Congress dropped Kennedy’s proposal to cut income tax by five percentage points for up to six months to fight recession without serious consideration. The president had argued that it would mean an extra $5 billion purchasing power.

  1. Unemployment and Social Security:

President Kennedy got a $435 million program approved by Congress to retain unemployed workers from sick industries. Congress also passed a scheme for emergency public works in areas of rising unemployment. Kenney also wanted to bring more employees under the Society Security Act which would enlarge payments and extend collection weeks but this was not approved by Congress.

  1. Agricultural Problems:

Congress rejected Kennedy’s proposal to toughen up production controls to solve the problem of agricultural surplus in 1962. Congress ultimately passed a compromise bill in 1963 which provided for tighter controls on wheat and food grains.

  1. Federal Aid to Education and Medicare:

President Kennedy wanted Congress to give federal aid for education in 1961 but as most of his fellow Catholics wanted the federal aid to go to parochial and private schools, the bill could not be passed. The Senate also defeated Kennedy’s proposals regarding Medicare which would provide for medical insurance for retired workers by pay-roll deductions.

  1. Regulation of Steel price:

The Administration was clear about not wanting the price of steel to increase in order not to affect their sale in the international market and the sluggish economy. However, in 1962, Roger Blough, Chairman of the United States Board of Steel informed Kennedy that the price of steel would increase. Kennedy condemned this price increase and threatened a Defence Department boycott of United States Steel and even announced a jury investigation into the price increase. As a result, the prices capitulated making this one of the more dramatic incidents to happen in the administration.

  1. The Civil Rights:

Kennedy sought to use executive over legislative action to protect the Civil Rights. He offered responsible appointments to black people, ended segregation in inter-city transport and secured their right to vote. In October 1962, Kennedy ordered Federal troops into Oxford Mississippi to protect the rights of black students. He also secured peaceable desegregation of schools and restaurants in the Southern Cities.

All of the above points make it clear that Kennedy had a lot of ideas and truly wanted to help the people but could not do so due to the attitude of Congress. Most of his proposals were rejected while the ones that were passed were so watered down that it defeated the purpose.