Do Something!

Action, action, action—that was the new administration's instinct. But six months into Kennedy's term, the success of his agenda still hinged on whether the economy would pick up enough to pay for it.

The first six months of the Kennedy administration have been hectic. There has been a high degree of improvisation, of trial and error, yet there is a pattern now visible in the Kennedy program, though its effectiveness is as much in doubt today as were the first results of the Roosevelt program nearly three decades ago.

In the domestic field, Kennedy’s pattern was evident even before his inauguration. The program which the 87th Congress has produced was foreordained in the Kennedy task-force reports and in the president’s messages to Congress. It is essentially a middle-of-the-road effort to “get this country moving again,” as candidate Kennedy so often said last year.

The longer-term measures, both those enacted and those so far stalled in the Congress, will have to be in effect for some time before they can be adequately evaluated. But none are radical departures from the moderate welfare measures which began under FDR and which the Republicans in the Eisenhower years concluded were here to stay. How many of Kennedy’s domestic proposals are enacted into law during the two sessions of the present Congress, the one this year and the one which will meet next January, will depend on a number of factors, among which the state of the federal Treasury is a prime consideration. Kennedy is relying on an upsurge in the economy which will bring in, at present tax rates, enough added revenue to finance his program.

The belief is that it can all be done with nothing more than creeping inflation, though the conservative economists and politicians in Washington are highly skeptical of this. But if revenues are on the increase, the result undoubtedly will answer the cries of “How will you pay for it?” which have been hurled at every new spending measure.

In the past couple of years, there has been a growing acceptance of the thesis that the federal government has a major responsibility for improving the public sector of the economy—schools, highways, hospitals, and public works of all kinds which individuals alone cannot handle and which states and local communities are unable to finance. The groans of the homeowner over increasing local real-estate taxes in every corner of the nation have accelerated this process.