Friday, August 23, 2013


August 23, 2013


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) President John F. Kennedy introduced a tax cut bill calling for a $13.5 billion tax reduction in his State of the Union address in January 1963.

Fifty years ago today, August 23, 1963, with the tax bill still languishing in Congress, JFK said to Lou Harris* in a private telephone call from the White House...

"I'm afraid the Republicans are going to try to put a limitation on (the tax bill).
 God, they're obstructionists! I haven't really talked much about them..."

                     JFK on Telephone
                           Oval Office
                    JFK Library Photo

*Louis Harris, born in New Haven, CT in 1921, studied economics at the University of North Carolina.  He began work in public opinion and marketing research in 1947.  Harris was the 1st presidential pollster.

Harris worked in the 1960 Kennedy campaign and from 1969 to 1972 was director of the Time Magazine-Harris Poll.  Mr. Harris retired in 1992.

JFK's proposal called for a reduction of 26% at the top and a 6% reduction at the bottom.  Those Americans with the highest incomes were paying income tax at a 91%  rate, while those with the lowest were paying 20%.

If enacted, the JFK tax bill would have lowered the top rate to 65% and the low rate to 14%.

In addition, the corporate tax rate would have been lowered from 52% to 47%.

The goal of these proposed tax cuts was to raise personal incomes, increase consumption and capital investments resulting in increased employment.

According to "Economics: Concepts and Choices," published by McDougal Littell...

"Some economists...believe that high taxes reduce incentives to work.  They suggest that people may spend more time on activities other than work if a large percentage of their income goes to taxes."

Three months after JFK's death, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the REVENUE ACT of 1964, a.k.a. the Tax Reduction Act.

The act cut individual income taxes across the board by 20%, and reduced the top rate to 70% and the corporate rate to 48%.

As a result, unemployment fell from 5.2% in 1964 to 3.8% in 1966.

                    The Kennedy Brothers
                           August 23, 1963
                 Photo by Cecil Stoughton
                      JFK Library Image

President Kennedy was on the telephone several times during the day.  He spoke with Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations,  Frederick G. Dutton, about hearings on the treaty banning nuclear testing in the atmosphere.

JFK also discussed the railroad workers rules dispute with Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz.

It had been a busy Friday at the White House so JFK was looking forward to a relaxing weekend at the Cape.

He was greeted by Caroline and John John at Otis Air Force Base in Squaw Island, Massachusetts who joined him for the short helicopter flight to the Kennedy Compound.


"Economics: Concepts and Choices," Sally Meek, John Morton and Mark C. Schug, Senior Consultants, McDougal Littell, Evanston, IL., 2008.