Presidents not worthy of celebrating

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Guest Writer Rob Sussman, Delaware 105.9

President’s Day. Washington’s birthday, now used as a generic “holiday” to honor both the incumbent president and all who have served in the role.

But what if some are not worthy of honor? What if some implemented policy so horrible, so utterly disastrous both morally and politically that the destruction caused in their wake cannot possibly be repaired? If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about one Lyndon Baines Johnson: bar none the worst man to have served in the office.

Almost every single thing that can be readily identified as a problem today can be directly traced back to the American tragedy that was the administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Soaring medical costs? Johnson. Endless, undeclared war based at least partially on outright lies? Johnson. Illegal immigration? Johnson. Participation trophies? Johnson. The cost of higher education? You guessed it, Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The devastation wrought by Johnson and his “Great Society” is easy enough to see. Go look at any chart that tracks healthcare spending in the United States over time. In the immediate aftermath of Johnson’s terrible Social Security Act of 1965 (remember the year 1965, it will come back later), two now-household names were established: Medicare and Medicaid. Regardless of your thoughts on these programs, the numbers don’t lie: they’re one of the biggest reasons for increased medical costs in the United States.

By establishing a buyer’s monopoly on healthcare costs in the US, jacking up demand for services through both Medicare and Medicaid, and then summarily underpaying providers for services, the government created upward price pressure on medical providers. This led, eventually, to an increase in costs for private health insurance plans (after all, someone has to make up for the underpayments), and led to a trend of consolidation in the healthcare field. In 2016, Medicare and Medicaid underpaid US hospitals to the tune of $68.8 billion. Did those hospitals ever get that money? Not directly, but someone is making up for it! That someone is the privately insured patient. Thanks, Lyndon!

But was turning the American healthcare system into a smoldering crater of ruin enough for the terror that was Lyndon Baines Johnson? Absolutely not. Higher education had to go, too. The Higher Education Act of 1965 established the Federal Student Loan program. Great, right? No! The Federal Student Loan program allows colleges and universities to mitigate the impact increased tuition would otherwise have on enrollment, and as such directly incentivizes schools to do so. It’s been linked in dozens of studies to increased education costs in the US (most recently in a 2017 study from the Federal Reserve Bank of NY, Brigham Young University, and Harvard). Another Johnson winner.

We’ve been at war in the middle east for so long that the sons of the men first sent to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan back in 2001 are now fighting in the exact same war their fathers did 18 years later. This is the result of a foreign policy paradigm first set by the bloodthirsty Lyndon Baines Johnson thanks to 1964’s Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which allowed for the use of force in Southeast Asia without a formal declaration of war. The resolution was, of course, based on the Gulf of Tonkin incident in which American ships were allegedly targeted by North Vietnamese gunboats. There’s one problem: the incident may not have ever actually happened at all. Most recent research comes to the conclusion that the event was at best heavily distorted to justify American intervention in Vietnam, and at worst an outright fabrication. A fabrication that, according to recordings released in Michael Beschloss in 2001, Johnson knew about.

We know the history behind the Vietnam war. There was a draft. It was immensely unpopular. Thousands of American men died for nothing, based on a lie. After that, a rapid shift to an all-volunteer military meant that the government could now undertake dumb international police actions without having to worry about massive, 60’s style public pushback. Plus, thanks to the precedent set by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: the government never has to ask for a declaration of war again! “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?” Thousands. Thousands and thousands, and the numbers keep growing.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of–you guessed it–1965 was another Johnsonian disaster. A disaster so widespread and impactful that its direct consequences are arguably our most contentious political issue today, 54 years after its signing.  By getting rid of the National Origins Formula, while numerically restricting immigration from the western hemisphere, Johnson created a massive incentive for workers from Latin America to cross the southern border illegally to satisfy the demands of US companies desperate for low-cost labor. This act almost single handedly kicked off the largest illegal immigration wave this country has ever seen, and it’s all thanks to Lyndon Baines Johnson: a man whose 64 years on this Earth is the strongest available proof that God exists and is extremely angry at us.

I haven’t touched on the Presidential Fitness Award: arguably the first “participation trophy” distributed en masse. I haven’t even approached the myriad of Kennedy Assassination conspiracy theories that implicate LBJ. In fact, I’ve barely scratched the surface of how terrible the eldritch horror given the mortal name “Lyndon Baines Johnson” truly was for the United States. All I know is that in a better world, Donald Trump would be the 44th President of the United States and my great uncle David wouldn’t have died in Quang Nam.

In your heart you know he’s right: vote Barry Goldwater in 1964.

 

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