Galbraith on the issues Following is a slightly shortened version of the speech delivered by John Kenneth Galbraith at the dinner for Ralph Yarborough in Houston, July 27. Houston Something has been missing in my life I have learned it tonight. I have never before been invited to a political unity dinner in Texas. In fact I had never before been invited to a political dinner in Texas. I attribute this to the new politics and also, maybe, to the kind of risk a momentarily defeated candidate can afford to take. Or maybe its the continuing miracle of Ralph Yarborough. We regard him in New England as you regard him in Texas as one of the most useful men ever to serve in the United States Senate… . But could I add one more serious, good word in the spirit of the evening. I’m glad that George McGovern has proposed a visit to L.B.J.; I very much hope that it comes off. Like McGovern I differed with President Johnson on the war. Like George, I know how deep was the rift. Like him, it makes me sad. I know that L.B.J. was the master of the old politics. I only hope that, where the poor and the oppressed and the black are concerned, that the new politics is as successful in getting action as he was with the old. If there is a new wind blowing through the Democratic Party, a lot of it began with Lyndon Johnson with the hopes he aroused and the participation that his civil rights legislation allowed and enforced. Let us also remember one other thing. A careful judgement might show that more members of the minority groups were at Miami because of the Johnson reforms than because of the McGovern reforms. Mention of Miami a name now synonymous with enlightened liberalism until August brings me to my subject for this evening. In these last weeks the columnists have been making much of the way the Democratic Party has been invaded by newcomers they even speak of a takeover. It is, I submit, another example of their non-prescience in this year of error another manifestation of the only immutable rule in American politics if Evans agrees with Novak and both agree with Joe Alsop it absolutely can’t be true. The Democratic Party has always been subject to invasion. It is the party to which newcomers Irish, Italians, Jews, the unions, most remarkably of all, the black and Mexican minorities as they turned on their onetime oppressors have always looked for a voice. And the invasions have always been unsettling to those who were there before. John Connally isn’t the first to bug out. There 16 The Texas Observer was a similar defection of Alf Landon. But we shall greatly misunderstand the present invasion unless we see that it involves ideas and not ethnic or identifiable economic groups. These ideas have upset what had been a very comfortable equilibrium. UNTIL A matter of five or six years ago, Democratic politics in the United States were in equilibrium. There was general agreement in the party on the foreign policy; there was general agreement, the issue of civil rights apart, on what to do here at home. Abroad our main task was to stand guard against Communism everywhere. To this end we invested in whatever ships, planes and weapons the Pentagon said it needed. The arms budget, like the wife of Ceasar and the sermons of the Rev. Billy Graham, was above debate. So, except for a few men like Gruening, Morse and McGovern and Yarborough was the Vietnam War. On domestic policy all agreed that the main task was to insure a steady rate of economic growth a steady expansion in the Gross National Product. No one defended the distribution of income from this production; the rich got much and were very rich. The poor got little and remained very poor. But no one suggested that anything painful should be done about it. With economic growth there would be a little more for the poor; and on judgment day, being undernourished, they would pass readily through the needle’s eye and on to their reward. This was the equilibrium on which the Democratic Party has found agreement. This is the equilibrium which in these last years has been so rudely shattered. What are the new ideas that challenge the basic solutions of the old equilibrium the things that were most taken for granted? On foreign policy, we no longer believe that we have a special mission to mount guard everywhere in the Third World against the threat of communism. We have learned the cost and futility of this mission from the Vietnam War. Ten years ago any suggestion that anything but anticommunism should be the basis of American foreign policy would have brought cries of treachery. This year’s Democratic platform urges the opening up of negotiations with Fidel Castro. We have learned that our power to intervene in Asia, Africa and Latin America is much less than we once imagined. We have also revised our ideas on our need to do so. The Soviets seem to be making a similar discovery in Egypt as they did earlier in Indonesia, Algeria and, of course, China. Along with a more rational foreign policy goes a more rational view of the military budget. In the past, the Democratic Party called automatically for sound national defense, the meaning of this usually being increased military appropriations. There is now agreement that we are spending excessively on arms and that this expenditure, in turn is the source of a dangerous military and industrial power within our society. The only real disagreement is over how much the cutback should be. Even Richard Nixon has got the message of the new foreign policy and the new military policy. Operating as usual, with both ears to the ground, he has been withdrawing troops from Vietnam, and he has made his famous pilgrimages to Peking and Moscow. It is my own guess that there is more to come. To be sure of winning next November, Mr. Nixon must, by then, have got us out of Vietnam. Faced with a choice between saving himself and saving General Thieu, Mr. Nixon will not hesitate. General Thieu will be thrown to the wolves or more accurately, reunited with his Swiss bank account. Let there be no wailing at the bar. THE SECOND disturbing new idea is that the distribution of income, wealth and privilege in the United States will no longer do. It can no longer be believed, as liberal Democrats have long assumed, that nothing need be done about it. We can no longer live with an income distribution in which one fifth of all families get 41.6 percent of the income and are also increasing their share. Something effective must be one about the redistribution of taxes and income which was bad before the Republicans made it worse; and effective action must be taken to reduce black unemployment which is far higher than for whites; and there must be similar action on unemployment of young people and especially of black youngsters where it comes to perhaps a third of that part of the labor force; and there must be effective improvement in the median income of all families matching the recent major improvement in incomes of those receiving profits and property income; and the median income of black families which is only 60 percent of that of whites must be greatly increased; and steps must be taken to arrest and reverse the slow increase, beginning in 1967, in families falling below the poverty line a total of 25.6 million families in 1971; and the fantastically high which fall below the poverty line must be reduced; and the earnings of working women \(the low level of which is a major
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