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Kennedy’s presidential campaign plan and a set of domestic programs offered by Johnson were undoubtedly the most comprehensive social initiatives since the enactment of the New Deal federal programs. Both Presidents sought to resolve significant challenges, which America faced at that time, including space race, discrimination, unemployment, and poverty. Despite the fact that the Presidents’ approaches to the issues and the amount of success and approval of reforms greatly varied when dealing with issues, their programs have played a crucial role in shaping America’s public policy. Today, the USA experiences consequences from the domestic promising programs offered by the authoritative leaders in the 60s. The democrats’ tenure in the White House lasted for eight years since 1961 till 1969. The Democratic domestic policy was based on important liberal reforms. Kennedy tried to deal with the opposition in Congress concerning his New Frontier plans until assassination, when Johnson took office and pushed the proposed reforms of his predecessor under the auspices of what he called the Great Society.
John Kennedy used the term “The New Frontier” in his speech at the National Convention, where he was chosen as the Presidential nominee from the Democratic Party (Conley 147). The term referred to the policy conducted by the Kennedy’s administration overseas and at home. The most memorable achievement of the internal presidential initiatives was a human visit to the moon in the 60s. Although Kennedy did not live up to this event, the space program has long been considered as a national priority, implemented by his successors.
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The most significant economic accomplishment of the New Frontier initiatives was the enactment of amendments to the federal statute, Fair Labor Standards Act. In 1961, the passage of these amendments helped to raise the minimum wage from $1 per hour to $1.25 (Vogel 16) and provided more power to government in regulating salaries and labor standards for large business. Other economic achievements meant the reduction of trade tariffs with foreign nation-states and the ratification of legislation aimed at reducing unemployment and creating affordable housing. Other reform efforts were not as successful.
Despite the fact that Kennedy proposed legislation that would have promoted the affordability of medical careand other laws that would have provided equal rights to minority groups, the U.S. legislation never ratified these initiatives during Kennedy’s tenure.
Domestic programs proposed by the President Johnson in 1964 were more successful since the Congress passed legislation that could deal with these significant issues. According to DiBacco, Johnson’s programs did not end poverty (510). However, the President’s initiatives significantly reduced them.
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The Kennedy’s New Frontier tried to accomplish many of its initiatives. However, the Johnson’s Great Society realized most of them passing important legislation freely and successfully. It helped to create social programs and numerous agencies to guide them. Under the Great Society, various environmental regulations were passed. Moreover, the passage of the Voting Rights Act as well as the Civil Rights Act guaranteed that minority groups received the same rights as other representatives of the U.S. society. Though the Great Society programs failed to eliminate poverty, it created a variety of programs and services that Americans use today and take for granted. Therefore, it was the most successful accomplishment. With no doubts, if John Kennedy had lived longer, he would have realized most of his promising programs. Therefore, many ideas left to Johnson, who was more concerned with implementing his own reforms.
Lyndon Johnson quickly took the presidential office. Despite the Senate’s conservative voting, the President re-acquainted with the liberal roots and funded the large reform agenda since the domestic programs introduced by Roosevelt in 1933. After the Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Johnson was supposed to complete the unfinished New Frontier programs. Moreover, he had less than a year before the elections of 1964 to prove to the U.S. citizens his desire and right to become a new President of the U.S. The Congress passed the important legislation. The Civil Rights Bill that Kennedy promised to sign was passed into law after his death. It prohibited discrimination based on gender, race and ended segregation in public places.
According to Blaustein, Johnson as the President signed the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964 (85). The law established the eponymous office aimed at eliminating poverty in the U.S. In addition, educational institutions in impoverished regions could get help from teachers and volunteers. Federal funds were sent to struggling and needy communities to fight illiteracy and unemployment. During his campaign in 1964, Lyndon Johnson started his war on poverty. He challenged millions of citizens to build a Great Society that could eliminate woes of poor people.
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Under the Johnson presidency, the U.S. liberalism was at high tide. In order to pass his agenda, the President as the experienced legislator used his strong personality and connections in Congress. According to Dallek, Johnson was pleased with accomplishments he had made by 1966 (327). However, in the course of time, events occurring in Southeast Asia overshadowed the President’s achievements. Funds that he was supposed to spend on fighting with poverty were spent on the war in Vietnam. Conservatives slandered Johnson for his domestic policy. Liberals also blamed the President for the hawkish stance on the war in Vietnam. Johnson’s hopes to leave a legacy of internal reforms had been in serious jeopardy by 1968.
Structural issues in a free market system, mentality among poor Americans, and misconceptions of the middle-class citizens about the issues led to increase of poverty after the Second World War. Moreover, the Johnson’s Great Society could not eliminate social problems. The free market system generated poverty as other individuals progressed towards wealth. Johnson’s programs failed since they could not manage deficiencies in the system of free market. Postwar poverty led to the demoralized mentality of poor Americans. Ongoing plight was evident.
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