Don Hunstein was the staff photographer for Columbia in the early to mid 1960′s and worked with well known art directors at the label like John Berg and Bob Cato. In the LP era the album cover was a complementary narrative to the music, an art lost in the download age. At the time, New York really was the creative center of the universe. But they were tormented times, modern but hardly post modern; progressive and optimistic but the waters were burbling, and as Dylan sang, “the times they were a changin’.”
At Barry Goldwater’s acceptance speech, he said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” There were opposing forces of domestic politics and foreign intervention which meant war. Hunstein’s photos seem to capture the pause between the mythology of Kennedy and the leap into Vietnam.
Lyndon Johnson was at the helm when Dylan was recording much of his seminal 60′s material. Johnson’s Great Society plan, involved a great deal of new social programs, a platform which needed a large amount of funding that would only come from higher taxes. Another factor in this was the conflict in Vietnam, which quickly became costly for the Americans. The context for much of the tension was Johnson’s refusal to move the needle on the taxation issue which contributed to his social programs largely failing, and his choice to emphasize Vietnam was detrimental for his approval ratings. We were entering an era where problems were becoming more complex, and the President and his advisers inability to understand them comprehensively, and translate them into a dialogue with the electorate became an enduring legacy continuing to this day.
The Watts riots, in the summer of 1965, made it apparent that the big-city black ghettos were in dire straits, and almost immediately the ghettos became the central domestic issue. Rather than being caught unprepared, the government already had at least part of the supposed solution in place–the War on Povertypart of the Great Society, which Johnson had declared in January of 1964, when there was basically no political pressure on the government to act on ghettos or poverty.
At this time there were also smart if somewhat populist and pessimistic economists such as Lester Thurow and John Kenneth Galbraith put forth argument advocating more government control of the economy. Part of the premise was a bleak perspective on the future and more regulation would be the only way to corral corporations into serving the public interest in a meaningful way. This was the beginning of the counter movement, the neo-cons and Reaganites which eventually had their finest hour.
The “godfather” of these neoconservatives was Irving Kristol, who like many had been some variant of socialist. He defined a neoconservative as “a liberal who was mugged by reality.”; the same spirit that began to permeate Johnson politics when ideals, even though commonsense and of a practical tilt tried to establish themselves on an unwilling electorate.Something like the Robert Heinlein quote, ”Never try to teach a pig to sing. It’s a waste of time and besides it annoys the pig.” Lesther Thurow responded to Kristol by defining a neo-liberal as, “A liberal who was mugged by reality, but who has declined to press charges.”
The kind of document that represents, or articulates Johnson’s concerns was the report by Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” published by the Department of Labor in 1965. Moynihan asserted that the restoration of the dissolving family structure of blacks was more important than any government policies to remediate poverty. These were folowed by other attacks on the “war on poverty”, or rather its inability to deal with the core problems, which implied an issue with welfare payments.
In 1964, armed with a brand-new Ph.D. in economics and having just gone to work for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, I was given the task, at what I was told were the direct personal orders of President Johnson, of going through the Economic Report of the President and making sure that the words “welfare’ and “income transfer payments’ never appeared and never were associated with Johnson’s Great Society programs. In Johnson’s view, the Great Society programs (more education, more manpower training, less discrimination, more jobs) were to help people earn their own incomes. They were not income transfer payments designed to give anyone an income without work. At the time I remember thinking that I had been given a rather silly task. I no longer believe it was.
Looking back at Roosevelt and the New Deal, the same beliefs were firmly held. It was all right to provide relief for those who could not work (the elderly, the handicapped, the sick), and it was all right to give temporary relief to those who had previously been working and who had been thrown out of work (unemployment insurance), but permanent general welfare programs were never part of the New Deal ideology. Instead, jobs were provided. In 1938, 4.3 million people were employed in agencies such as the Works Projects Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the National Youth Administration. To employ the same fraction of the labor force today, more than 9 million jobs would have to be provided.
If one asks why the Democratic Party shifted from being a party with an emphasis on jobs and an opening up of opportunities for higher earnings to being seen as a party identified with higher welfare payments, there is an interesting story to be told. While one would think that there would be less political resistance to job programs than there would be to welfare programs (and that is true for the general amorphous public), precisely the reverse is true when it comes to special-interest groups. Most of these special-interest groups are producer groups, and they are much more willing to see general tax revenue go for expanded welfare programs than they are to see government actively working to create jobs or working to alter the distribution of earnings. Producer groups pay only part of the higher taxes necessary to finance more welfare payments, but any restructuring of the economy to produce more jobs or a more equal distribution of earnings directly threatens their current position. Read More:http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1316/is_v17/ai_4003679/
Lyndon Johnson: “He is trying to put himself into a position of leadership among liberal Senators, newspapermen, foundation executives, and the like. Most of these people mistrusted him in the past, believing him (rightly) to be a man of narrow sensibilities and totalitarian instincts….as we know the intellectuals are as easy a lay as can be found. I can imagine them believing that, although Bobby is an absolutist with little sense of the subtle shadings of an argument, and little tolerance for those who cross him, they can still use him to get across radical ideas….The Kennedys are handsome and dashing, they support fashionable artists, and they can pay for almost anything. They support a great many good causes. And to some people even their rudeness and ruthlessness is exciting.” Read More:http://www.theatlantic.com/past/politics/poverty/lemunf2.htma