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Was JFK developing an "Industrial Policy?"

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Often we talk about foreign policy and the Cold War, when trying to connect the assassination with other longer-term structural events in American History. And there is every reason to, given the vast difference between JFK and LBJ over Vietnam, Indonesia, Latin America, the USSR, and Africa.

Less is said about differences between the two in domestic econonomic policy, although this was very connected to foreign policy were at this zenith of US global intervention.

I am wondering if JFK's enemies may have perceived him as moving the US towards some sort of Industrial Policy, by which I mean a stronger role for the national government in supporting industrial research and development, and less of a reliance on free-market rhetoric.

Lately I have come to the view that there is much more evidence to support this view than I initially believed, but first I was wondering if this strikes a chord with anyone else.

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  • 3 years later...

Ok... fine!

What do you make of this Conspiracy Theory of Henry Luce's from April of 1962? Oh I forgot. Some conspiracy theories get called the news.


"The depth of corporate hostility toward Kennedy after the steel crisis can be seen by an unsigned editorial in Fortune, media czar Henry Luce's magazine for the most fortunate. The editors of Fortune knew the decision to raise steel prices had been made by the executive committee of U.S. Steel's board of directors. It included top-level officers from other huge finanical instututions, such as the Morgan Guaranty Trust COmpany, the First National City Bank of New York, the Prudential Insurance Company , The Ford Foundation, and AT&T.(32) When Roger Blough handed U.S. Steel's provocative press release to the president, he did so on behalf of not only U.S. Steel but also these other financial giants in the United States. The Fortune editorail therefore posed an intrigueing question: Why did the financial interstes behind US.S. Steel announce the price increase in sucha a way ast to deliberately "provoke the President of the U.S. into a vitriolic and demgogic assualt?"(33)

With the authority of an insider's knowledge that it denied having, Fortune answered its own question: "There is a theory--unsupported by an y direct evidence-- that Blough was acting as a 'business statesman' rather than as a busenessman judging his market" According to "this theory," Kennedy's prior appeal to steel executives not to raise prices, leading to the contract settlement between the company and the union, had "poised over the industy a threat of 'jawbone control' of prices. For the sake of his company, the industry , and the nation, Bough sought a way to break through the bland 'harmony' that has recently prevailed between government and business." (34)

In plainer language, the president was acting too much like a president, rather than just another officeholder beholden to the powers that be. U.S. Steel on behalf of still higher financial interests therefore taunted Kennedy so as to present him with a dilemma: he either had to accept the price hike and lose redibility, or react as he did with power to roll back the incrase and therey unite the business world against him. His unswerving activist response then served to confirm the worst fears of corporate America: "That the threat of 'jawbone control' was no mere bugaboo was borne out by the tone of PResident Kennedy's reaction and the threats of general business harassment by government that followed the 'affront' (35)

Thus the steel crisis, in Fortune's view, threatened to propel an activist anti-business president toward a fate like that of Julius Ceasear. As Shakespeare had it, Caesar was warned o f his coming assassination by a soothdsayer: "Beware the ides of March." Fortune gave Kennedy a deadly warning of its own by the title of its editorial: "Steel: The Ides of April."

Robert Kennedy's Justice Depearment continued its anti-trust anvestigation into the steel companies. U.S. Steel and seven other companies were eventually forced to pay maximum fines in 1965 for their price-fixing activities between 1955 and 1961.(36) The Steel Crisis defined John and Robert Kennedy as Wall Street enemies. The president was seen as a state dictator. As the Wall Street Jurnal put it oin the week after Big Steel surrendered to the Kennedys, "The Government set the price. And it did this by the pressure of rear--by naked power, by threats, by agents of the state security police." (37) U.S. News and World Report gave prominance in its April 30, 1962, issue to an anti-Kennedy article on "Planned Economy that suggested the president was acting like a Soviet commissar.(38)-- JFK and the Unspeakable, pp. 140-141

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Guest Tom Scully

Nathaniel, I wish you luck in attempting to drum up a discussion on this topic. Several weeks ago, I posted this on the Cord Meyer thread. It is a description of the man who was said to have negotiated a withdrawal of steel price hikes on behalf of the Kennedy administration. There was no interest.

HAROLD L. KORDA, FINANCIER, DIES; Was Little-Known Adviser...

New York Times - May 3, 1967

Harold L. Korda, a financier who had been an assistant and adviser to political figures, died of cancer ... His age was 46. ... His anonymity was by design.

This forum is mostly a fanzine. Rarely is anything posted that influences others to build on research presented. You keep posting the way you tend to, and they'll mostly hone in on "stuff" like

Its a Kennedy,find MUD throw MUD

You know, the real meat and potatoes, let's get this solved, kind of discussion.......

Its a Kennedy,find MUD throw MUD

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I first only heard of the Steel Crisis of 1962 when I read Douglass' book last year. This never came up in my schooling from 30 years ago (elementary-middle-HS) and I'm betting it's not taught in our schools today. Why is that? Every child at least in HS should be given the history of the Steel Crisis.

Amazing the 'balls' JFK had in going after industrial giants like these. It would be the equivelent of say W or Obama going after Wall Street CEOs during the whole economic collapse. I guess JFK getting his head blown off showed those 2 guys who not to mess with. They got their point across to future presidents.

As for Industrial Policy, maybe you have something there. Seems like a lot of plans JFK had for his 2nd term are rare to find. Most of them we know from his secretary Evelyn Lincoln , i.e. New VP Canidate in 64, JFK wanted to make politics an honorable pursuit again for young people, getting out of Vietnam. The man did have some big ideas for his 2nd term which he obviously couldn't do in his first without the risk of not being re-elected. Will have to research this angle more.

One of my favorite JFK quotes out of that Steel Crisis in 62 :

'My father always told me that all businessmen were sons of bitches, but I never believed it till now.' - John F. Kennedy

They're still all sons of bitches Mr. President. Even more so now then when you were alive. At least back then we had guys like you who defended us. Now everyone who runs for President is bought off before he/she takes the office. R.I.P. Jack. We'll never forget what you did for us.

Edited by Rodney Rivers
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Rodney, yes this is certainly a great contrast with the post 1968 Democrats. who never give a full-throated defense of their philosophy [more recently IMO that is because they don't have a philosophy other than the Republicans' and the Dems are just playing the role of Sirhan's ""defense"" lawyer] More and more I see the JFK years as the division point between Industrial Capitalism and finance capitalism. And Tom perhaps it would help if I elaborated on what I mean by Industrial policy. This means greater government involvement in promoting economic planning, while still capitalism. Kind of similar to Japan and European style capitalism, some argue.


Kennedy's answer to David [in the 1962 Life Magazine face-off] while confident in tone , was defensive in substance. The president insisted that the economy's basic position was strong....But where Kennedy perhaps inadvertently, touched a raw nerve was in the area of corporate America's hidden wealth abroad. While reassuring the United States foremost international banker that he had no plans to restrict the flight of private capital, Kennedy insisted that "our tax laws should surely not encourage the export of dollars by premitting 'tax havens' and other undue preferences"

The President had struck home. The Rockefellers had many such tax havens abroad. Small Caribbean "brass plate" banks, large Swiss commercial banks, and vaguely named private investment firms in small countries like Luxembourg overflowed with American cash, precious metals ,a most important for tax purposes, portfolios of stock holdings in foreign companies. Most large American corporations doing business overseas also "parked" their profits in foreign commercial banks under the names of wholly owned subsidiaries or limited partnerships, and often in foreign subsidiaries or megabanks like David's Chase Manhattan. The Rockefellers' top financial aide, J. Richardson Dilworth, was a director of two Luxembourg holding companies with investments in Latin America and oversaw the investment firms of the International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC) in Colombia, Brazil, Peru, and other countries. In addition, IBEC's American Overseas Finance Company held over $26 million worth of holdings in twenty-nine countries.

Kennedy's 1962 tax bill directly challenged these tax benefits by removing the distinction between repatriated profits and profits reinvested abroad, making both taxable. It also brought under the scrutiny of the Internal Revenue Service revenues "parked" in overseas tax havens by subsidiary companies." Thy Will Be Done, pp. 402-3

Edited by Nathaniel Heidenheimer
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