Obama’s vs. LBJ’s Federal Budget

April 3, 2009

Former President Lyndon B. Johnson would turn over in his grave if he knew that  Congress has passed the mind-boggling  3.6 trilllion dollar  Federal Budget submitted by President Barack Obama.  Back in 1964,  he agonized  for weeks on how he could keep his FY1965 federal budget under 100 billion dollars. He had inherited an adminstrative budget recommended to President John F. Kennedy shortly before his death of $102.2 billion.  The revenue estimates were $93.1 billion. That left a deficit of $9 billion. Also seeking a tax cut, he knew that Congress would never grant one with a budget imbalance  of  that size. So as only he could do, LBJ pleaded, cajoled, and intimidated his staff and  Cabinet officers  to find cuts necessaryto reduce the budget to that magic 100 million number.  President Johnson was not to be denied. On January 8, 1964, he announced to Congress that he would present a budget of $97.9 billion–$4 billion less  than the previously submitted total.

Speaking to his budget staff later at the signing of the 1965 budget, he praised them for their historic efforts and took time to talk about his own frugality in cutting White  House expenses.

“Someone told me that the light bill in the White House ran several thousand dollars a month. I challanged Mr. (Jack) Valenti and my maid this morning when I left to turn off all those  lights on those chandeliers when there is no one on the house, Mrs. Johnson had gone to New York and  I was the only one there and I didn’t require that much light”

A few years later, three Austinites who served Johnson in the White House–Larry Temple, , Harry Middleton and the late George Christian  saw his pride in submitting a balanced budget for fiscal 1968.

 What a quaint idea.

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