John F. Kennedy — and the nation — could indulge in an adventure like the Apollo program because we could afford it. In 1961, federal spending as a share of GDP was 18.4 percent. The Great Society was just a gleam in Vice-President Lyndon Johnson’s eye. Medicare would not be passed for four years. The economy was at the start of a boom.
Barack Obama has come too late — way too late for the sort of government over which he longs to preside. Federal spending as a share of GDP in 2010 was 43.09 percent. And under President Obama’s budget, the national debt will double by 2020. His address was oddly out of sync with our times — and internally contradictory as well. He sketched his dreams for high-speed rail, electric cars, new highways and infrastructure, better schools, and solar shingles — but then pivoted to propose a five-year freeze on annual domestic spending. (This, from the president who brought us the $862 billion stimulus.)