Back to the future, again
March 26, 2013
"Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country—they are America."
Proposed party platform planks: Strengthen and improve the … effectiveness of the unemployment insurance system.
Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of sex.
Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws.
Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex.
…protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public.
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Federal assistance for construction of hospitals.
Federal aid for medical care of the needy.
…authorized additional low-rent public housing.
As you read the above party platform planks, what is your reaction? Do you think, "Those are great goals; we need to work to achieve them." Or do you think, "More government interference in business; those goals are another example of the nanny state."
Someone very close to me said that his basic political philosophy is that "an emphasis on individual freedom and responsibility, free markets, weaker central government and stronger local government is a better and more fair way to distribute and govern limited resources." I think a great many Republicans and Tea Partiers would agree with that assessment. As I have written before, those principles were encompassed in the Articles of Confederation, our first national ruling government document, and they were an abject failure. That is why the founders had to go back to the drawing board and write the Constitution, deliberately giving more power to the federal government and allowing for regulation of the markets. I am constantly amazed at the ignorance many Republicans show about this phase of our history.
For those who thought the above planks were far too progressive or socialist, you might be surprised to know they were from the 1956 Republican national platform. The whole platform is a progressive document, standing on the side of workers, not corporations, and pledging government aid and support to achieve prosperity shared by all. The opening quote was from President Eisenhower, a man who would never be allowed anywhere near a leadership position in the Republican Party today.
Modern Republicans say they want smaller government, less spending, lower debt, etc., but not one Republican president from Nixon on has come close to fulfilling these goals. Eisenhower on taxes and spending: "We cannot afford to reduce taxes, reduce (government) income, until we have in sight a program of expenditure that shows that the factors of income and outgo will be balanced."
In contrast, Dick Cheney said, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." Every Republican president since Eisenhower has increased the size of government, and, of course, Reagan started us on the merry path of "Borrow and spend," tripling the national debt even as he lowered taxes. Republicans, including the recent crop of presidential candidates, have become so fiscally irresponsible that Eisenhower's words probably don't even make sense to them. If every Republican president in the last 44 years has increased the size of government and the national debt, why do the Republicans keep parroting their story that only they can fix our economic problems?
I was recently privileged to see the movie "Lincoln." As I watched the House of Representatives fight over whether slavery should be abolished, I kept thinking that if the labels of the two parties were reversed, this could be a scene taken out of the current House. The Republicans, led by Lincoln, were trying to do what was right for the country and for humanity. The Democrats kept arguing that economically, we just couldn't afford to free the slaves. Doing what was right was not even a consideration. Lincoln was even accused of being a tyrant. Today, of course, we can't believe this was even an issue. I hope that as we defeat the Republicans' attempts to obstruct our country's progress, someday our grandchildren will say that of course, in spite of the Republicans, we did overcome.
The last president to balance the budget and start paying down the debt was Clinton. Obama is now reducing government spending, even though he has to keep paying the bills that GW Bush put on our national credit card. The economy is improving in spite of Republican attempts to derail the recovery. Perhaps those Republicans who keep saying they want to "take our country back" should start by reading the 1956 Republican Party platform. That would be a great place to start.
Jeanette Strong's column appears every other Wednesday.