Thursday, February 18, 2010

Square Deal, New Deal, Fair Deal, Raw Deal: What's it gonna be?

Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.
 - Theodore Roosevelt
One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment... If it doesn't turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.
 - Franklin D. Roosevelt
You can always amend a big plan, but you can never expand a little one. I don't believe in little plans. I believe in plans big enough to meet a situation which we can't possibly foresee now.
- Harry S Truman

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In 1904, Teddy Roosevelt used the term "square deal" to push the quaint notion that no one business or individual or organization should have an unfair advantage over the other.  He was a trust-buster who wasn't anti-trust. All trusts were not bad, they just needed watching.  "Somehow or other," he said, "we shall have to work out methods of controlling the big corporations without paralyzing the energies of the business community...".  
 
After Upton Sinclair wrote "The Jungle", exposing horrific conditions in the meat-packing industry, TR  pushed and passed the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act.  The conservative Republicans fought against it.
 
When railroad rates went skyward, Roosevelt endorsed the Hepburn Act, which gave the Interstate Commerce Commission the authority to set rates.  The conservative Republicans gutted the bill and gave more power to the courts to "fix" the problem.

The Employer Liability Act of 1906 was put forward to address worker injuries after 27,000 workers died in job related accidents in 1904 and 50,000 job-related accidents were reported in New York factories alone. It was declared unconstitutional by--guess who?  The Republicans. (A revised, watered-down version finally passed in 1908.)
"In the vast and complicated mechanism of our modern civilized life, the dominant note is the note of industrialism, and the relations of capital and labor, and especially of organized capital and organized labor, to each other, and to the public at large, come second in importance only to the intimate questions of family life. . . I believe that under modern industrial conditions it is often necessary, and even where not necessary it is yet often wise, that there should be organization of labor in order better to secure the rights of the individual wage-worker. All encouragement should be given to any such organization so long as it is conducted with a due and decent regard for the rights of others "  (TR, State of  the Union address, 1904

Guess who hated that idea?  The Republicans.

When Teddy's cousin Eleanor's husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt, became president a quarter of a century later, he took many of Teddy's Square Deal ideas and expanded them into the Depression era New Deal.  In FDR's First Hundred Days, he was a human whirlwind, sweeping through emergency reforms and programs that did far more than simply putting Republican-endorsed bandaids on gaping wounds.  He regulated the stock markets, abandoned the gold standard, guaranteed bank deposits, put tight banking controls in place, created federal jobs programs, gave immediate aid to the poor, and approved the legalization of 3.2 beer. 

Guess who fought him every step of the way?  The Republicans.  (Okay, maybe not the beer idea.)

When Harry S Truman, believing that the government should be in the business of guaranteeing economic opportunity and social stability, tried to build on the New Deal with a program called the Fair Deal, he ran into--guess what?--"fierce political opposition from conservative legislators determined to reduce the role of government".  The G.I Bill passed, as did de-segregation in the military and anti-discrimination in Federal programs, a slight minimum wage increase, and some expansion of Social Security and housing programs, but by the end of his second term most of his 21-point program, including national health insurance, unfair employment practices, greater unemployment compensation and housing assistance, had been decimated by--guess who?  The Republicans.

Still, through the 50s, 60s and 70s, union membership--and wages and benefits--grew, and regulations and watchdogging kept banking and businesses in check.  They were our golden years of prosperity.  We had a working class.  We had a middle class.  We also had a wealthy class who weren't suffering in the least.

Then Ronald Reagan, he of the boyish grin and nonsensical motto ("The best government is no government"), became the leader of the country, and for eight long years he worked at disproving his own point.  He and his cohorts worked diligently at stripping every last reform and regulation that might put a stopper on the activities of Big Business.  It took a long time for the Republicans to accomplish all they wanted to do, but by the end of George W. Bush's eight years, in 2009, Big Business had no fear.  They were running the country, at long last.

Barack Obama and most of the Democrats thought they could change all that.  By Inauguration Day, 2009,  it should have been clear to anyone with eyes that the Government of Big Business was a complete and total failure.  Renegade banking policies exposed as corporate theft, jobs gone overseas never to be seen again, unemployment and underemployment at record levels, sick people dying without health care, houses that used to be homes sitting empty, tent cities popping up. . .the evidence is slapping us in the face even today, trying without success to bring us to our senses.

We cannot survive without emergency governmental programs patterned after the Square Deal, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Great Society--people programs that give aid and comfort to the many who so desperately need them. We cannot exist as a powerhouse without busting the stranglehold of the corporatocracy and returning democracy to its rightful place.  

But let's face it:  Every governmental program that benefits the people at large is obstructed or defeated by the Republican party.  At first mention of any plan that takes away from Big Business in order to give to the people, the battle lines are drawn and the forces against it rise like the Mongols under Genghis Khan. 

Their strategy is to overwhelm us when we're looking the other way.   They scatter divisive issues among us, like religion and communism and abortion and taxes and elusive presidential birth certificates and death sentences for our grandmothers, and while we're preoccupied with the stuff that makes us really, really mad, they rob us blind and revel in the spoils.

It's been a long time since Genghis and the mongols roamed the earth burning and pillaging.  Most of us here in the United States no longer live in isolated villages far from the protections of civilization.  We are savvy now.  We can read and write and use Google.  By rights, we should be long past being duped, but even as I write this the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) is in the midst of their annual convention.  Glenn Beck is scheduled to be their keynote speaker, and it promises to be a fine day for Tea Parties.  According to Gail Collins in her aptly titled (and pretty funny) column, "Time to Party like it's 1854", one of the panel discussions is called, “When All Else Fails: Nullification and State Resistance to Federal Tyranny.”  (Go here and click on 2010 agenda.As a group, they don't like Americans much.

Mitt Romney spoke at the convention:  "[Obama] has prolonged the recession, expanded the pain of unemployment and added to the debt of future generations. The Obama, Pelosi, Reid team has failed the American people. . .Truth trumps hope.  The truth is that government is not the solution to all of our problems."

Right.  Can't wait for the second installment.  The one where they tell us what's going to happen once they get the government out of the picture.



3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am glad there is a liberal out there because I am a liberal and I don't think the president not make this country into government on I feel like the government should help when they mess up. With the republican party put us in two wars over the last eight years and who gave tax breaks to the rich and leaving the middleclass out to dry. President Obama only been in office one year. I been watching the cpac on c-span and what I hear what these people are saying along with the tea parties it really scare me. I don't know how old you are but I am 55 and I am old enough to remember what my parents went to told me what they went through and I remember some of the things like women could not vote the blacks had to pass a test and pay poll tax to vote. I feel like this is were the republican party want us to be.

Stan in NH said...

Great post again, Ramona! You outdo yourself at every turn. This one is not so acidic, and I must say, I love it when you spew venom. This story is more cerebral, but equally as biting. And, of course, dead on!
The Repubs have stopped, or wanted to stop, every civilized piece of legislation that would benefit the average citizen. They continue to talk abou0t less government, while the government grows significantly under their governance. They continue to talk about fiscal responsibility and budget balancing, while they increase the national debt consistently more than Democrats do. They consistently talk about serving the people and listening to the will of the people, while all the time, trying to only support business, corporate greed, and upper class WASPS. They talk about the constitution as if it was ONLY written for them. They talk about liberty as if it was ONLY meant for them. They are so hypocritical and down right mean that they continue to generate hate, fear, and separation in our people. It amazes me that they have any followers in the lower and middle classes at all. But yet they do! It's the diversion tactic you talk about. They finger point and create diversions while they manage to funnel our tax dollars and most of our paychecks into private sector pockets.

Ramona Grigg said...

Hi Anon, I think you'll find a lot of liberals around here besides me (But I'm glad you found me!) On the right of my page here, in "Other Voices" and "Blogs Worth Watching", you'll find liberal heaven, so to speak. Enjoy!

Stan, thanks, as usual, for your kind words and your great comments. Yes, the Right Wingers and the majority of the Republicans are mean and they are hypocritical, and yet they generate the most air time and have the most aggressive followers. And, unbelievable as it seems, they have a real chance at getting back the majority.

I don't know how to light a fire under the Democrats and make them see that our only chance at success in this country is to go liberal, just this side of socialist. We can't let the corporations continue running things. It doesn't matter a bit to them that there are no jobs and that we don't produce anything. Their product is money, and our misery has no effect on that whatsoever. They're greed and their disregard for America is destroying us.