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history

What happened?

This struggle is about power.  Power to affect lives, for the better or for the worse.  Anybody who doesn’t think so doesn’t know history.

The Star-Spangled Banner (in Smithsonian)

An accurate story of the past is a story of the present.  We study history, not only in order to spot mistakes that we might avoid, but also to understand how we came to be what we are, so as better to understand ourselves.  Knowledge of the past is knowledge of the present, because in the past, both ancient and recent, we see the great repeating patterns of human character and action.  Obvious examples:  the prevalence of murder and warfare shows us that such is human nature, and so does the recurrence of heroism and generosity, hatred and compassion, greed and self-sacrifice.  The character traits and actions that made a Julius Caesar or a Hitler, an Hypatia or a Jefferson, live in individuals today as well.  It is wise to know them from the past and watch for them among us.  Where have I seen this before?

A major pattern is that wherever there is wealth, predatory individuals feel stimulated to accumulate as much of it as possible in their own hands.  Circumstances have made it possible for the population of the United States to produce enormous wealth, and thus to stimulate big-time predation.  These individuals, and the groups that they form, do not believe in equality or value democracy.  When democracy gets in their way, they move to crush it.

The people who brought you genocide, slavery, and wage-slavery, now bring you a double feature: Return to Wage-Slavery along with The Destruction of Nature as we have known it (and it has known us, for some millions of years).

Some highlights of what recent US history looks like to me, leading to my urgent support of the 99%Occupy movement:

1800-1819  Jefferson [Dem] founds (with assists from Monroe and later Madison [Dems]) the U of Virginia – public (accessible and affordable) university education.

1861 Lincoln [Rep] signs Revenue Act creating US income tax (flat rate, changed to progressive rates in 1862).

1862 Lincoln signs Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act – public agricultural colleges.

1876-77  Tilden [Dem] wins popular vote and leads electoral vote but with disputes.  Southern Dems throw support to Hayes [Rep] in return for his agreement to allow return to white racist control of the South.

Ca. 1870-98  “Gilded Age”:  Expansion of US economy including unprecedented polarization of wealth, plutocratic influences on government, political corruption, financial speculation.

Ca. 1880-1940  “Robber Baron” economics and politics brings corporate monopolies and huge accumulation of wealth by “captains of industry,” mostly in finance, railroads, steel, oil.

1901-1909  Theodore Roosevelt [Rep] calls on Congress to curb the power of corporations (“trusts”).   TR’s “Square Deal” features progressive reforms, especially conservation of natural resources, control of corporations, consumer protection. Eight-hour work day, minimum wage, workers’ comp.  1906 Meat Inspection Act, Pure Food and Drug Act.

From TR’s “new nationalism” speech in 1910:

“It seems to me, therefore, that the time is ripe, and overripe, for a genuine Progressive movement, Nationwide and justice-loving, sprung from and responsible to the people themselves,…

“The first essential in the Progressive programme is the right of the people to rule….

“We stand for a living wage. Wages are subnormal if they fail to provide a living for those who devote their time and energy to industrial occupations. The monetary equivalent of a living wage varies according to local conditions, but must include enough to secure the elements of a normal standard of living–a standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family during periods of sickness, and to permit of reasonable saving for old age.”  (More excerpts below.*)

1920s  According to Stiglitz and Woodman, technological advances in agriculture brought such a plunge in food prices, and thus farm income, that farmers went into bankruptcy, leading to a bank crisis.

1929 Stock market plunges, destroying accumulated wealth.  Negligence and then austerity actions of the Hoover administration fail to prevent what came to be called the Great Depression.   US unemployment reaches 26%.

1933-1944 Franklin Delano Roosevelt [Dem].  Or, how to handle a Great Depression:

1933 Banking (Glass-Steagall) Act establishes Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, introduces banking reforms to control speculation [repealed by Republicans in 1999], allows Federal Reserve to regulate interest rates in savings accounts [repealed by Republicans in 1980].

Also:

Civilian Conservation Corps hires more than three million men to work on various projects;

Tennessee Valley Authority uses the Tennessee River to provide electricity for that depressed area;

National Industrial Recovery Act provides aid to cities for construction and assists businesses;

Securities and Exchange Commission corrects abuses which had led to the stock market crash;

Works Progress Administration hires many people for a variety of projects;

Social Security Act creates the Social Security System.

Etc.

From FDR’s “Economic Bill of Rights” State of the Union address in January 1944:

“This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

“As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

“In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

“Among these are:

“The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

“The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

“The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

“The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

“The right of every family to a decent home;

“The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

“The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

“The right to a good education.

“All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

“America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

“One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis, recently emphasized the grave dangers of “rightist reaction” in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920’s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.”

1933-present  Meanwhile Republicans are organizing to reverse the New Deal and attack Liberals. See, for instance, this article about the house UnAmerican Activities Committee and McCarthyism:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmccarthyism.htm

The Party of Lincoln becomes the Party of Class Warfare and the Party of Fear.

1947 Republican Taft-Hartley Act weakens organized labor (passed by overriding Truman [Dem] veto).  “…labor has been handcuffed by the vicious Taft-Hartley Act,…”  Ronald Reagan, 1948

The Party of Lincoln becomes the Party of Exploitation of Labor.

1952-1960  Republicans reclaim the Presidency by nominating the greatest war hero, Eisenhower, whom today’s  Republicans would consider too liberal (eg government spending on highways, warning of military-industrial threat to representative democracy, opposition to Sen. Joe McCarthy [Rep, 1950-1954], appointment of Earl Warren to Chief Justice of US Supreme Court).

Indeed, in 1958 the father of the Koch Brothers helped found the extreme-right John Birch Society, which accused Eisenhower of  “consciously serving the Communist conspiracy.”

1953 Eisenhower administration/CIA overthrows Iran’s democratically elected, secular government, and replaces it with royalty.

1956 For their Vice-Pres candidate, in 1952 had the Republicans selected a man who was known by people who had watched his career in CA to be dishonest and a servant of Big Oil.  For the 1956 election the Party talked Eisenhower into accepting Nixon again as its V-P candidate, in spite of a campaign contribution scandal.

1958-1968  Civil Rights Movement

1963-1968 JFK/LBJ  [Dems] Civil rights, Voting rights, Medicare, Anti-poverty legislation (all opposed by the Republicans).

Republican Party adopts the racist “Southern Strategy” (which LBJ had warned of).  The Party of Lincoln becomes the Party of the Confederacy.

Silencing of leading liberal voices by assassination:  John F Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and others.

Mobilization against the war in Vietnam.

1968-1976 Defeat of Humphrey [Dem]; Presidency of Nixon-Kissinger [Rep].  Vice-President Humphrey had been a strong liberal and supporter of Labor, but because he had not broken with President Johnson over the war in Vietnam, enough liberal voters “stayed home” that Nixon was elected.  But furthermore, it is now known (as LBJ knew at the time) that during the campaign Nixon persuaded the North Vietnamese to postpone peace negotiations—which would have gone to Humphrey’s credit, by promising them a better deal if he was elected.  Nixon’s communication with the North Vietmanese leadership was, of course, an act of treason.

Nixon campaigned in 1968 with a “secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam.  He withdrew the last US forces five years later (including an invasion of Cambodia that made possible the Khmer Rouge regime), during which the US suffered about a third of its losses.  A continuing, secret, massive bombing campaign supported by Secretary of State Kissinger in Laos and Cambodia cost countless peasant lives.  (A Crime Against Humanity in my opinion.)

1972-1973  Nixon’s dishonesty (Watergate burglary attack on opposing party, and subsequent cover-up and firing of the special prosecutor—via Robert Bork after two Attorneys General refused and resigned) leads to his resignation from the presidency to avoid being impeached and removed from office.

Nevertheless, in comparison to today’s Republicans, Nixon seems liberal in domestic proposals, including reforming the American system of health care, shaping the nation’s first environmental policy, beginning the quest for energy independence, reforming the welfare system, and desegregating schools.

1976-1980  President Carter [Dem]shows great foresight by proposing an extensive effort toward energy independence.  His chances for re-election are hurt severely by the Iranian hostage-taking of American personnel, and it has been alleged by knowledgeable insiders that during the campaign Reagan persuaded the Iranians to postpone releasing the hostages, so that he would be elected, by promising to sell the Iranians weapons.

1980-1988  Defeat of Carter and Presidency of Reagan [Rep]  As Governor of CA, Reagan had engineered the end of low-cost public higher education in that state.  Now he launches his presidential campaign by reaffirming the “Southern Strategy” with a speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers had been murdered by local racists.  He had opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Reagan’s embrace of supply-side “trickle down” economics begins the redistribution of wealth to the top that has produced our current 1% v 99% assault on the poor and the middle class, and our recessionary inability of the 99% to maintain a decent standard of living and support a robust national economy.  I.e. we don’t have money and can’t get loans.

Re. domestic policy, one of Reagan’s earliest actions is to attack unionization.  He obtains the largest tax cut in American history, while immensely increasing military spending—with the results of a doubling of the national debt (from 32 to 60% of GDP) and the stock market crash of 1987.  He expands the Alternative Minimum Tax to include the middle class.  He devalues and defunds the public sector. He strives to cut funding for arts and culture. He dismisses proposals to halt acid rain, as being too burdensome on industry, and he allots Superfund moneys to local Republican supporters. Administration staffers give federal funding to constituents, and defraud the government of money meant for low-income housing.  Furthermore, he accelerates the War on Drugs; and he slows the effort to combat the AIDS epidemic by insisting that it doesn’t exist, the disease is merely a problem for gay men, eg in San Francisco.

He nominates the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor (a conservative Republican and strict constructionist) to serve on the US Supreme Court, but he elevates William Rehnquist to Chief Justice, and nominates Antonin Scalia (confirmed) and Robert Bork.

1980 Republicans repeal Glass-Steagall (1933) provision for Federal Reserve regulation of interest rates in savings accounts.

1983-1985 Reagan circumvents laws against selling weapons to the Iranians, and against providing military aid for the Contras in Nicaragua.

1993-2000  Clinton [Dem] Presidency.  Republicans achieve rare House majority.  Gingrich shuts down government, which proves to be unpopular. Republicans under his leadership impeach Clinton on grounds of lying about sex, which proves to be unpopular and Republicans fail to achieve Clinton’s removal from the Presidency.  Gingrich is found guilty of ethics violations and loses his Speakership.

1999  Republicans, led by Senators Gramm, Leach, Bliley, repeal Glass-Steagall (1933) provisions prohibiting bank holding companies from owning other financial companies—thus establishing the possibility of the fraud and abuses by persons in the banking and financial industries during the G W Bush Presidency–and apparently ongoing.  Clinton signs Gramm, Leach, Bliley.

Economy under Clinton expands, creating millions of jobs, and when he leaves office the federal budget is in surplus.

2000  Gore [Dem] receives majority of vote, but machinations by Republican political operatives in Florida cause the vote there to be put to recount.  The Republican majority on the US Supreme Court squashes the state recount and awards the presidency to Bush [Rep].

2001 – 2009  Bush/Cheney administration ignores warning of impending attack by Al Quaeda.

Chooses to initiate war with Iraq, off-budget (ie paid for by deficit borrowing).

Huge tax cut for the very rich, off-budget (ie paid for by deficit borrowing).

Boost to big pharmaceuticals, off-budget (ie paid for by deficit borrowing).

Administration  characterized by crony-capitalism, fraud and corruption, incompetence, resulting from ideological belief in weak government,

Tries but fails to eliminate Social Security.

Denies global warming, favors Big Oil and Coal over environment and green energy development.

Policies not only allow, but actually encourage, speculation and fraud leading to derivatives and mortgage debacles.  Policies produce huge increase in national deficit spending and national debt.

Economy falls apart, and its stabilization during 2007-2009, to prevent worldwide second great depression, results in even huger national debt.

2008-2011  Election of first African-American President.  Immediate campaign by Republican Party to de-legitimize President Obama [Dem] by emphasizing his “otherness,” and to weaken him by means of “No you can’t” Congressional machinations to eliminate Hope by blocking all Change.  Republicans put their return to power above strengthening the economy.

Obama underestimates the severity of the financial disaster.

Republicans in Senate block adequate stimulus package.

Obama saves auto industry.

First step toward universal health insurance, ie toward (inevitable) single-payer system that can assure universal

access to good treatment, while bringing costs under control.

Ends war in Iraq.

Reform and enhancement of student loan program.

Beginning of reform of financial industry.

Bin Laden killed.

Lists of Obama accomplishments:

http://investigativezim.com/2010/10/24/list-of-some-of-u-s-president-barack-obamas-accomplishments-during-first-2-years-in-office/

http://www.therandirhodesshow.com/pages/rrnews.html?feed=393046&article=9880240

Analysis of Accomplishments

2000-2010  Republican Party taken over by the 1% in cooperation with racists.

2010  The enhanced Republican majority on the US Supreme Court willfully expands a case to include the question of whether corporations are persons under the Constitution and rules that they are, and that therefore they have unfettered right to free speech in elections.  Since that majority has also ruled that money is a form of speech, corporations and wealthy individuals are free to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections, and without their names being made public.

2010-2011  Extreme right wing of Republican Party, funded and controlled by the 1% (eg Koch Bros), gains sufficient power in many state governments to initiate attacks on unions and the poor and middle class in general, as well as to influence governmental policy and legislation in favor of the business and financial interests of the 1%.  And the extreme right-wing influence on the new Republican majority in the house not only reinforces the obstruction of governance but precipitates dangerous crises such as their threat to undermine the “full faith and credit” of the United States.

*More from the TR speech (1910):

“The first essential in the Progressive programme is the right of the people to rule….

“I do not mean that we shall abandon representative government; on the contrary, I mean that we shall devise methods by which our Government shall become really representative. To use such measures as the initiative, referendum, and recall indiscriminately and promiscuously on all kinds of occasions would undoubtedly cause disaster; but events have shown that at present our institutions are not representative–at any rate in many States, and sometimes in the Nation–and that we cannot wisely afford to let this condition of things remain longer uncorrected. We have permitted the growing up of a breed of politicians who, sometimes for improper political purposes, sometimes as a means of serving the great special interests of privilege which stand behind them, twist so-called representative institutions into a means of thwarting instead of expressing the deliberate and well thought-out judgment of the people as a whole….

“The American people, and not the courts, are to determine their own fundamental policies. The people should have power to deal with the effect of the acts of all their governmental agencies. This must be extended to include the effects of judicial acts as well as the acts of the executive and legislative representatives of the people…. Our prime concern is that in dealing with the fundamental law of the land, in assuming finally to interpret it, and therefore finally to make it, the acts of the courts should be subject to and not above the final control of the people as a whole. I deny that the American people have surrendered to any set of men, no matter what their position or their character, the final right to determine those fundamental questions upon which free self-government ultimately depends. The people themselves must be the ultimate makers of their own Constitution, and where their agents differ in their interpretations of the Constitution the people themselves should be given the chance, after full and deliberate judgment, authoritatively to settle what interpretation it is that their representatives shall thereafter adopt as binding.

“We in America have peculiar need thus to make the acts of the courts subject to the people, because, owing to causes which I need not now discuss, the courts have here grown to occupy a position unknown in any other country, a position of superiority over both the legislature and the executive. Just at this time, when we have begun in this country to move toward social and industrial betterment and true industrial democracy, this attitude on the part of the courts is of grave portent, because privilege has intrenched itself in many courts, just as it formerly intrenched itself in many legislative bodies and in many executive offices. Even in England, where the Constitution is based upon the theory of the supremacy of the legislative body over the courts, the cause of democracy has at times been hampered by court action. In a recent book by a notable English Liberal leader, Mr. L. T. Hobhouse, there occurs the following sentences dealing with this subject:

“ ‘Labor itself had experienced the full brunt of the attack. It had come, not from the politicians, but from the judges; but in this country we have to realize that within wide limits the judges are in effect legislators, and legislators with a certain persistent bent which can be held in check only by the constant vigilance and repeated efforts of the recognized organ for the making and repeal of law.’

“I am well aware that every upholder of privilege, every hired agent or beneficiary of the special interests, including many well-meaning parlor reformers, will denounce all this as “Socialism” or “anarchy”–the same terms they used in the past in denouncing the movements to control the railways and to control public utilities. As a matter of fact, the propositions I make constitute neither anarchy nor Socialism, but, on the contrary, a corrective to Socialism and an antidote to anarchy.”

[Alas, though, I favor both democratic socialism and anarchy (as explained on another page).]

Other Topics:  99%OCCUPYnutshellnonviolentpowerhistorymisogynyracismmoneywealth gap 1wealth gap 2republican partynamescapitalismfascismother ismspathologiessocial justice 1social justice 2social justice 3soulbody and soulthingsanarchyactionsbtwbib

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