Those Good Old Days
(Click on image to enlarge and then come on back.)
David Horsey provides an interesting historical perspective to the current presidential campaign. He suggests that especially the Romney-Ryan ticket seems more attuned to 1912 than 2012, and traces the evolution of and now attack upon liberal policies such as the safety nets put in place by FDR.
From the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 until the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, a different, liberal ethic drove our politics, even during the Republican administrations of Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford. That ethic said government must provide a safety net for the less fortunate among us and set limits on business interests that foul the environment, exploit workers and bamboozle consumers.
All of that changed with the Reagan administration. Since then, even under the two Democratic administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, those liberal principles have been under attack. It's pretty hard to dispute Horsey's analysis up to this point, although I do have some reservations with his next point.
Now, with the political pendulum stuck between the contending philosophies of right and left, the 2012 election offers voters a stark choice between the classic liberalism of the Obama administration and the militant conservatism of the Republican “young guns” in the House of Representatives. With one of the most prominent of those young guns, Paul D. Ryan, tapped as Romney’s choice for vice president, it is clear the Republican Party wants more than a restoration of the compromising conservatism of Reagan. The GOP seeks a return to the good old days of McKinley and Taft.
The budget plans that Ryan has put forward as chairman of the House Budget Committee would underfund or seriously alter nearly every liberal program instituted since FDR’s New Deal. His schemes would also lower taxes on the rich to a level not seen since the 1920s while whittling away at the deductions for home mortgages and philanthropic giving that have helped the middle class. In 2010, he proposed a complete elimination of the capital gains tax, a step that would allow people who live off their investments -- people such as Mitt and Ann Romney -- to pay no taxes at all. ...
Over the last 100 years, the planks of the Socialist Party platform of 1912 -- items like a 40-hour work week, a minimum wage, and precursors to Social Security and Medicare -- became mainstream ideas and pillars of American life. During the liberal era, a huge middle class was created as the American economy became the most vibrant and innovative in the world. The income gap between the rich and everyone else narrowed. A college education became the norm. Most people moved to the cities or suburbs. Women left home and went to work. The U.S. became a more equal, multi-racial society.
The core question before voters in this campaign season is which ethic -- conservative or liberal -- will guide our society in this new century. A lot of the folks supporting the Romney-Ryan ticket are shouting that they want to take their country back, but back to what? [Emphasis added]
My quibble is with Horsey's characterization of Barack Obama as a "classic liberal." He is more akin to the "liberalism" practiced by Bill Clinton and other DLC types. Remember, it was this group that "reformed" welfare. It is a Wall Street oriented liberalism which always has the health and well-being of the captains of industry in mind.
That said, however, I do not think Horsey overstates his position that the choices this time around are stark, nor do I disagree with his description of the intentions of the GOP and the moguls who stand behind that party. The question then becomes one of whether the Democrats will be brave enough to hammer this message home during the campaign, or whether they will once again play it safe, knowing that our owners will disapprove of any straying from the reservation.
I am not as pessimistic as I was last week at this time, but I'm not quite at the level of unbridled optimism.