The Reformers…

I often talk about how Teddy Roosevelt is one of my heroes because he broke up many of the robber baron’s empires almost a century ago. But since Teddy was a Republican he had to work inside that organization to accomplish what he did. It took Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat and another one of my heroes, to take Roosevelt’s work and move it to the next level.  Wilson’s Presidential Library is very small compared to those being built today but it houses a lot of very memorable papers and artifacts of his many accomplishments. His museum as shown below is located in  Staunton, Virginia,

Cleaning up Politics - Wilson-2

How Did The South Become So Republican??

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With the walloping Republicans gave Democrats in the midterm elections, the GOP stands one Louisiana Senate runoff away from completely controlling Southern politics from the Carolinas to Texas. Only a handful of Democrats hold statewide office in the rest of the Old Confederacy.

SOURCE:  The South: Solid once again _ for Republicans – Yahoo News.

It looks like with this latest election the south has finally turned almost 100% Republican. How did that happen? That is the topic of this post. Of course I am giving you my personal knowledge on this topic. The South did turn from almost exclusively Democrat to Republican in my lifetime so I do have some, be it ever so small, personal expertise in the matter.

The Republican party should point proudly to its roots and that is Abraham Lincoln. He was our president during perhaps the most difficult time in American history, when we were killing each other by the millions over whether some people were property to be owned or citizens to be protected.

Another great Republican president forty years after Lincoln was Teddy Roosevelt. Although he was born into the American aristocracy he had a deep empathy for those less fortunate than he was. This empathy lead him to see how badly the common guy was faring during the Industrial Revolution and to do something about it. He took on the “robber barons” of his time and gave at least some power back to ordinary citizens away from the super-rich.

The Republican party has a proud heritage in at least these two great presidents. Between 1861 and 1909 there were ten Republican presidents to two Democratic presidents. They dominated American politics for almost fifty years after the Civil War. What happened to almost reverse the party of Lincoln and Roosevelt into what it is today?  To answer that turnaround we need to look at the 1960s.

Up until the 1960s the Democratic party was the party of the South. They dominated because they weren’t Republicans who took away their slaves and therefore much of their economic prosperity.  Then came along President Kennedy and the “Second Emancipation Proclamation” Here is a little about that from Wikipedia:

The Second Emancipation Proclamation is the term applied to an envisioned Executive Order that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders of the African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955–68) enjoined President John F. Kennedy to issue. As the Emancipation Proclamation was an Executive Order issued by President Abraham Lincoln to free all slaves being held in states at war with the Union, the envisioned “Second Emancipation Proclamation” was to use the powers of the Executive office to strike a severe blow to segregation.

Southern Democrats became outraged that a Democratic president would issue such an executive decision. And then came President Johnson with the Civil Rights agenda.  Within a decade southerners left the Democratic party in mass. During the years between 1933 and 1969 Republicans controlled the White House only eight years. When the southern white politicians moved to the Republican party it was ripe for change and change it  they did. During the years since that time the GOP sadly morphed from the party Lincoln and Roosevelt to something completely different.

Republicans & President Theodore Roosevelt

2014-10-27_07-45-26The Republican leaders really didn’t want Roosevelt as President. As a young Bull Moose Republican in politics, TR had angered top GOP honchos by refusing to appoint Republicans to bureaucratic positions. Party bosses Mark Hanna and Thomas Platt were able to “kick Roosevelt upstairs” as the vice presidential nominee in 1900 for the incumbent President, William McKinley. Roosevelt agreed because he was thinking of running for President in 1904. No one thought that Roosevelt would take over for McKinley later in 1901. SOURCE: 10 little-known facts about President Theodore Roosevelt – Yahoo News.

I must admit up front that Teddy Roosevelt is my kind of Republican. He and Abe Lincoln, both Republicans, are two of my heroes. What happened to the GOP that they have moved so far right of their original founders? If someone like Teddy came along in the GOP today I would jump at the chance to vote for him but given the crop of 2016 likely candidates that seems very far from reality right now.

I am currently reading albeit slowly for some reason ( maybe I am just relishing each words of the author)  a book about Teddy by Doris Kearns Goodwin so the quote above did not surprise me too much. I am sure that if Teddy were around today the current GOP would tar and feather him if they got a chance, kind of like they did with Colin Powell. Teddy Roosevelt was plain and simple a progressive Republican.  I know that combination of words are total foreign to us a hundred years later. Teddy, even though he was part of the New York aristocracy always felt a kinship with the guy that struggled to take care of his family.

Teddy fought the then Republican establishment throughout his political career. None of them liked him too much because he was just too unpredictable when it came to making decisions between the rich and the poor. He simply sided with the poor much too often for them. Deja Vu all over again right? Almost from the beginning he was very popular with the masses of people. They loved his bravado and showmanship. One of the reasons that Teddy was so popular was that he made it almost his life’s purpose to make good friends among the reporters and media of his day. They simply loved him and therefore wrote many favorable things about him.

Like all my heroes Teddy had his dark side. He loved killing things and to some degree that also included people. He often said his most pleasant memories were of his war time on San Juan Hill in Cuba. It seems he simply got a huge rush from extinguishing life. But as usual we have to take some bad to get the good from our heroes.

Oh Teddy, My Hero….

The people of NYC simple love everything about Teddy Roosevelt. He is truly one of their native-sons. He was the police commissioner there in the late 1800s. To me he is most famous for taking on the “robber barons” of his time. From currently reading is biography I know that Teddy never did anything half way.  Too bad President Obama couldn’t have used him as his way of doing government.

About Inequality…

There are various complex models for this, but the general explanation is fairly intuitive: Modern economies are built on a mass market. But if the great majority of people don’t have much (or any) disposable income, then there is no mass market, and it’s harder to start a business relying on any kind of mass sales. And with weak consumer spending, existing businesses have little reason to invest in growth, and instead disgorge their profits to shareholders, exacerbating the trend. In the end, you get a hollowed-out, bifurcated economy, where low-grade goods are sold to the broke masses on razor-thin margins, while incomprehensible sums slosh around weird luxury markets. SOURCE: What Democrats get wrong about inequality – The Week.

The words above do the best job I have seen lately explaining how prosperity happens.  It is no secret that when Henry Ford started paying a living wage to his employees the birth of the middle-class started in earnest. If he had paid the then current minimum wage his workers and others like them could never have afforded the cars they make. Mass markets depend on a large customer base to be successful. That is as the article says is fairly intuitive.

There is a reason the Walmarts of the world are displacing so many local vendors and that is because with their mass marketing potential they can get their products at a lower cost than local competitors.  Paying wages that are not livable wages is the logical result of Walmart’s success.

I am a “car” guy in that I enjoy watching all the car fix-it shows on satellite TV especially the Velocity channel.  There seem to be hundreds of companies that take 40 – 50 year old cars and renovate them for their nostalgic  customers. Most often the price of these cars are from $80,000 to as high as several million. Obviously the customer base for these companies are the upper 5% or so of the population.  It is great that companies can earn a good living from these business but there are only so many people who can afford the products they produce.  as the article says incomprehensible sums slosh around weird luxury markets.

It seems like our downfall as a middle-class nation is the result of not providing enough people an income that will allow any kind of discretionary spending. The national minimum wage has remained stagnate for more than a decade due to GOP resistance. In fact some in that quarter want to even abolish the minimum wage entirely and leave it up to individual companies to determine what they pay. There is said to even be some house bills to that effect.

They say statistics show that the income inequality is the worst it has been since the robber-baron years of more than 100 years ago. But we don’t, like we did a hundred years ago, seem to have a person with the character of Teddy Roosevelt to get us out of our most recent downward spiral. I don’t know what it will take to turn it around this time? But I do know that if it continues as is it currently going we will drive ourselves into an almost third-world status. I’m sure China will be more than happy to take over as the world economic leader if we falter.

Freeloading…

2014-05-21_08-34-27“You are right there’s been a lot of freeloading, but the freeloading has been by the biggest financial institutions who got bailed out by the American taxpayers, who broke the law and were never held responsible,” Warren said.

“Here’s the key part — nobody went to jail for any part of this,” Warren continued. “The only people in America today who go to jail are regular folks. Big financial institutions get out there, they launder drug money, they violate the law, and still no one is held accountable. I think that’s fundamentally wrong.” SOURCE: Elizabeth Warren Reveals What’s ‘Fundamentally Wrong’ About The People Who Go To Jail.

Oh Elizabeth certainly has a way with words. I wish she were as popular as Hillary.  She is an intellectual as Obama is but I won’t hold that against her, at least right now. Her actions in the Senate, if you can call anything in the Senate action, shows that she practices what she preaches.

Why are all the criminal indictments taken against poor and middle income folks? Why are all the “upper class” (I use those words very loosely) seem to be immune from any jail time? I see recently where Credit Suisse was recently fined $2.5 billion for helping the 1%ers hide their income from the IRS.  Attorney General Eric Holder said no bank is too big to jail but actually no one went to jail. $2.5 billions is a lot of money but evidently not to the banking companies as they announced that the money for the fine will cause a slight decrease in the quarterly profits!

My Republican friends seem to be so obsessed with poor people gaming the system and freeloading but then they totally ignore the freeloading by the biggest financial institutions. As Elizabeth said not one person went to jail for any of those things that almost caused the collapse of our country. One of the reasons I heard was that it is just too expensive to indict these millionaires as they would draw out the proceedings for years to come. What an excuse!!  I, and I hope most of you, also think that it is fundamentally wrong to allow someone to be above the law simply by their financial wealth or power status.

I would love to see Elizabeth as president. I know it won’t happen because Hillary has an almost lock on the Democratic ticket. I kind of think Elizabeth would look very much like that pesky Republican of a little more than one hundred years ago. Teddy Roosevelt took on the elite of his time and for the most part beat them. They were called robber barons then but the things they did were pretty much the same as these guys are doing now.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to see if Elizabeth could manage what he accomplished?

Something needs to change in the country soon. Our middle class is evaporating before our eyes. When it is gone and the financial elite are back in almost total control it will be hard to wrench power from them.

Teddy Roosevelt…

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I think Teddy Roosevelt was probably my second all-time favorite Republican. Of course Lincoln was number one.  If only Mr. Bush had  followed in his fellow Republican’s footsteps one hundred years later instead of going to the opposite extreme. Thank you President Roosevelt for taking the bully pulpit as a trust buster for the common good of the people.

The Middle Class….

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Middle class 1Having grown up in the 1950s and 60s I am very much entrenched in the idea of a middle class society. That is where the average working person got a share of the prosperity of the times. But in looking back at history it now seems apparent to me that the “middle class”, at least as we knew it then  probably an anomaly of our times.

The middle class is a result of the Ford model for the economy. That is where the workers are paid a living wage and they would then build a community where they could afford to buy the products they make. We have much to thank Henry Ford for those times. Ford came upon the scenes shortly after the age of the “Robber Barrons”. The barons were Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Carniege, JP Morgan, and Fisk.  These guys were mostly consumed by their desire for wealth and ruthlessly destroying their competition. They had little respect for the workers they employed.  They were a mere tool for their greed for ever increasing wealth. Their employees generally worked six to seven days a week for twelve hours a day. They often got a little than a dollar a day. If you got sick you lost your job. If you died because of an industrial accident your family was pretty much on their own. We learned that this is what you get with unbridled capitalism. Read more

Where Are You John Sherman When We Need You???

 

For those of you who aren’t up on your U.S. history lessons, John Sherman was the Congressman who about one hundred years ago introduced the first major piece of legislation to rein in corporate greed. The legislation was call the Sherman Antitrust Act. Here is some of what Wikipedia says about that:

The Sherman Antitrust Act (Sherman Act,[1] July 2, 1890, ch. 647, 26 Stat. 209, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1–7) is a landmark federal statute on competition law passed by Congress in 1890. It prohibits certain business activities that reduce competition in the marketplace, and requires the United States federal government to investigate and pursue trusts, companies, and organizations suspected of being in violation. It was the first Federal statute to limit cartels and monopolies, and today still forms the basis for most antitrust litigation by the United States federal government. However, for the most part, politicians were unwilling to refer to the law until Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency (1901–1909).

As mentioned above most of the politicians of the time were very leery to use this new law against the Robber Barons of the day until ten years later when a Republican president named Theodore Roosevelt came along. It still amazes me how almost all of the anti-big-business leaders of these times were from the Republican party. Of course the Republican party is now widely known as the party of big business! When did this major shift in party allegiance happen?  I guess I will have to study up on that.

Getting back to the matter at hand, President Bush and followed up by President Obama bailed out the financial industry because they “were too big to fail”.  If somehow we could have resurrected John Sherman to break up this monopoly power before it became so big we possibly could have spared ourselves all the grief we have been going through as a country for the last four years. Too bad that there just doesn’t seem to be anyone in congress now with the fortitude to take on the big business interests.

But, in reality I should really be looking for someone to put the laws that were repealed in the last twenty years back in place. That is where we got into all the troubles. Within a decade of deregulating the Savings and Loan industry the 1988 meltdown occurred.  Within a decade of deregulating the banking sector the 2008 meltdown occurred.  Why can’t our representatives in government learn from history and just leave these types of things that John Sherman and those like him put in place alone? This is just an example where the Republican party seem to have the belief in the innate goodness of our corporate institutions.  Yes, with this deregulation they got government out of the way and soon inevitable self-consuming greed took over with the resulting meltdowns happening soon thereafter. When will they ever learn? But maybe the more important question is when will we the voters ever learn when to tell our elected officials it is time for them to leave?

It seems literally impossible for another Republican to take charge of these types of matters. Most of those folks are just too beholding to big business to ever try to rein them in. So, currently that leaves the Democratic party to take up the mantel. I don’t see that as much of a possibility either. Where all this “too big to fail” will end I just don’t know.

Where are you John when we need you??

But what do I know….

The End of the Middle Class??

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During the 1960s and 70s there was a growing middle class in the U.S.  This was due to the abundance of manufacturing jobs and gains won by labor unions. Part of the U.S. history that precipitated the emerging middle class was the takedown of the Robber Barons of the early 1900s. The robber barons were basically a group of unscrupulous industrialists. Who controlled pretty much everything to do with life a hundred years ago. They decided where you would work, how much you would earn, and how you would live.  There was no one around to give them any restrictions. They decided what was what. This included the sweat shops of New York City, the stagnant and un-breathable air of Pittsburgh, the company owned towns of the Appalachians.

It is ironic that the first president to confront these power and money hungry tyrants was a Republican. He was Teddy Roosevelt. As a result of his crackdown on unscrupulous practices workers began to see better working conditions and slightly improved pay. When the labor unions arose in the 1920s they fought to improve the working man’s conditions even more. They withstood the company paid thugs who beat them up on the picket lines and the police who were in the back pockets of the rich.

Fast forward to today and the middle class is almost an unknown entity once again. The average worker has not seen a pay increase above inflation in more than 10 years while at the same time those who were once called robber barons have seen their income rise dramatically. CEOs are now making eight time more than they were not many years ago.  The final shoe seems to have dropped on the death of the middle class yesterday in Madison Wisconsin where the recently elected Republican governor has outlawed labor unions for State workers.  This is seen as a harbinger for other Republican governors to follow suit and take bargaining rights away from the common man.

I wonder if Teddy Roosevelt is turning over in his grave seeing his hard work undone almost a hundred years later.  Without representation the workers both public and private are once again at the mercy of the super rich who demand their profits above everything else including worker’s basic quality of life. I am a firm believer in the phrase “power corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts”. It seems we are approaching that point of absolute power when we take all leverage away from the average guy.  I assume that sooner or later the working class will get fed up with the great disparity of income between the super rich and everyone else. Maybe when that day comes they finally votes those politicians who are in the pockets of the rich out of office.   The labor unions are not completely free of fault here as they often were also overcome with their greed for power. But that in no way was an excuse to strip worker of all power as was done yesterday in Wisconsin. Shame on us for letting it happen.

Maybe the rise of the robber barons is now a centennial event.  If that is the case we can only pray for another president like Teddy to put them back in their place this time around too. Our current president seems to be shell shocked by the onslaught of the greedy and powerful so I don’t hold out much hope that he can take over and recapture some of Teddy’s work.

But what do I know…..