Remember When We Had Democratic Presidents?

Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act of 1935

Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act of 1935

Oh yes, “those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end…”

Roosevelt’s New Deal was before my time, but I heard about those days from my parents.

The New Deal was a series of economic programs enacted in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They involved presidential executive orders or laws passed by Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were in response to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call the “3 Rs”: Relief, Recovery, and Reform. That is, Relief for the unemployed and poor; Recovery of the economy to normal levels; and Reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression.

The New Deal produced a political realignment, making the Democratic Party the majority (as well as the party that held the White House for seven out of nine Presidential terms from 1933 to 1969), with its base in liberal ideas, the white South, traditional Democrats, big city machines, and the newly empowered labor unions and ethnic minorities. The Republicans were split, with conservatives opposing the entire New Deal as an enemy of business and growth, and liberals accepting some of it and promising to make it more efficient. The realignment crystallized into the New Deal Coalition that dominated most presidential elections into the 1960s, while the opposition Conservative Coalition largely controlled Congress from 1937 to 1963. By 1936 the term “liberal” typically was used for supporters of the New Deal, and “conservative” for its opponents. From 1934 to 1938, Roosevelt was assisted in his endeavours by a “pro-spender” majority in Congress (drawn from two-party, competitive, non-machine, Progressive, and Left party districts). As noted by Alexander Hicks, “Roosevelt, backed by rare, non-Southern Democrat majorities — 270 non-Southern Democrat representatives and 71 non-Southern Democrat senators — spelled Second New Deal reform.”

Many historians distinguish between a “First New Deal” (1933–34) and a “Second New Deal” (1935–38), with the second one more liberal and more controversial. The “First New Deal” (1933–34) dealt with diverse groups, from banking and railroads to industry and farming, all of which demanded help for economic survival. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration, for instance, provided $500 million for relief operations by states and cities, while the short-lived CWA (Civil Works Administration) gave localities money to operate make-work projects in 1933-34.

The “Second New Deal” in 1935–38 included the Wagner Act to promote labor unions, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) relief program (which made the federal government by far the largest single employer in the nation), the Social Security Act, and new programs to aid tenant farmers and migrant workers. The final major items of New Deal legislation were the creation of the United States Housing Authority and Farm Security Administration, both in 1937, and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which set maximum hours and minimum wages for most categories of workers.

John F. Kennedy signs the Equal Pay Act of 1963

John F. Kennedy signs the Equal Pay Act of 1963

I do clearly Recall John F. Kennedy’s The New Frontier. There’s a popular myth that JFK didn’t accomplish that much legislatively before his death in 1963, but that’s what it is–a myth.

The term New Frontier was used by liberal Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in his acceptance speech in the 1960 United States presidential election to the Democratic National Convention at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the Democratic slogan to inspire America to support him. The phrase developed into a label for his administration’s domestic and foreign programs.

[W]e stand today on the edge of a New Frontier -— the frontier of 1960s, the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled dreams. … Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered problems of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus.
In the words of Robert D. Marcus: “Kennedy entered office with ambitions to eradicate poverty and to raise America’s eyes to the stars through the space program”.

Amongst the legislation passed by Congress during the Kennedy Administration, unemployment benefits were expanded, aid was provided to cities to improve housing and transportation, funds were allocated to continue the construction of a national highway system started under Eisenhower, a water pollution control act was passed to protect the country’s rivers and streams, and an agricultural act to raise farmers’ incomes was made law. A significant amount of anti-poverty legislation was passed by Congress, including increases in social security benefits and in the minimum wage, several housing bills, and aid to economically distressed areas. A few antirecession public works packages, together with a number of measures designed to assist farmers, were introduced. Major expansions and improvements were made in Social Security (including retirement at 62 for men), hospital construction, library services, family farm assistance and reclamation. Food stamps for low-income Americans were reintroduced, food distribution to the poor was increased, and there was an expansion in school milk and school lunch distribution. The most comprehensive farm legislation since 1938 was carried out, with expansions in rural electrification, soil conservation, crop insurance, farm credit, and marketing orders. In September 1961, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency was established as the focal point in government for the “planning, negotiation, and execution of international disarmament and arms control agreements.” Altogether, the New Frontier witnessed the passage of a broad range of important social and economic reforms.

According to Theodore White, under John F. Kennedy, more new legislation was actually approved and passed into law than at any other time since the Thirties. When Congress recessed in the latter part of 1961, 33 out of 53 bills that Kennedy had submitted to Congress were enacted. A year later, 40 out of 54 bills that the Kennedy Administration had proposed were passed by Congress, and in 1963 35 out of 58 “must” bills were enacted. As noted by Larry O’Brien, “A myth had arisen that he (Kennedy) was uninterested in Congress, or that he “failed” with Congress. The facts, I believe, are otherwise. Kennedy’s legislative record in 1961–63 was the best of any President since Roosevelt’s first term”.

Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Medicare Act of 1964, with Harry Truman by his side

Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Medicare Act of 1964, with Harry Truman by his side

LBJ’s presidency was marred by his escalation of the war in Vietnam, but the domestic legislative accomplishments of his “Great Society” were stunning.

The aftershock of Kennedy’s assassination provided a climate for Johnson to complete the unfinished work of JFK’s New Frontier. He had eleven months before the election of 1964 to prove to American voters that he deserved a chance to be President in his own right.

Two very important pieces of legislation were passed. First, the Civil Rights Bill that JFK promised to sign was passed into law. The Civil Rights Act banned discrimination based on race and gender in employment and ending segregation in all public facilities.

Johnson also signed the omnibus ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY ACT OF 1964. The law created the Office of Economic Opportunity aimed at attacking the roots of American poverty. A Job Corps was established to provide valuable vocational training.

Head Start, a preschool program designed to help disadvantaged students arrive at kindergarten ready to learn was put into place. The VOLUNTEERS IN SERVICE TO AMERICA (VISTA) was set up as a domestic Peace Corps. Schools in impoverished American regions would now receive volunteer teaching attention. Federal funds were sent to struggling communities to attack unemployment and illiteracy.

As he campaigned in 1964, Johnson declared a “war on poverty.” He challenged Americans to build a “Great Society” that eliminated the troubles of the poor. Johnson won a decisive victory over his archconservative Republican opponent Barry Goldwater of Arizona.

- American liberalism was at high tide under President Johnson.

- The Wilderness Protection Act saved 9.1 million acres of forestland from industrial development.

- The Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided major funding for American public schools.

- The Voting Rights Act banned literacy tests and other discriminatory methods of denying suffrage to African Americans.

- Medicare was created to offset the costs of health care for the nation’s elderly.

- The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities used public money to fund artists and galleries.

- The Immigration Act ended discriminatory quotas based on ethnic origin.

- An Omnibus Housing Act provided funds to construct low-income housing.

- Congress tightened pollution controls with stronger Air and Water Quality Acts.

- Standards were raised for safety in consumer products.

I’m in tears right now after reading again about the accomplishments of these three great Democratic presidents. I’m in mourning today for my party and my country. For the first time, a supposedly Democratic president has proposed not only Social Security benefit cuts but also massive cuts to Medicare that will force seniors to pay higher deductibles and discourage them from buying medigap plans to cover co-pays.

I’ve known this was coming since 2007 when I read Obama’s book, The Audacity of Austerity Hope. He couldn’t have made it any clearer in the chapter on the domestic economy that he was an enthusiastic supporter of privatization and/or cuts in social programs. But although I’ve expected this for years, the reality of it has still hit me very hard. I feel both heartbroken and ashamed of President Obama.

I’ll post something else later on; but for now, please use this as a morning open thread and post your recommended links freely in the comments.

This is a sad day, but I believe Obama’s gambit will be a dismal failure. IMO he already looks foolish and ineffectual as the Republicans make hay by accusing him of trying to balance the budget on the backs of seniors. We need to understand that it is fruitless to expect him Obama stand up to the Republicans, the corporate media, or the bankers. We are on our own.

I admit, I had begun to believe that Obama had grown in office–that he had begun to realize that standing up for liberal values would serve him in good stead. But his addiction to “bipartisanship” and his fantasy of a “grand bargain” won out in the end. I still believe Romney would have been far worse, but let’s face it we still got a Republican president in 2008 and 2012. We need to fight tooth and nail to keep him from destroying the proud legacies of FDR, JFK, and LBJ.

Sooooo…. What’s on your mind today?


Sunday Reads: Anticipation of Stop and Frisk for Cotton Candy

$(KGrHqUOKj8E6,2h5192BOp(YVVQT!~~60_35Good Morning

We are freezing our banjo playing fingers off up here in the Georgia mountains.  Winter took an awfully long time to get here.

I guess you can tell by the image on the left, one of our stories this morning is about the Heinz merger deal. S.E.C., Suspecting Insider Trading, Freezes Account Over Heinz Merger

Regulators froze a Swiss account at Goldman Sachs on Friday after unearthing activities suggestive of insider trading in the $23 billion acquisition of H. J. Heinz, taking an abrupt action after one of the biggest deals in recent years.

The action, by the Securities and Exchange Commission, illustrates the temptation that such big takeovers may present. Despite a number of prominent crackdowns on insider trading, regulators continue to uncover cases involving traders who spin confidential tidbits into illicit profits ahead of deals.

Ya know what? I bet any of these greedy white-collar crooks get away with crimes that would land most of us in prison. Then you have those people who get treated like criminals, just because of the color of their skin. Take this news out of New York City…Forest Whitaker given the ‘stop and frisk’ inside NYC deli in false theft allegation…No freakin’ kidding!

“See, not even an Academy Award can stop a Black man from being criminalized…”


God almighty, if it’s not the police it’s shopkeepers shaking down The Scary Black Man. And apparently it doesn’t matter if you’re an Academy Award winning actor. Forest Whitaker was on the Upper East Side and deigned to step into Milano MarketNewsOne:

TMZ reports that Whitaker said he was falsely accused of lifting an item off the store’s shelf and subsequently frisked by an employee. An eyewitness told the entertainment site that the Academy Award winner was frisked in plain view of everyone.

Of course, the shake down produced nothing belonging to the store and Whitaker left the establishment angry and embarrassed.

TMZ was told this by Whitaker’s rep:

“This was an upsetting incident given the fact that Forest did nothing more than walk into the deli. What is most unfortunate about this situation is the inappropriate way store employees are treating patrons of their establishment.  Frisking individuals without proof/evidence is a violation of rights.”

“Forest did not call the authorities at the request of the worker who was in fear of losing his employment. Forest asked that, in the future, the store change their behavior and treat the public in a fair and just manner.”

Damn, nothing ever surprises me. For another look at race in today’s climate…h/t Tennessee Guerrilla Woman: Emory president holds up “three-fifths” compromise as noble, honorable

In a shockingly horrible column, the president of Emory University held up the “Three-Fifths Compromise” — the deal between Northern and Southern states which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person — as a shining example of political compromise at its best.

In his “from the president” column — titled “As American as … Compromise” —  in the winter issue of Emory magazine, president James Wagner writes about the fiscal cliff and the importance of keeping one’s mind open to other points of view. All standard president’s letter dullness so far, right?

Then comes this:

One instance of constitutional compromise was the agreement to count three-fifths of the slave population for purposes of state representation in Congress. Southern delegates wanted to count the whole slave population, which would have given the South greater influence over national policy. Northern delegates argued that slaves should not be counted at all, because they had no vote. As the price for achieving the ultimate aim of the Constitution—“to form a more perfect union”—the two sides compromised on this immediate issue of how to count slaves in the new nation. Pragmatic half-victories kept in view the higher aspiration of drawing the country more closely together.

Some might suggest that the constitutional compromise reached for the lowest common denominator—for the barest minimum value on which both sides could agree. I rather think something different happened. Both sides found a way to temper ideology and continue working toward the highest aspiration they both shared—the aspiration to form a more perfect union. They set their sights higher, not lower, in order to identify their common goal and keep moving toward it.

So under Wagner’s formulation, one of the basest and demeaning political deals of American history, if not the basest, is an example of working toward a “highest aspiration.” Counting slaves as three-fifths of a person becomes an example of American politicians setting their sights high!

Wagner is no history professor…his specialty is Electrical Engineering. I’ve got a couple of takes on Wagner’s position:

From Erik Loomis,  Almost Verbatim Emory University President James Wagner: “The 3/5 Compromise is a Model to Which We Should Aspire. Also, the Liberal Arts are Like Slaves and Should Be Treated As Such” – Lawyers, Guns & Money

The president of Emory University evidently lacks people to make sure he doesn’t say insane, horrible things.

Take a quick look at his point of view. And be sure to look through the comments on that LGM post.

Raw Story takes a different approach, also citing Gawker comment on Wagner’s statements: University president: ‘Three-Fifths’ slavery agreement example of ‘pragmatic’ compromise

Wagner’s invocation of the agreement as a “lesson of our forebears” was immediately criticized on social media on Saturday; Salon also called “shockingly horrible” ; and Gawker suggested that same day that The Affordable Care Act, the Voting Rights Act, or “Do all homework, you get to watch The Simpsons” would have been more appropriate examples of political compromise.

As stated in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the U.S. Constitution, the agreement mandated that, “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

The agreement was abandoned after the abolition of slavery, as mandated by the 13th Amendment.

I agree with TGW on this one...she says:

Amazing. An amazingly stupid thing to say. Emory University does not need this and neither does Atlanta or this already bad-mouthed region.

Moving on to immigration: Report: White House immigration bill in the works would lay out an 8-year path to legal status

The White House is circulating a draft immigration bill that would create a new visa for illegal immigrants living in the United States and allow them to become legal permanent residents within eight years, according to a report published online Saturday by USA Today.President Barack Obama’s bill would create a “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” visa for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. The bill includes more security funding and requires business owners to adopt a system for verifying the immigration status of new hires within four years, the newspaper said.

USA Today reported that the bill would require that immigrants pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees to qualify for the new visa. Immigrants who served more than a year in prison for a criminal conviction or were convicted of three or more crimes and were sentenced to a total of 90 days in jail would not be eligible. Crimes committed in other countries that would bar immigrants from legally entering the country would also be ineligible.

Those immigrants who pass the requirements can apply for a visa, and work on getting their green card within eight years.

Another bit of news from the swamp, this time a group of Democrats have put their feelings on Medicare/Social Security cuts down on paper. Majority of House Democrats Call on President Obama to Reject Benefit Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Benefits

107 House Democrats, a majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives, wrote President Obama today, urging him to reject any proposals to cut benefits millions of American families depend upon through Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The letter was led by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL),Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), and Rep Donna Edwards (D-MD).

The Members specifically singled out “Chained CPI”—a proposal to reduce Social Security benefits by changing the way inflation is calculated—and raising the Medicare retirement age as policies they oppose.

“A commitment to keeping the middle-class strong and reducing poverty requires a commitment to keeping Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid strong,” the Members said in the letter. “We urge you to reject any proposals to cut benefits, and we look forward to working with you to enact approaches that instead rely on economic growth and more fair revenue-raising policies to solve our fiscal problems.”

Full letter to Obama can be found at the above link. At least someone is making a case for their constituents…

Just a few more links for you. There is reason to believe a suspected serial killer has been caught:  Man Charged in Killings of 2 Women in Missouri

A Kansas City-area man was arrested Saturday in the killings of two prostitutes whose bodies were found posed on the sides of rural Missouri roads nearly a year apart.

At a news conference Saturday night, authorities said Derek Richardson, 27, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of abandonment of a corpse. His bail is set at $2 million. It wasn’t immediately known whether he has an attorney.

“We absolutely stopped a person who was going to kill again,” said Kansas City police Sgt. Doug Niemeier, adding that authorities will search across the United States to ensure there weren’t other victims.

Police say they know Richardson has traveled around the US, they are now investigating other crimes that may be connected.

And over in Japan, someone is sending out golden packages worth a total of $250,000…Golden gifts sent to tsunami-hit Japan port

People in a small Japanese fishing port that was devastated by the 2011 tsunami have been receiving gold bars in the post from an anonymous benefactor.

Packages containing gold bars started turning up in Ishinomaki, in Miyagi prefecture, about 10 days ago.

I’ve got two space stories for you, one is in connection with the huge meteor that struck Russia a couple of days ago. Dismissed as Doomsayers, Advocates for Meteor Detection Feel Vindicated

For decades, scientists have been on the lookout for killer objects from outer space that could devastate the planet. But warnings that they lacked the tools to detect the most serious threats were largely ignored, even as skeptics mocked the worriers as Chicken Littles.

Well, the sky was literally falling in the outskirts of the Ural Mountains…

No more. The meteor that rattled Siberia on Friday, injuring hundreds of people and traumatizing thousands, has suddenly brought new life to efforts to deploy adequate detection tools, in particular a space telescope that would scan the solar system for dangers.

A group of young Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who helped build thriving companies like eBay, Google and Facebook has already put millions of dollars into the effort and saw Friday’s shock wave as a turning point in raising hundreds of millions more.

“Wouldn’t it be silly if we got wiped out because we weren’t looking?” said Edward Lu, a former NASA astronaut and Google executive who leads the detection effort. “This is a wake-up call from space. We’ve got to pay attention to what’s out there.”

Hot rocks falling from the heavens are not the only thing out there in the darkness of space, there is a cloud bursting with color relatively near us that holds something dark indeed.  Cotton Candy Cloud Hides Baby Black Hole

Composite image of supernova remnant W49B

This looks like the explosion of a cotton candy Death Star (run by evil space clowns, perhaps?) but it is the remains of a star’s death. This colorful cloud is a supernova remnant, seen in infrared, radio, and x-ray light… and at its center may hide one of the galaxy’s youngest black holes.

Located 26,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Aquila, W49B is a snapshot of the shockwaves from a star that went supernova an estimated 1,000 years ago (not including the time it took for its light to reach us). Several observation methods and instruments were used to create the technicolor image above – X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory shown in blue and green, radio data from the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array in pink, and infrared and optical data from the Palomar Observatory in orange and yellow — but put all together, one feature becomes glaringly obvious.

This thing is a mess.

Typically supernova remnants have a roughly circular or shell-like shape, generally seen as a ring of bright material surrounding the dense burnt-out core of a star. The ring is bright because it’s composed of interstellar gas and dust that’s being violently ionized by the spreading force of the supernova. Ionized material gives off many forms of radiation, detectable in various wavelengths by observatories on the ground as well as in space.

W49B isn’t a ring, though. It’s a sloppy barrel shape that indicates an uneven, asymmetrical eruption, hinting that the original star didn’t go peacefully into this good night.

That Discover article calls this star corpse a black hole, and if that turns out to be the case,

…would be the galaxy’s newest black hole — at least as far as what’s been discovered so far. A mere thousand years old, an alleged black hole at the heart of W49B would have just been born in the night sky around the same time that Vikings were first setting foot on North American shores.

The paper on W49B was published in the Feb. 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.Read more on the Chandra X-ray Observatory website here.

Y’all try and stay warm today, and let us know what you are reading and thinking about today.