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?


SDB Early Evening News Reads for 100311: Koch, Votes, Christie and Special Skills

Good afternoon, the evening reads are a bit early today, so lets dig in…

I cannot believe the Main Stream Media silence on the investigative article from Bloomberg that alleges Koch Industries are involved in corporate bribery in six different countries and made money off of chemical sales to Iran.

Dakinikat covered it in her morning post, but I thought this from David Dayen was a great post about the:  Noted Liberal Rag Bloomberg Levels Serious Charges at Koch Industries | FDL News Desk

Bloomberg, the news organization for patchouli-burning, Birkenstock-wearing hippies everywhere, has a long story alleging that Koch Industries traded with Iran, paid bribes to win contracts, stole oil, and engaged in “violations of criminal law,” according to the company’s own internal documents.

You’d need only add some story about Charles or David Koch personally tying down a damsel in distress to train tracks to come up with a more damning portrait of what amounts to a super-villain.

Because this story appears in such a commie broadsheet like Bloomberg, it will surely be dismissed. OK, tongue out of cheek. This is an extremely serious piece of journalism, detailing numerous crimes from a corporate actor that has gotten wildly rich in spite of – because of – the crimes. There are details in here of Koch Industries negligence in a pipeline gas explosion that killed two teenagers. There are details of Koch employees told by superiors to falsify data on cancer-causing benzene. There are details of trading with Iran and illicit payments to get contracts and all sorts of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. There are details of a number of different indictments and settlements and court orders and plea agreements. The portrait painted is frankly of a criminal enterprise.

It is ridiculous…there are only a handful of news outlets mentioning the Koch Brothers criminal activities this Bloomberg article investigated. I noticed MSNBC has a story on it, but all I see on CNN, Reuters, Google News are things about Perry and the N*ggerhead Camp, Amanda Knox, Michael Jackson’s Doctor and speculation on Chris Christie.

Like this possible announcement from Christie scheduled for Thursday:  Christie-Watch: Big Announcement Coming Thursday (Maybe) | Election 2012

In a piece titled, “Top Christie Donors Told To Head To Trenton,” The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis has this:

“Big potential donors to Christie have been told to prepare to go to Trenton this Thursday to stand on stage with him for the announcement if he decides to run. He has not decided yet.”

Lewis concludes, “Regardless of his decision, this announcement will be big news…”

So, what is one to read into that? Presumably it would be a bit strange for Christie call donors to “stand on stage” while announcing that he’s not going to run.

In other election news, check out the latest findings from a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice:  Restrictions Could Keep Five Million Traditionally Democratic Voters From The Polls In 2012 | TPMMuckraker

Restrictive voting laws in states across the country could affect up to five million voters from traditionally Democratic demographics in 2012, according to a new report by the Brennan Center. That’s a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.

The new restrictions, the study found, “fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election.”

Over at Maddow, they have a map that illustrates the states with new voter laws: The Maddow Blog – Map: Making voting harder

Click for the Brennan Center for Justice report.

Since Republicans gained control of so many state legislatures in 2010, they’ve been working to pass laws that make voting harder. We’ve been asking on the show whether they’ve made voting hard enough, in enough places, to change the landscape in 2012.

Now, from the Brennan Center for Justice, comes the beginning of an answer:

The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

In those states, minority, student and poor voters are most likely to feel the pinch from the new rules. As many as one in four African-Americans don’t have the kind of photo ID needed to vote. In Maine, after finding almost no evidence of voter fraud, the Secretary of State sent college students a letter saying they might be in violation of the law. And in Wisconsin, you can get a free photo ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles — if you know to ask for it.

Back to the TPM link for a minute:

The study found that:

  • These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
  • The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
  • Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, five have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

The total number, according to the Brennan Center, is the sum of the 3.2 million voters they estimate will be affected by new photo ID laws, “the 240,000 citizens and potential voters who could be affected by new proof of citizenship laws, 202,000 voters registered in 2008 through voter registration drives that have now been made extremely difficult or impossible under new laws, 60,000 voters registered in 2008 through Election Day voter registration where it has now been repealed, one to two million voters who voted in 2008 on days eliminated under new laws rolling back early voting and at least 100,000 disenfranchised citizens who might have regained voting rights by 2012.”

What can you say, Dak is getting ready to defend her dissertation and take those necessary steps towards moving on to better and greener pastures…possibly outside of the US.  I wish her the best, because this country is really going down the toilet.

On the LGBT  front, this news out of Bentonville, Arkansas should make a big statement to the GOP candidates against LGBT rights…A Trans-Walmart Moment | Pam’s House Blend

A Trans-Walmart Moment has come without much notice, but the moment should be considered significant: Walmart has recently changed their corporate nondiscrimination policy to add gender identity.

From The Advocate‘s article Wal-Mart Adds Trans Protections for Employees:

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart has added gender identity to their list of protected categories for employees.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, already has protections for LGB employees. The additional transgender protections were praised by the Human Rights Campaign…

Thumbnail link to HRC press release: Human Rights Campaign Applauds Walmart for Adding Gender Identity Non-Discrimination ProtectionsFrom the HRC’s press release entitled Human Rights Campaign Applauds Walmart for Adding Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Protections; Nation’s largest private employer sets standard with protections for transgender workers:

The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – today praised Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, for adding gender identity and expression to its employment non-discrimination policy. The company’s nondiscrimination policy already included sexual orientation.

“What matters in the workplace is how you do your job, not your gender identity or sexual orientation,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As the nation’s largest private employer, Walmart shows that doing the right thing is also good for business. We urge them to continue to move forward by ensuring all of their LGBT employees receive equal benefits.”

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation tracks corporate workplace policies and rates companies on their treatment of LGBT employees through the Corporate Equality Index (CEI). The CEI has helped lead a sea-change in the workplaces practices of corporate America by assessing more than 30 specific policies and practices covering nearly every aspect of employment for LGBT workers from non-discrimination protections and the training surrounding those policies to domestic partnership and legal dependent benefits to gender transition guidelines and LGBT employee resource groups. Visit our website at www.hrc.org/resources/entry/corporate-equality-index-2011 for a complete look at the survey. Last year a record 844 American companies and law firms were rated in the CEI.

“Congress needs to follow their lead and make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act the law of the land,” added Solmonese.

My Forever and ever, Amen comment on nondiscrimination protections based on gender identity and gender expression is now going to be “If it’s good enough for Walmart, it should be good enough for you.”

Yup, and I would add one thing to Pam’s Forever and ever, Amen comment… “So get over it!”

On August 31st of this year we lost a woman who made history in Aviation.  Betty Skelton: Aviatrix and test driver who broke records on land and in the air.

Betty Skelton was an air-and-land daredevil in an era of male-dominated sports.

Breaking the gender barriers and setting records, she notched up three women’s international aerobatics titles and 17 aviation and race-car world records during the 1940s and 1950s. According to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Skelton held more combined aircraft and automotive records than anyone in history. In his 1994 biography, Betty Skelton: The First Lady of Firsts, Henry Holden wrote, “In an era when heroes were race pilots, jet jocks and movie stars, Betty Skelton was an aviation sweetheart, an international celebrity and a flying sensation.”

Skelton was an audacious aviatrix; her signature trick, in her Pitts Special biplane S-1C, Little Stinker, was the “inverted ribbon cut,” a breathtaking manoeuvre in which a pilot flies upside down at about 150mph and about 12 feet from the ground to slice a ribbon strung between two poles with the propeller. She also set two world light-plane altitude records, reaching 26,000ft in 1949 and 29,050ft (just higher than Everest) in a Piper Cub in 1951. Used to flying barefoot and with an outside temperature of -53, she recalled, “My feet darn near froze to death.”

In 1954, the diminutive Skelton became the automobile industry’s first female test driver, setting a world land-speed record, in 1956, of 145mph in a souped-up Corvette at Daytona Beach – the men’s record at the time was 3mph faster. In 1965 she set the women’s world land-speed record, hitting 315.72mph at Bonneville Salt Flats.

Skelton was the first woman to be inducted into the International Aerobatic Hall of Fame and the Nascar International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

I love the cover of that Look Magazine, isn’t it great? Skelton was a role model for girls, at a time when a woman’s place was in the home…and not at an altitude of 29,050 feet! She passed away from cancer at her home in Florida. She was 85.

And lets end with a bit of Appalachian History » You’d have that feeling then of being way far back

From 1935-1943, President Franklin Roosevelt looked to the U.S. Farm Security Administration, under the direction of Roy Stryker, to photograph people in need across the country in order to help sell his New Deal programs to the public.

Ben Shahn was one of the first photographers Styker hired. Shahn worked for a part of the project called Special Skills, and also helped create posters and other graphic arts.

“It was a really tough time,” remembered Shahn years later, “and when this thing came along and this idea that I must wander around the country a bit for three months. . . I just nearly jumped out of my skin with joy. And not only that, they were going to give me a salary too! I just couldn’t believe it.”

In October 1935 Shahn and his wife Bernarda started out on the first trip in a Model A Ford. Heading for West Virginia, he took photographs in Monongalia County before arriving in Logan County. The couple spent a Sunday and Monday in Omar and also visited Freeze Fork before moving on through Williamson to Kentucky and Tennessee, and then into the deep South.

“I did a series of photographs on a Saturday afternoon in a small town in Tennessee, I believe, of a medicine man. He had a little dummy, ventriloquist dummy, and he had a Negro to help him and so on. It was Saturday. I don’t think there were ten cars in the square, they were all mule drawn carts that had come there. This was 1935; it was incredible you see. The same was true of a lot of areas we covered. You’d have that feeling then of being way far back; but tragically enough, just about a month ago we took a train from Washington to Cincinnati. As I went throughout West Virginia, it hadn’t changed. It just made me sick to see the same darn thing.

A transcript from this 1965–68 interview can be found here: Oral history interview with Ben Shahn, 1964 Apr. 14 – Oral Histories | Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

A few photos from this trip can be seen here: Omar Project:Photos

This is one that particularly touched me, maybe because the kid looks like a little hoodlum in the making…

Now, that is one tough looking little dirty bastard…(wink and a smile) 😉

That is it for me today, I’ll catch up with y’all later in the comments!


Would a Serious Primary Challenge Force Obama to Move Left? Or Should We Just Dump Him?

A primary challenge that would “save” Obama is what Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine, suggests today in the Washington Post (via Memeorandum).

People who used to say, “Give President Obama more time” when the president was criticized for capitulating to the right, or who argued that Obama must have a plan to turn things around, are now largely depressed and angry. To many liberals and progressives, the president’s unwillingness to veto any measure that includes continued tax relief for billionaires is the last straw, building on a record of spinelessness that includes his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, abandonment of a public option for health-care reform, refusal to prosecute those who tortured in Iraq or lied us into that war, and unwillingness to tax carbon emissions.

With his base deeply disillusioned, many progressives are starting to believe that Obama has little chance of winning reelection unless he enthusiastically embraces a populist agenda and worldview – soon.

Lerner argues that liberals can “save” Obama by primarying him. Frankly, I’d prefer to dump Obama and replace him with someone who actually has some core values–preferably someone with liberal core values. But this idea of giving up on Obama seems to have gone viral lately, and I think it’s a good sign. Lerner offers a very liberal platform for the proposed primary challenge, including pulling all troops out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, and pushing for a new New Deal here at home.

It sounds great, though unrealistic. Even the most liberal candidates that Lerner suggests wouldn’t support that agenda. Furthermore, some of the candidates he suggests are just plain silly (Rachel Maddow? John Conyers? Susan Sarandon? Alan Grayson?). But the good news is that elite liberals like Lerner are finally talking about alternatives to a continuation of Bush III after 2012. Let’s face it, whether we get Obama or a Republican, we’re still going to get Republican policies.

Could I be wrong though? Is there still a chance to prevent the Republican Party from retaking the White House and the Senate in 2012? Even a curmudgeon like Joseph Cannon seems to think so. Yesterday he discussed primary challengers to Obama, and proposed Oregon Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio as possible candidate. In his latest post today, Cannon proposes starting a movement for a new New Deal.

A new New Deal. I like it. Where do I sign up?

Another positive sign for those of us who weren’t shocked by Obama’s betrayal of his prog supporters is that Obama himself has finally come out of the closet as a Blue Dog Democrat. As Wonk the Vote pointed out this morning, Obama pretty much outed himself back in March, 2009. From Politico:

“I am a New Democrat,” he told the New Democrat Coalition, according to two sources at the White House session….

Obama made his comment in discussing his budget priorities and broader goals, also calling himself a “pro-growth Democrat” during the course of conversation.

The self-descriptions are striking given Obama’s usual caution in being identified with any wing of his often-fractious party. He largely avoided the Democratic Leadership Council — the centrist group that Bill Clinton once led — and, with an eye on his national political standing, has always shied away from the liberal label, too….

Surrounded by 65 moderate Democrats on Tuesday in the State Dining Room, Obama was happy to portray himself as simpatico with a group of members who are largely socially liberal but fiscally more moderate to conservative.

Then on November 30, Matt Bai outed Obama on the pages of the Obama House Organ. (H/T Wonk the Vote–I missed this important article).

The body of Mr. Obama’s writing and experiences before he became a presidential candidate would suggest that he is instinctively pragmatic, typical of an emerging generation that sees all political dogma — be it ’60s liberalism or ’80s conservatism — as anachronistic. Privately, Mr. Obama has described himself, at times, as essentially a Blue Dog Democrat, referring to the shrinking caucus of fiscally conservative members of the party.

At this point, how can even the most Koolaid addled Obama supporter deny the truth? Obama is a Republican. If there is any chance at all to get a real Democrat into the White House, I say we join with Joseph Cannon and anyone else who will help out. Let’s work for real change that we really can believe in: A new New Deal.