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Heather Cox RichardsonMay 22

On May 22, 1964, in a graduation speech at the University of Michigan, President Lyndon Johnson put a name to a new vision for the United States. He called it “the Great Society” and laid out the vision of a country that did not confine itself to making money, but rather used its post–World War II prosperity to “enrich and elevate our national life.” That Great Society would demand an end to poverty and racial injustice. 

But it would do more than that, he promised: it would enable every child to learn and grow, and it would create a society where people would use their leisure time to build and reflect, where cities would not just answer physical needs and the demands of commerce, but would also serve “the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.” It would protect the natural world and would be “a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.” 

“But most of all,” he said, it would look forward. “[T]the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.”

Johnson proposed rebuilding the cities, protecting the countryside, and investing in education to set “every young mind…free to scan the farthest reaches of thought and imagination.” He admitted that the government did not have the answers to addressing the problems in the country, “[b]ut I do promise this,” he said. “We are going to assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America. I intend to establish working groups to prepare a series of White House conferences and meetings—on the cities, on natural beauty, on the quality of education, and on other emerging challenges. And from these meetings and from this inspiration and from these studies we will begin to set our course toward the Great Society.” 

Johnson’s vision of a Great Society came from a very different place than the reworking of society launched by his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in the 1930s. Roosevelt’s New Deal had used the federal government to address the greatest economic crisis in U.S. history, leveling the playing field between workers and employers to enable workingmen to support their families. Johnson, in contrast, was operating in a country that was enjoying record growth. Far from simply saving the country, he could afford to direct it toward greater things. 

Immediately, the administration turned to addressing issues of civil rights and poverty. Under Johnson’s pressure, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting voting, employment, or educational discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or national origin. Johnson also won passage of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, which created an Office of Economic Opportunity which would oversee a whole series of antipoverty programs, and of the Food Stamp Act, which helped people who didn’t make a lot of money buy food. 

When Republicans ran Arizona senator Barry Goldwater for president in 1964, calling for rolling back business regulation and civil rights to the years before the New Deal, voters who quite liked the new system gave Democrats such a strong majority in Congress that Johnson and the Democrats were able to pass 84 new laws to put the Great Society into place.

They cemented civil rights with the 1965 Voting Rights Act protecting minority voting, created jobs in Appalachia, and established job-training and community development programs. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 gave federal aid to public schools and established the Head Start program to provide comprehensive early education for low-income children. The Higher Education Act of 1965 increased federal investment in universities and provided scholarships and low-interest loans to students. 

The Social Security Act of 1965 created Medicare, which provided health insurance for Americans over 65, and Medicaid, which helped cover healthcare costs for folks with limited incomes. Congress advanced the war on poverty by increasing welfare payments and subsidizing rent for low-income families.

Congress took on the rights of consumers with new protective legislation that required cigarettes and other dangerous products to carry warning labels, required products to carry labels identifying the manufacturer, and required lenders to disclose the full cost of finance charges in loans. Congress also passed legislation protecting the environment, including the Water Quality Act of 1965 that established federal standards for water quality. 

But the government did not simply address poverty. Congress also spoke to Johnson’s aspirations for beauty and purpose when it created the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities. This law created both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities to make sure the era’s emphasis on science didn’t endanger the humanities. In 1967 it would also establish the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, followed in 1969 by National Public Radio. 

Opponents of this sweeping program picked up 47 seats in the House and three seats in the Senate in the 1966 midterm elections, and U.S. News and World Report wrote that “the big bash” was over. 

And yet, much of the Great Society still lives on, although it is now under more significant challenges every day from those who reject the idea that the federal government has a role to play in the shaping of our society.

“For better or worse,” Johnson told the University of Michigan graduates in 1964, “your generation has been appointed by history to deal with those problems and to lead America toward a new age. You have the chance never before afforded to any people in any age. You can help build a society where the demands of morality, and the needs of the spirit, can be realized in the life of the Nation.

“So, will you join in the battle to give every citizen the full equality which God enjoins and the law requires, whatever his belief, or race, or the color of his skin?” he asked.

“Will you join in the battle to give every citizen an escape from the crushing weight of poverty?…”

“There are those timid souls who say this battle cannot be won; that we are condemned to a soulless wealth. I do not agree. We have the power to shape the civilization that we want. But we need your will, your labor, your hearts, if we are to build that kind of society.”

Notes:

https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/remarks-the-university-michigan

U.S. News and World Report quotation is in Mary C. Brennan, Turning Right in the Sixties: The Conservative Capture of the GOP, p. 119.

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Autocrats, dictators, people in power all seem to tell us that what they are doing to us is for our own good and somehow many of us believe it. If we are paying attention, we can see what the GOP is doing and saying the same thing while enacting repressive laws on voting, reproduction and installing “their choice of judges” while stopping passage of infrastructure legislation. Is this for our own good? The current GOP is almost a mirror image of the1850’s political group then called southern Democrats or Dixiecrats. The times have changed but the issues and activities are the same. The basis of the party is to control government and make laws that benefit big business and thereby benefit themselves. These activities do not and have not benefitted the voters (all voters pro and con), too many voters fail to understand that following someone who promotes falsehoods disguised as facts amounts to abdicating your rights as a citizen. A casual glance around the world should show how people in power will lie to your face while continuing their nefarious deeds “on your behalf”. A shining example is the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, this was done “in the best interests of Ukraine” no matter how many Ukrainians died and how devastated the landscape become. This is what is quietly done when the party of the “right” is in power with no checks from the left and center. It is unfortunate that the United States has entered a stage where “Civil War” is possible especially since the effects of the last one is still with us.

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April 30, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
May 1
In the spring of 1890, Republicans were convinced they would win the upcoming midterm elections.Thanks to their management of the economy, they insisted, the United States was on its way to becoming the most advanced nation in the world. Technology had brought new products to the country—bananas, for example—and upwardly mobile Americans had enough leisure time and money to celebrate weddings with special dresses and cakes, and to give their children toys on their birthday. Massive factories like that of industrialist Andrew Carnegie in Homestead, Pennsylvania, churned out steel to make buildings like Chicago’s Home Insurance Building, completed in 1885, its 10 stories making it so astonishingly high it could only be called a “skyscraper.”This innovation was possible, Republicans believed, because they had protected the ability of men like Carnegie to run their businesses as they saw fit. With tariff laws guaranteeing that domestic industries would not have to compete with foreign products, businessmen could both innovate and collude with their colleagues to raise prices, bringing profits that would enable them to develop their businesses further. That development paid the country in jobs, permitting all Americans to enjoy a rising standard of living.Indeed, Carnegie wrote in 1889, “Individualism, Private Property, the Law of Accumulation of Wealth, and the Law of Competition” were the very height of human achievement. While the new economy created great disparities of wealth, he thought those differences were inevitable and a good thing. The money flowing up to the top meant that the country’s wealthiest men could build libraries and concert halls and universities and art collections to raise the cultural standards of the whole country.Newspapers celebrated the leading industrialists as the nation’s heroes, and Republicans took credit for creating the environment for them to work their magic. Across the country, men served by the new economy cheered on its leaders.But plenty of Americans could see that the nation was not in the rosy shape Republicans claimed. On shop floors in eastern factories, workers shoveled coal or worked looms for fourteen to sixteen hours a day for pennies, and if their health broke down or they lost a limb, they were out of both work and luck. In the West, rains had failed for five years, and the hot winds baked crops dry in two days. “This would be a fine country if only it had water,” a hopeful farmer said in a western joke. “Yes, and so would hell,” was the punch line. Farmers were saddled with high-interest mortgages, middlemen who skimmed the profits when crops went to market, and freight charges from railroad monopolies that took the rest.To those asking for the government to address the needs of workers and farmers, Carnegie said: “The Socialist or Anarchist who seeks to overturn present conditions is to be regarded as attacking the foundation upon which civilization itself rests.”In the summer of 1890, Republican lawmakers, too, pushed back on those criticizing their pro-business policies. Hardworking farmers were doing just fine, they said; reports of high mortgages that farmers couldn’t repay were “a libel upon the thrift and economy, as well as the honesty and intelligence of the Western farmer.” Those few farmers who really were in trouble had only themselves to blame. They had “extravagant notions,” rejecting pork and potatoes in favor of chicken and angel food cake.Ultimately, farmers were lazy, wanting “a sort of paternal government” to take care of them. President Benjamin Harrison assured an audience in Topeka, Kansas, that life was made up of averages, and that their poor year should not dash their hopes for the future (although he didn’t have any suggestions for how they should feed themselves in the meantime).Far from the policy struggles of the Republicans and Democrats back East, in the summer of 1890, a new movement began, quietly, to take shape. In western towns, workers and poor farmers and entrepreneurs shut out of opportunities by monopolies began to talk to each other. They discovered a shared dismay over a government that seemed to work only for the rich industrialists, and anger that they seemed to be working themselves to the bone only to have the fruits of their labor taken by the rich. “Wall Street owns the country,” western organizer Mary Elizabeth Lease told audiences. “It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street.”Westerners suffering in the new economy began to come together. Reviving older Farmers’ Alliances, they distributed literature across the country explaining how tariffs worked and how railroad monopolies jacked up prices. Existing newspapers began to echo their arguments, and where there weren’t local newspapers, Alliance members began to print them.They offered a different vision of the country’s political economy, defending the idea that the government should treat everyone equally. Alliances declared that they shared the same interests as workers, and called for “the reform of unjust systems and the repeal of laws that bear unequally upon the people.”They also redefined what it meant to be a success in America. Rather than the cutthroat individualism of those like Carnegie, they called for reviving an older tradition, one in which “manliness” meant honesty, generosity, community-mindedness, and dignity. They called for “a manly, honest defense of popular rights, a clear cut expression of principles, a bold demand for the restoration of that of which they have been despoiled under the deceitful forms and names of law.” Their emphasis on reason and honorable conduct meant that they rejected the era’s political fights for dominance, and so there was room in their political coalition for women and often, despite the era’s Jim Crow walls, for Black farmers.Those who listened to this movement were not radicals. They didn’t want to change the American system so much as return it to its traditional promise of equality before the law and equality of access to resources. Their solution to the industrialists’ control of the government was to require direct election of senators—so industrialists could not buy up legislatures to pick the man the industrialist wanted—regulation of railroads, lower tariffs, a graduated income tax, easier credit, better working conditions, and higher wages.Back east, politicians were aware enough of the rising anger that Republican leaders prodded President Harrison himself into a western tour—“It will be a tiresome trip and I… dread it,” the president wrote—but they weren’t terribly concerned. They weren’t reading the new newspapers or going to the picnics and barbecues. They dismissed news about the growing groundswell as impossible.They missed the major political story of the year.While congressmen and eastern newspapers fought over every scrap of Washington political gossip, western farmers and workers and entrepreneurs had organized. New newspapers, letters, barbecues, lectures, and picnics had done their work, educating those on the peripheries of politics about the grand issues of the day. When the votes were counted after the November 1890 election, the Alliances had carried South Dakota and almost the whole state ticket in Kansas, and they held the balance of power in the Minnesota and Illinois legislatures. In Nebraska and Iowa, they had split the Republicans and given the governorship to a Democrat. They controlled 52 seats in the new Congress, enough to swing laws in their direction.While the Alliance movement itself wouldn’t last, its demands would shape not only the laws of the Progressive Era, including the graduated income tax, the direct election of senators, and the regulation of business, but also the concept of “manliness.” President Theodore Roosevelt, who spent his life defining what it meant to be a powerful man, worked to defend ordinary Americans from the overreach of corporations, and to use the government to help everyone rather than a select few.This letter is for the musician I met this week whose work takes her all over the country. She said that in her travels lately she feels something powerful building under the radar, and asked me if such a thing had ever happened before.—The Carnegie quotations are from The Gospel of Wealth (1889). The political history of the Farmers’ Alliance is well-covered, including in two of my own books, but the material on how its members focused on a new kind of masculinity is from Gregg Cantrell, The People’s Revolt: Texas Populists and the Roots of American Liberalism. Here’s a link to an interview with him about it: https://magazine.tcu.edu/summer-2021/gregg-cantrell-texas-populist/Share
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April 26, 20225:41 AM ET

Matthew S. Schwartz 2018 square

MATTHEW S. SCHWARTZ

 Florida activist known for his tongue-in-cheek petitions to local government agencies has asked school districts in Florida to ban the Bible.

In petitions sent to public school superintendents across the state, Stevens asked the districts to “immediately remove the Bible from the classroom, library, and any instructional material,” Stevens wrote in the documents, which were shared with NPR. “Additionally, I also seek the banishment of any book that references the Bible.”

His petitions cited a bill signed into law last month by Gov. Ron DeSantis, which lets parents object to educational materials. That bill came about after some parents complained about sexually explicit books being taught in Florida schools.

Many of those books, such as Gender Queer: A Memoir, deal with LGBTQ themes and coming out stories. DeSantis celebrated the removal of Gender Queer at a news conference after the signing of the law. It’s “a cartoon-style book with graphic images of children performing sexual acts,” he said last month. “That is wrong.”

Liberals have been critical of the legislation. After passage, the state’s Democratic leader, Lauren Book, lamented Florida’s joining “places like Russia and China, modern-day examples of what happens when free thought and free speech are tightly restricted in all levels of society, including in school.”

So, with Florida the latest flashpoint in the culture wars, Stevens decided it was time to take up arms. His target: The Bible. “My objection to the Bible being in your public schools is based on the following seven points, offered for your learned consideration,” Stevens wrote.

Stevens proceeded to question whether the Bible is age-appropriate, pointing to its “casual” references to murder, adultery, sexual immorality, and fornication. “Do we really want to teach our youth about drunken orgies?”

He also took issue with the many Biblical references to rape, bestiality, cannibalism and infanticide. “In the end, if Jimmy and Susie are curious about any of the above, they can do what everyone else does – get a room at the Motel Six and grab the Gideons,” he wrote.

The 57-year-old Deerfield Beach man says his ire was stoked after Florida lawmakers decided this month to ban 54 math books that were claimed to have incorporated topics such as critical race theory. “I love the algebras,” says Stevens, who studied applied mathematics in college. “And those Tally [Tallahassee] loons just banned a bunch of arithmetic books?”

Stevens sent the petitions as a way to point out the hypocrisy, he said. “If you want to teach morality and ethics, do you really want to turn to a book that wants you to dash babies against rocks?” he told NPR, pointing to Psalm 137:9.

Stevens, who doesn’t have any children attending Florida public schools, says he hasn’t heard back from any of the school districts yet. But his group is tracking when the emailed petitions are opened. As of late Monday, Lake County School District had shared the email internally 35 times, he said — and Duval County reached out to the state capital for guidance.

The counties did not respond to requests for comment.

“My activism in the past has been wildly successful,” Stevens said. “And, I imagine, will continue on a similar trajectory.”

Stevens said he is particularly interested in drawing attention to the hypocrisy. “I don’t have the votes,” he said. “My job is merely to turn hypocrisy on itself and let the bureaucrats each other for lunch.”

It’s not the first time Stevens has made waves for his activism. In 2015, he petitioned 11 South Florida municipalities to either drop the prayer that opens their city commission meetings, or let him lead a prayer in the name of Satan.

After Stevens’ requests, some Florida cities ended up dropping their moment of prayer altogether. “The satanic stare withered them down,” Stevens told the Sun Sentinel.

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April 11, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Apr 12
Last week, we lost a crucially important voice in the media when media reporter Eric Boehlert died unexpectedly. In his last column for his publication Press Run, titled “Why is the press rooting against Biden?,” Boehlert wrote that there is such a “glaring disconnect between reality and how the press depicts White House accomplishments” that it seems the press is “determined to keep Biden pinned down.” Boehlert pointed to the extraordinary poll showing that only 28% of Americans know the country has been gaining jobs in the last year—7 million jobs, in fact—while 37% think the country has lost jobs. Under Biden, the U.S. has added more than 400,000 jobs a month for 11 months, the longest period of job growth since at least 1939. And yet, Boehlert pointed out, on the day the latest job report was released, cable news used the word “inflation” as many times as “jobs.” On Sunday, NBC’s “Meet the Press” ignored the economy and instead featured conversations about two problems for the Democrats in the midterms: immigration and Trump. It is no secret that we are in a battle between democracy and authoritarianism in America and around the world. It seems to me that the Biden administration is seeking to weaken the ties of misguided voters to authoritarianism by proving that a democratic government can answer the needs of ordinary Americans. The administration appears to be taking the position that focusing on the latest outrage from the right wing locks the country into their view of the world: you are either for Trump or against him. Instead, the administration seems to be trying to demonstrate its own worldview, but with the press glued to Trump and the Republicans, the administration is having a hard time getting traction.The White House has taken on the idea that the Democrats are unpopular in rural areas. On March 31, the Department of the Interior announced a $420 million investment in clean water in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota. Today, the president announced a $440 million commitment to an “America the Beautiful Challenge” to attract up to $1 billion in private and philanthropic donations to conserve land, water, and wildlife across the country.It also released today a 17-page bipartisan “playbook” to help rural communities identify more than 100 programs designed to fund rural infrastructure. It explains how to apply for funds to expand rural broadband, clean up pollution, improve transportation, fix rural bridges and roads, ensure clean water and sanitation, prepare for disasters including climate change, upgrade the electrical grid, and so on. These are critical needs that local communities, which cannot afford lobbyists, might need help navigating. The administration is also sending officials into rural communities to make sure that billions of federal dollars and the resources they command reach across the country. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu will all be on the road.  Also today, the administration took steps to address medical billing practices and medical debt. It will collect information on how more than 2000 providers handle patients, and will weigh that information into grant-making decisions as well as sharing potential violations with law enforcement. The newly rebuilt Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, gutted by the former president, will investigate and hold accountable debt collectors that violate patients’ rights. The administration is also eliminating medical debt as a factor for underwriting in federal loan programs.  Last week, Biden extended the moratorium on most federal student loan programs through the end of August—sooner than most Democrats wanted—and expunged the defaults of roughly 8 million federal student loan borrowers, permitting them to resume payments in good standing. Finally, today, Biden nominated Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, to direct the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The bureau has not had a Senate-confirmed director since 2015 because gun-rights groups oppose those nominated to the position. The Senate has confirmed only one director in the past 16 years. Dettelbach is Biden’s second nominee; the Senate scuttled the first, a former ATF agent who called for gun regulations.  The administration today announced a Justice Department rule that manufacturers of gun kits, which enable people to build weapons at home, will be considered gun manufacturers and must be licensed, the gun parts must have serial numbers, and buyers must have background checks. So-called ghost guns, assembled at home and unmarked and untraceable, are increasingly widespread. From 2016 to 2020, law enforcement recovered nearly 24,000 ghost guns at crime scenes. Polls widely show that more than 80% of Americans support background checks for gun buyers. Nonetheless, Gun Owners of America vowed to fight the rule. Biden’s worldview in which the government works for ordinary people contrasts with what we are learning about the worldview of the former administration under Trump, where a lack of oversight meant that money went to grifters and well-connected people.There have been plenty of stories about the misuse of funds under the Trump administration, including the story on March 28 by Ken Dilanian and Laura Strickler of NBC that prosecutors are calling the distribution of funds under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), designed to keep businesses afloat during the pandemic, “the largest fraud in U.S. history.” As much as 10% of the relief money—$80 billion—was stolen in 2020, as money went out the door without verification checks (the Biden administration has since imposed verification rules). Swindlers also stole $90 billion to $400 billion from the Covid unemployment relief program, and another $80 billion from a different Covid relief program. We have also learned that the State Department can’t account for the foreign gifts Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, and other administration officials received in office because the officials did not submit an accounting, as is required by law. But those stories pale in comparison to the news broken last night by ​​David D. Kirkpatrick and Kate Kelly of the New York Times: six months after Trump left office, an investment fund controlled by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), invested $2 billion with Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, despite the fact that the fund advisors found Kushner’s new company “unsatisfactory in all aspects.” At the same time, they also invested about $1 billion in another new firm run by Trump’s former treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin.  Kushner has little experience in private equity, and his firm consists primarily of that Saudi money; no American institutions have invested with him. The Saudi investment will net Kushner’s firm about $25 million a year in asset management fees, and the investors required him to hire qualified investment professionals to manage the money.It certainly looks as if Kushner is being rewarded for his work on behalf of the kingdom, and perhaps in anticipation of influence in the future. Kushner defended MBS after news broke that the crown prince had approved the killing and dismemberment of U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Kushner helped to broker $110 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, even as Congress was outraged by MBS’s war in Yemen. Most concerning, though, is that Kushner had access to the most sensitive materials in our government. Career officials denied Kushner’s security clearance out of concern about his foreign connections, but Trump overruled them.We also know that classified material labeled “Top Secret” was in the 15 boxes of documents belonging to the National Archives and Records Administration that Trump took to his home at Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating.—Notes:https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/BIL-Rural-Playbook-.pdfhttps://doi.gov/pressreleases/interior-department-announces-420-million-rural-water-funding-president-bidenshttps://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/04/11/biden-administration-releases-rural-playbook-launches-building-a-better-america-rural-infrastructure-tour-to-highlight-impact-of-bipartisan-infrastructure-law-on-rural-america/https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/04/11/fact-sheet-the-biden-administration-announces-new-actions-to-lessen-the-burden-of-medical-debt-and-increase-consumer-protection/https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/06/biden-defaults-federal-student-loan-borrowers-00023355https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/biggest-fraud-generation-looting-covid-relief-program-known-ppp-n1279664https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2022-04-11/pdf/2022-07641.pdfhttps://www.cnn.com/2022/04/09/politics/state-department-trump-administration-foreign-gifts/index.htmlhttps://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/10/us/jared-kushner-saudi-investment-fund.htmlhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-sought-top-secret-security-clearance-for-jared-kushner-last-year-despite-concerns-of-john-kelly-and-intelligence-officials/2019/02/28/2eacc72e-3bae-11e9-aaae-69364b2ed137_story.htmlSteve Schmidt @SteveSchmidtSESWe are habituated to process these stories as pay to play stories. That’s not what this is. This is evidence of payments for espionage. Kushner served in the West Wing and had access to the United States most sensitive secrets. This is corruption on such a gargantuan scale https://t.co/UWIQR0ruZ0Joy-Ann (Pro-Democracy) Reid 😷 @JoyAnnReidSo to review: the Saudis handed $1 billion to Steve Mnuchin and $2 billion to Jared Kushner, at the close of the Trump administration. Even though Kushner has zero experience investing money. And this is not a bribe and also we need Hunter’s laptop??? Make it make sense.April 12th 20221,536 Retweets4,391 Likeshttps://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/04/11/fact-sheet-the-biden-administration-cracks-down-on-ghost-guns-ensures-that-atf-has-the-leadership-it-needs-to-enforce-our-gun-laws/https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/officials-rejected-jared-kushner-top-secret-security-clearance-were-overruled-n962221https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/politics/explainer-what-are-ghost-guns-why-is-biden-taking-action/3022324/PRESS RUNWhy is the press rooting against Biden?Listen now | Please support independent voices and fearless media criticism by subscribing for $6 a month. Thanks! Stay healthy. Be kind…Read more8 days ago · 147 likes · 171 comments · Eric Boehlerthttps://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/07/us/trump-classified-information.htmlhttps://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2017/oct/03/chris-abele/do-90-americans-support-background-checks-all-gun-/https://morningconsult.com/2021/03/10/house-gun-legislation-background-checks-polling/ShareLikeCommentShareYou’re a free subscriber to Letters from an American. For the full experience, become a paid subscriber.Subscribe
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Julie Carr Smyth

Sat, April 9, 2022, 11:12 AM

COLUMBUS — Mike Gibbons, a leading Republican Senate candidate from Ohio, said at a media event last fall that middle-class Americans don’t pay “any kind of a fair share” of income taxes.

“The top 20% of earners in the United States pay 82% of federal income tax — and, if you do the math, and 45% to 50% don’t pay any income tax, you can see the middle class is not really paying any kind of a fair share, depending on how you want to define it,” Gibbons said.

The comments by Gibbons, a millionaire investment banker from Cleveland, were made in a September episode of “The Landscape” podcast by Crain’s Cleveland Business. But they could take on new resonance after Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, introduced a governing plan in February that has divided the party over its call to raise taxes on millions of Americans who don’t earn enough to pay federal income taxes.

Political advertisement spending: Ohio Senate candidate Mike Gibbons spent big money to be on your TV. Is it paying off?

Scott, who leads the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, has said that paying even a small tax would give poor people “skin in the game” to boost their interest and involvement in how tax dollars are spent.

Other leading Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have distanced themselves from Scott’s proposal, worried that the prospect of raising taxes on lower-income Americans could prompt election-year attacks from Democrats.

Campaign spokesperson Samantha Cotten said Friday that Gibbons has pledged not to raise taxes on individuals or businesses.

“Mike Gibbons does not support tax increases on any American — and never has,” she said in a statement. “Mike is a businessman, not a career politician and he understands economics and how to implement smart ideas and strategies that will benefit all Americans.”

Early Voting Guide: How, where to vote early in Ohio

Yet, ahead of the May 3 primary, Republican rivals are looking to use the comments against Gibbons. One opponent, Republican Mark Pukita, has had it posted on his YouTube page for the last three weeks with the caption “Tax Hike Mike Gibbons.”

Asked about the Scott plan during a Republican Senate debate last week, former Ohio Republican chair Jane Timken said she opposes his proposal to raise taxes on the middle class, while “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance said the GOP needs to stand for “middle-class people being able to raise a family and do it on a single income.”

In the video, Gibbons is pictured before a campaign backdrop and criticizes Democrats for advancing an “absolutely false” narrative that “the middle class is getting screwed and the wealthy, the elite, are cheating everybody” because they “need the middle class to win an election.” He says he doesn’t have a problem with a “progressive tax system structure” but notes that the wealthy already pay a lot in taxes.

Mar 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Republican candidate Mike Gibbons gives a response during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Republican Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission
Mar 28, 2022; Wilberforce, Ohio, USA; U.S. Senate Republican candidate Mike Gibbons gives a response during Ohio’s U.S. Senate Republican Primary Debate at Central State University. Mandatory Credit: Joshua A. Bickel/Ohio Debate Commission

Gibbons asks: “How much of the total tax bill can a very small percentage of the nation pay and still be a democracy?”

Democrats have spent the better part of a decade pushing for higher taxes on top earners and will likely do so again this year.

President Joe Biden included a “Billionaire Minimum Income Tax” in his 2023 budget proposal. In announcing the tax proposal, the Democrat asserted that “a firefighter and a teacher pay more than double” the tax rate that a billionaire pays.

According an analysis of 2019 Internal Revenue Service data, the most recent available, by the fiscally conservative Tax Foundation, the top 10% of Americans earn 47.3% of reported income and pay 70.9% of the income taxes. The bottom 50% of American wage earners report 11.5% of the income and pay 3.1% of the taxes. That leaves the middle 40% of Americans earning 41.2% of the income and paying 26.1% of the income taxes.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank, argues that such figures do not reflect considerable amounts of wealth among high-income Americans that are shielded from taxation or are taxed at lower rates than wage earners.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Senate hopeful Mike Gibbons: Middle class doesn’t pay fair share


April 1, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Apr 2
The March jobs report came out this morning and, once again, it was terrific. The economy added 431,000 jobs in March, and the figures for January and February were revised upward by 95,000. The U.S has added 1.7 million jobs between January and March, and unemployment is near an all-time low of 3.6%. As employment has risen, employers have had to raise wages to get workers. So, wages are up 5.6% for the year that ended in February.   Inflation in the U.S. is the highest it’s been in 40 years at 7.9%, but those high numbers echo other developed countries. In the 19 countries that use the euro, inflation rose by an annual rate of 7.5% in March, the highest level since officials began keeping records for the euro in 1997. Russia’s war on Ukraine, which is driving already high gasoline prices upward, and continuing supply chain problems are keeping inflation numbers high.   “America’s economic recovery from the historic shock of the pandemic has been nothing short of extraordinary,” CNN’s Anneken Tappe wrote today. The nation is “on track to recover from the pandemic recession a gobsmacking eight years sooner than it did following the Great Recession.”   These numbers matter not just because they show the U.S. coming out of the pandemic, but because they prove that Biden’s approach to the economy works. The key to this economic recovery was the American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021 without a single Republican vote, that dedicated $1.9 trillion to helping the economy recover from the pandemic shutdowns. The vote on the American Rescue Plan indicated the dramatic difference in the way Democrats and Republicans believe the economy works.   After the Depression hit, in the 1930s, Democrats argued that the way to build the economy was for the government to make sure that workers and consumers had the resources to buy products and services. Raising wages, providing a basic social safety net, and improving education would enable the “demand side” of the economy to buy the goods that would employ Americans and increase productivity. Democrats regulated businesses, imposing rules on employers, and funded their programs with taxes that fell on Americans according to their ability to pay.   When this system pulled the country out of the Depression and funded the successful military mobilization of World War II, members of both parties embraced it. Once in office, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower called for universal health insurance and backed the massive $26 billion Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 to build an initial 41,000 miles of roads across the United States, an act that provided jobs and infrastructure. To pay for these programs, he supported the high taxes of the war years, with the top marginal income bracket pegged at 91%.   “Our underlying philosophy,” said a Republican under Eisenhower, “is this: if a job has to be done to meet the needs of people, and no one else can do it, then it is a proper function of the federal government.” Americans had, “for the first time in our history, discovered and established the Authentic American Center in politics. This is not a Center in the European sense of an uneasy and precarious mid-point between large and powerful left-wing and right-wing elements of varying degrees of radicalism. It is a Center in the American sense of a common meeting-ground of the great majority of our people on our own issues, against a backdrop of our own history, our own current setting and our own responsibilities for the future.”   But Republicans since the 1980s have rejected that “Authentic American Center” and argued instead that the way to build the economy is by putting the weight of the government on the “supply side.” That is, the government should free up the capital of the wealthy by cutting taxes. Flush with cash, those at the top of society would invest in new industries that would, in turn, hire workers, and all Americans would rise together. Shortly after he took office, President Ronald Reagan launched government support for “supply side economics” with the first of many Republican tax cuts.    But rather than improving the living standards of all Americans, supply side economics never delivered the economic growth it promised. It turned out that tax cuts did not generally get reinvested into factories and innovation, but instead got turned into financial investments that concentrated wealth at the top of the economic ladder. Still, forty years later, Republicans have only hardened in their support for tax cuts. They insist that any government regulation of business, provision of a social safety net, or promotion of infrastructure is “socialism” because it infringes on the “freedom” of Americans to do whatever they wish without government interference.   The conflict between these two visions came to the fore yesterday, when 193 Republicans voted against lowering the copays for insulin, the drug necessary to keep the 30 million Americans who live with diabetes alive. Twelve Republicans joined all the Democrats to pass the bill. The price of insulin has soared in the U.S. in the past 20 years while it has stayed the same in other developed countries. A vial of insulin that cost $21 in 1999 in the U.S. cost $332 in 2019. Currently, insulin costs ten times more in the United States than in any other developed country.   According to the nonprofit academic medical center Mayo Clinic, the cost of insulin has skyrocketed because people need it to live, there is a monopoly on production, there is no regulation of the cost, and there are companies that profit from keeping prices artificially high.   While all drug prices are high, the reasons that pharmaceutical companies have given for the high pricing of other drugs do not apply to insulin. The drug is more than 100 years old, so there are no development costs. The cost is not a result of free market forces, since the jump in cost does not track with inflation. Indeed, insulin operates in a system that is the opposite of the free market: because people need insulin to survive, they cannot simply decide not to buy it if the price gets too high.   According to experts, there are currently only three clear options to bring down the price if the companies won’t. The government could negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on prices, as every other western country does, but the influence of drug companies in Congress makes such a measure hard to pass. We could shift the cost of the high prices onto insurers: employers and the government, which pays for healthcare through Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration, and so on. Or we can keep shifting the cost to the consumers.   Democrats wrote a much more sweeping proposal to lower a range of drug costs into the Build Back Better bill that Senate Republicans killed, and say they want to continue to push for the government to be able to negotiate with drug companies. At the same time, they say, we cannot wait any longer to make insulin affordable for the diabetics who need it. So House Democrats and 12 House Republicans have passed a law regulating the cost that consumers—who will die if they don’t get insulin—have to pay for the product. That cap will shift the cost onto insurers, including the government.   The insurance industry opposed the measure, saying it would not actually bring down costs and might create higher premiums as insurers have to cover the costs consumers won’t. Most Republicans opposed the measure, saying it would give the government too much say in healthcare. The Republican members on the House Committee on Ways and Means said it was a “socialist drug pricing scheme from [the Democrats’] failed radical tax and spending spree.”   —   Notes:   https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2022-04-01/inflation-in-19-nations-using-euro-soars-to-record-7-5   https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(19)31008-0/fulltext   https://www.politico.com/news/2022/03/31/house-passes-insulin-bill-00022073   https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/house-passes-bill-cap-pocket-insulin-costs-rcna22496   https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/01/jobs-report-march-2022-.html   https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm   https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cpi.pdf   https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/01/economy/us-jobs-recovery-inflation-omicron/index.html   https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/special-message-the-congress-recommending-health-program   https://khn.org/news/campaign/ rch, and the figures for January and February were revised upward by 95,000. The U.S has added 1.7 million jobs between January and March, and unemployment is near an all-time low of 3.6%. As employment has risen, employers have had to raise wages to get workers. So, wages are up 5.6% for the year that ended in February. Inflation in the U.S. is the highest it’s been in 40 years at 7.9%, but those high numbers echo other developed countries. In the 19 countries that use the euro, inflation rose by an annual rate of 7.5% in March, the highest level since officials began keeping records for the euro in 1997. Russia’s war on Ukraine, which is driving already high gasoline prices upward, and continuing supply chain problems are keeping inflation numbers high.  “America’s economic recovery from the historic shock of the pandemic has been nothing short of extraordinary,” CNN’s Anneken Tappe wrote today. The nation is “on track to recover from the pandemic recession a gobsmacking eight years sooner than it did following the Great Recession.” These numbers matter not just because they show the U.S. coming out of the pandemic, but because they prove that Biden’s approach to the economy works. The key to this economic recovery was the American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021 without a single Republican vote, that dedicated $1.9 trillion to helping the economy recover from the pandemic shutdowns. The vote on the American Rescue Plan indicated the dramatic difference in the way Democrats and Republicans believe the economy works. After the Depression hit, in the 1930s, Democrats argued that the way to build the economy was for the government to make sure that workers and consumers had the resources to buy products and services. Raising wages, providing a basic social safety net, and improving education would enable the “demand side” of the economy to buy the goods that would employ Americans and increase productivity. Democrats regulated businesses, imposing rules on employers, and funded their programs with taxes that fell on Americans according to their ability to pay.  When this system pulled the country out of the Depression and funded the successful military mobilization of World War II, members of both parties embraced it. Once in office, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower called for universal health insurance and backed the massive $26 billion Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 to build an initial 41,000 miles of roads across the United States, an act that provided jobs and infrastructure. To pay for these programs, he supported the high taxes of the war years, with the top marginal income bracket pegged at 91%. “Our underlying philosophy,” said a Republican under Eisenhower, “is this: if a job has to be done to meet the needs of people, and no one else can do it, then it is a proper function of the federal government.” Americans had, “for the first time in our history, discovered and established the Authentic American Center in politics. This is not a Center in the European sense of an uneasy and precarious mid-point between large and powerful left-wing and right-wing elements of varying degrees of radicalism. It is a Center in the American sense of a common meeting-ground of the great majority of our people on our own issues, against a backdrop of our own history, our own current setting and our own responsibilities for the future.” But Republicans since the 1980s have rejected that “Authentic American Center” and argued instead that the way to build the economy is by putting the weight of the government on the “supply side.” That is, the government should free up the capital of the wealthy by cutting taxes. Flush with cash, those at the top of society would invest in new industries that would, in turn, hire workers, and all Americans would rise together. Shortly after he took office, President Ronald Reagan launched government support for “supply side economics” with the first of many Republican tax cuts.   But rather than improving the living standards of all Americans, supply side economics never delivered the economic growth it promised. It turned out that tax cuts did not generally get reinvested into factories and innovation, but instead got turned into financial investments that concentrated wealth at the top of the economic ladder. Still, forty years later, Republicans have only hardened in their support for tax cuts. They insist that any government regulation of business, provision of a social safety net, or promotion of infrastructure is “socialism” because it infringes on the “freedom” of Americans to do whatever they wish without government interference.  The conflict between these two visions came to the fore yesterday, when 193 Republicans voted against lowering the copays for insulin, the drug necessary to keep the 30 million Americans who live with diabetes alive. Twelve Republicans joined all the Democrats to pass the bill. The price of insulin has soared in the U.S. in the past 20 years while it has stayed the same in other developed countries. A vial of insulin that cost $21 in 1999 in the U.S. cost $332 in 2019. Currently, insulin costs ten times more in the United States than in any other developed country.  According to the nonprofit academic medical center Mayo Clinic, the cost of insulin has skyrocketed because people need it to live, there is a monopoly on production, there is no regulation of the cost, and there are companies that profit from keeping prices artificially high. While all drug prices are high, the reasons that pharmaceutical companies have given for the high pricing of other drugs do not apply to insulin. The drug is more than 100 years old, so there are no development costs. The cost is not a result of free market forces, since the jump in cost does not track with inflation. Indeed, insulin operates in a system that is the opposite of the free market: because people need insulin to survive, they cannot simply decide not to buy it if the price gets too high.  According to experts, there are currently only three clear options to bring down the price if the companies won’t. The government could negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on prices, as every other western country does, but the influence of drug companies in Congress makes such a measure hard to pass. We could shift the cost of the high prices onto insurers: employers and the government, which pays for healthcare through Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration, and so on. Or we can keep shifting the cost to the consumers. Democrats wrote a much more sweeping proposal to lower a range of drug costs into the Build Back Better bill that Senate Republicans killed, and say they want to continue to push for the government to be able to negotiate with drug companies. At the same time, they say, we cannot wait any longer to make insulin affordable for the diabetics who need it. So House Democrats and 12 House Republicans have passed a law regulating the cost that consumers—who will die if they don’t get insulin—have to pay for the product. That cap will shift the cost onto insurers, including the government. The insurance industry opposed the measure, saying it would not actually bring down costs and might create higher premiums as insurers have to cover the costs consumers won’t. Most Republicans opposed the measure, saying it would give the government too much say in healthcare. The Republican members on the House Committee on Ways and Means said it was a “socialist drug pricing scheme from [the Democrats’] failed radical tax and spending spree.” — Notes: https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2022-04-01/inflation-in-19-nations-using-euro-soars-to-record-7-5 https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(19)31008-0/fulltext https://www.politico.com/news/2022/03/31/house-passes-insulin-bill-00022073 https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/house-passes-bill-cap-pocket-insulin-costs-rcna22496 https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/01/jobs-report-march-2022-.html https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cpi.pdf https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/01/economy/us-jobs-recovery-inflation-omicron/index.html https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/special-message-the-congress-recommending-health-program https://khn.org/news/campaign/
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Buffalo Soldiers were assigned to assess bicycles as military transportation on the frontier at the end of the nineteen century.Troops of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, 1896

Troops of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, 1896

via NPS

By: Matthew Wills 

February 8, 2022

In the summer of 1897, twenty soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment bicycled 1,900 miles from Missoula, Montana, to St. Louis, Missouri. The 25th was one of a handful of segregated Black regiments in the U.S. Army, whose members became known as the Buffalo Soldiers. They were accompanied by three white men: their commanding officer, Lieutenant James Moss; an Army surgeon; and a Daily Missoulian reporter.

Moss had proposed the trip as a demonstration of bicycle technology. He wanted to measure the efficiency of the bicycle in comparison with other means of transportation. The automobile was still two decades away from mass production, and bicycles were all the rage. European military interest in the two-wheeled vehicle intrigued at least some in the U.S. Army. Could the bicycle replace the horse and mule? Although largely unheralded, bicycle infantry were in fact used by numerous militaries during many conflicts of the twentieth century, including both world wars.

Scholar Alexandra V. Koelle explores the curious case of bicycle infantry corps heading eastwards from the frontier into the heart of a white-supremacist nation. 

In the late nineteenth century, Black soldiers were purposely kept at the margins: it was policy to not station them in eastern states, particularly in the South, for fear of violence from local whites. The 25th served in Texas, Oklahoma, and Dakota Territory before serving in several forts in Montana. They fought in the Indian Wars and “continued to put down Native ‘rebellions’ throughout their decade in Missoula.” Another of their tasks was to break mining strikes.

“Black soldiers in the West were also engaged in nation-building of a different sort. By physically building the infrastructure that materially connected the West to the eastern states, such as roads and telegraph lines, and by forcefully putting down labor rebellions, African American soldiers shaped the former territories into states.”

Uniforms did not shield the Buffalo Soldiers from racism.

Koelle notes that white soldiers were not required to do the physical construction that the 25th was. Uniforms did not shield the Buffalo Soldiers from racism. One of 25th’s members was lynched in Sturgis, South Dakota in 1885. Another was lynched in Fort Shaw, Montana, in 1888, after the commanding officer of the regiment gave the white mob access to the victim. On the frontier, they were grudgingly tolerated under the assumption that they would eventually be stationed elsewhere. The exception was when they suppressed a strike. Then the mine-owners feted them. 

So the soldiers were a familiar sight in the West, but not further east. “Notice of the bicycle corps troops’ arrival in three Montana towns made no mention of their race,” writes Koelle, but the further east they pedaled, the more the racial commentary increased, and the “stricter the segregation.” In Missouri, for instance, a farmer refused them space for camping after asking if they were “Union soldiers”—three decades after the defeat of slavery in the Civil War.   

No documentation by the soldiers themselves has been found. Koelle pieced together her history from military reports and newspaper articles. Lieutenant Moss, a Southerner who graduated at the bottom of his class at West Point, often characterized the men under his command with the racist stereotypes of the day.  

Moss did, however, propose another cycling sortie, this time from Missoula to San Francisco, with the stated aim of exposing more white Americans to the reality of Black American soldiers. This never happened. The 25th was sent into combat in Cuba in the summer of 1898.

Bottom of Form

After the Spanish-American War, the regiment was stationed in Texas. During the “Brownsville affair” of 1906, 167 members of the regiment were dishonorably discharged without trial after local whites claimed soldiers killed a bartender and wounded a police officer. In 1972, after a new investigation, the men were found innocent, pardoned, and honorably discharged—by then, only two were still alive. 

The highest ranking soldier expelled in 1906 was First Sergeant Mingo Sanders, who had fought in Cuba and, before that, participated in the cross-country bicycle mission. Koelle concludes that in “biking through Indian reservations, national parks, and battlefields, and to St. Louis, [the men of the 25th] embodied the contradictions in the national rhetoric of freedom through westward mobility.”


Resources

JSTOR is a digital library for scholars, researchers, and students. JSTOR Daily readers can access the original research behind our articles for free on JSTOR.

Pedaling on the Periphery: The African American Twenty-fifth Infantry Bicycle Corps and the Roads of American Expansion

By: Alexandra V. Koelle

Western Historical Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Autumn 2010), pp. 305-326

Oxford University Press

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Heather Cox RichardsonFeb 6

Just for fun, because today feels like a good day to talk about Grover Cleveland….

The economy has boomed under President Joe Biden, putting the lie to the old trope that Democrats don’t manage the economy as well as Republicans.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. The economy has performed better under Democrats than Republicans since at least World War II. CNN Business reports that since 1945, the Standard & Poor’s 500—a market index of 500 leading U.S. publicly traded companies—has averaged an annual gain of 11.2% during years when Democrats controlled the White House, and a 6.9% average gain under Republicans. In the same time period, gross domestic product grew by an average of 4.1% under Democrats, 2.5% under Republicans. Job growth, too, is significantly stronger under Democrats than Republicans.

“[T]here has been a stark pattern in the United States for nearly a century,” wrote David Leonhardt of the New York Times last year, “The economy has grown significantly faster under Democratic presidents than Republican ones.”

The persistence of the myth that Democrats are bad for the economy is an interesting example of the endurance of political rhetoric over reality.

It began in the postwar years: the post–Civil War years, that is. Before the Civil War, moneyed men tended to support the Democrats, for the big money in the country was in the cotton enterprises of the leading enslavers in the American South, and they expressed their political power through the Democratic Party, which promised to protect and nurture the institution of human enslavement. Indeed, when soldiers of the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, in April 1861, it was not clear at all whether bankers in New York City would back the United States or the southern rebels. After all, the South was the wealthiest region of the country, and the North had just undergone the devastating Panic of 1857. Southern leaders laughed that without the South, northerners would starve.

The economic policies of the war years, including our first national money, national taxation, state universities, and deficit spending, created a newly booming industrial North, but many moneyed men resented the Republican policies they felt offered too much to poor Americans (the Homestead Act was a special thorn in their sides because it meant that western lands taken from Indigenous Americans would no longer be sold to bring money into the Treasury but would be given away to poor farmers). When the government established national banks, establishing regulations over the lucrative banking industry, state bankers were unhappy.

Whether moneyed men would stay loyal to Lincoln in 1864 was an open question. In the end, they did, but their loyalty after the war was up for grabs.

Democrats’ postwar financial policies drove moneyed men to give their allegiance to the Republican Party. Eager to make inroads on the Republicans’ popularity, northern Democrats pointed out that the economic gains of the war years had gone to those at the top of the economy, and they called for financial policies that would level the playing field. Notably, they wanted to pay the interest on the war debt with greenbacks rather than gold, which would make the bonds significantly less valuable. The alteration would also establish that political parties could take office and change government financial engagements after they were already in force.

Republicans recognized that if a change of this sort were legitimate, the government’s ability to borrow in the future—say, to put down another rebellion—would be hamstrung. They were so worried that in 1868, they protected the debt in the Fourteenth Amendment itself, saying: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

When it looked as if a coalition including the Democrats might win the presidency in 1872, leaders from Wall Street publicly threw their weight behind the Republicans, and in exchange, the Republicans backed away from supporting the workers who had made up their initial voting base.

Southern white supremacists had begun to charge that permitting poor men to vote would lead to a redistribution of wealth as they voted for roads and schools and hospitals that could only be paid for by tax levies on those with property. Such a system was, they charged, “socialism.”

While southern whites directed their animosity toward their formerly enslaved Black neighbors, northerners of means adopted their ideas and language but targeted immigrants and organized workers. If those people came to control government and thus the economy, wealthier Americans argued, they would bring socialism to America, and the nation would never recover.

Increasingly, power shifted to wealthy industrialists who, after 1872, were represented by the Republican Party. They demanded high tariffs that protected their industries by keeping out foreign competition and thus permitted them to collude to raise prices on consumers. By the 1880s, Republican senators were openly serving big business; even the staunchly Republican Chicago Tribune lamented in 1884 that “[b]ehind every one of half of the portly and well-dressed members of the Senate can be seen the outlines of some corporation interested in getting or preventing legislation.”

As money moved to the top of the economy, Democrats pushed back, calling for government to restore a level playing field between workers and their employers. As they did so, Republicans howled that Democrats advocated socialism.

Finally, after the spectacularly corrupt administration of Republican Benjamin Harrison, which businessmen had called “beyond question the best business administration the country has ever seen,” the unthinkable happened. In the election of 1892, for the first time since the Civil War, Democrats took control of the White House and Congress. They promised to rein in the power of big business by lowering the tariffs and loosening the money supply. This, Republicans insisted, meant financial ruin.

Republicans warned that capital would flee the markets and urged foreign investors—on whom the economy depended—to take their money home. They predicted a financial crash as the Democrats embraced socialism, anarchism, and labor organization. Money flowed out of the country as the outgoing Harrison administration poured gasoline on the fires of media fears and refused to act to try to turn the tide. Harrison’s secretary of the Treasury, Charles Foster, said his job was only to “avert a catastrophe” until March 4, when Democratic president Grover Cleveland would take office.

He didn’t quite manage it. The bottom fell out of the economy on February 17, when the Reading Railroad Company could not make its payroll, sparking a nationwide panic. The stock market collapsed. And yet the Harrison administration refused to do anything until the day Cleveland took office, when Foster helpfully announced the Treasury “was down to bedrock.”

To Cleveland fell the Panic of 1893, with its strikes, marchers, and despair, all of which opponents insisted was the Democrats’ fault. In the midterm election of 1894, Republicans showed the statistics of Cleveland’s first two years and told voters that Democrats destroyed the economy. Voters could restore the health of the nation’s economy by electing Republicans again. In 1894, voters returned Republicans to control of the government in the biggest midterm landslide in American history, and the image of Democrats as bad for the economy was cemented.

From then on, Republicans portrayed Democrats as weak on the economy. When the next Democratic president to take office, Woodrow Wilson, undermined the tariff as soon as he took office, replacing it with an income tax, opponents insisted the Revenue Act of 1913 was inaugurating the country’s socialistic downfall. When Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt pioneered the New Deal, Republicans saw socialism. Over the past century, that rhetoric has only grown stronger.

And yet, of course, it has been Republican economic policies that opened up the possibility for Democrats to try new approaches to the economy, to make it serve all Americans, rather than a favored few. As FDR put it: “It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach.”

In the end, that’s what the economists Leonhardt interviewed last year think is behind Democrats’ ability to manage the economy better than Republicans. Republicans tend to cling to abstract theories about how the economy works—theories about high tariffs or tax cuts, for example, which tend to concentrate wealth upward—while Democrats are more pragmatic, willing to pay attention to facts on the ground and to historical lessons about what works and what doesn’t.

Notes:

https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2019/business/stock-market-by-president/index.html

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