Tag Archives: Progressives

The ongoing transitioning of America

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When I was stationed in Europe in the early 1990s, I spent a great deal of my leave time travelling around to various places in that I had heard about or studied.  One of the places I visited was Athens, Greece, and was amazed at the number of classical Greek ruins still visible as a testimony to the greatness of the Greek empire and later Roman domination of the region.  These buildings were (and am presuming still are) the focus of many various projects to maintain them for future generations to enjoy and to be inspired as I have.



As a historian and with an academic background in the study of sociology and psychology, I believe that one of the things that led to the collapse of both the Greek and the Roman Empires was that of a transitioning culture.  What past generations once held as dear and as being the bedrock of their society.  What had been built by the older generations was neglected by the next generations; by the time the younger generations began their rise to power, there was a disconnect from the traditions and customs that had allowed Greece, and later Rome, to rise to prominence as a Mediterranean power.  All that remains as a tribute of those empires’ greatness are ruins, legends, and other intellectual achievements.  Outside of education, most people never think of the impact of those people from so long ago have on our world.

In the twenty-first century, the United States is undergoing a transition of its own. Beginning in the 1960s, the “new” American Left, wrapped in the ideas of free speech and the rejection of “traditional” mainstream values began making its way on the college campuses across the United States.  Learning from the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement, the New Left focused on delivering its message to those in society that had become disillusioned with the demands of the American capitalist system.  It is during the 1960s, specifically the Lyndon B. Johnson years, where the New Left and the Democratic Party will claim the victory for the Civil Rights Movement – something that the Democratic Party had actually been in opposition to since the late 1860s (there was absolutely no Democratic Party support for the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, or Fifteenth Amendments, the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1875; had it not been for Republicans and the wide base of Republican support, the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 would not have passed).

There were a lot of things that the New Left claimed that needed to change in the United States; there were issues that did need to be addressed such as the racial and sexual discrimination and inequality that had become the standard. However, the assault against American society did not end there but continued to assault the things that had made America different from the rest of the nation. The free market system was one of the first things to come under attack; it was claimed that the capitalist system in America had created an unjust distribution of wealth and had left out a large percentage of the citizenry.  Also under attack was the role of the church – both as a public institution of the community and as an influence within that community. Besides the structure of the economy and religion, they also targeted the concept of the American nuclear family.  The New Left adopted a tone that not only discouraged other points of view from being expressed, they also began to craft the notion that any attempts to defend those social norms were attempts to enforce conformity of a minority to the will of a majority – and that this concept was distinctly – anti-American.

The current generation of publicly educated youth and college students have now grown up without an objective education about our nation.  Instead of teaching of how this nation was founded by a generation facing odds that many believed at the time was hopeless, they ventured out into the danger.  Through the blood and sweat of Americans of every socio-economic status and every race, they fought and won independence for a nation that the political theorists of their day deemed folly – no common people had ever governed themselves successfully.  Governance was reserved for the crown and the aristocracy, not the common man.  Anything else was deemed to be against the natural order of mankind.  Instead of focusing on the achievements of those men, the modern college history course and textbook teach that it was a group of white men who had no concern for the fates of women, free blacks, slaves, or even American Indians.  The textbooks discuss that it was a revolution that had to be sold to the common American colonist by the merchant class.  The “New Left” revisionist history of the United States not only denies the odds that generation faced, it also disregards the social norms of European society of that era (no nation allowed the common woman to take part in politics nor did any nation allow slaves or others outside the prescribed citizenry any sort of rights), but it also ignores that the American Revolution was truly unique – it was the first time that the entire strata of a society shared a common vision.

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The increasingly complex (and failing) health care law

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October 1st, 2013 has come and gone and with it, implementation of the next stage of the Affordable Care Act.  As we approach the January 1st implementation and the 2014 mid-term elections campaign, even some members of the Democratic Party are beginning to ask questions about the implementation and even the feasibility of one of the largest changes in domestic policy since the creation of Social Security back during the 1930s.  Even Forbes Online featured an editorial by Steven Haywood called “Obamacare Will Be Repealed Well In Advance Of The 2014 Elections” claiming that the failed rollout of the Affordable Care Act has become so toxic to Democratic Party members of Congress that something will have to be done – including a vote to repeal and even override an anticipated veto from President Obama to maintain their control of the Senate.  It makes the casual observer of American politics to wonder exactly what has failed to cause the crowing jewel of a Democratic Party dominated national government – the White House, the Senate, and House of Representatives – to become a toxic liability rather than a party asset.

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 I am sure that as political scientists, political theorists, and policy historians begin to dissect the legislation there will literally be thousands of articles and publications highlighting the numerous faults within the bill.  It is through the lens of time that we will be able to fully understand why the regulation of nearly twenty percent of the national economy was destined to fail before it ever became fully implemented.  There are many reasons that I believe why the Affordable Care Act – ObamaCare – has not been the program that most of the president’s supporters thought it was and why his critics knew it was going to become. The first reason why the Affordable Care Act has failed is because of its complexity.  The law, sold and explained to the American public as a way to lower healthcare costs and regulate the healthcare industry actually went far beyond its explained purpose.

Not only did it regulate the insurance industry, it created new taxes on medical equipment, it forces health insurance companies to add new benefits at no cost to the insured, it created a new level of federal government bureaucracy, it places new powers and responsibilities in the hands of the Internal Revenue Service, it gives the Department of Health and Human Services broad powers to administer it, and it places new regulations on the states, and for insurance/financial purposes, it redefines adulthood.  And if that is not enough, it also exempts Congress, the Presidency, and other members of the national government from participation in this national health care program. It was a massive undertaking and even at its impressive 2,800 pages, it still would require additional regulations that are to be written by the Department of Health and Human Services; according to various websites, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, there are already 17,843 pages of additional regulation that allows for the implementation of the law.

The law, already complex, has been made more complex by regulation and the actions of the Obama administration itself.  The Obama administration has decided to grant waivers to labor unions, large corporations, and political allies, creating a situation where it appears that special favors have been granted to financial supporters and political allies of the administration. Instead of being a uniform law that is to be applied equally to all Americans, the law has created division. As reported by Fox News by Maxim Lot in his article, “ObamaCare price hikes hit ‘red states’ hardest“, the Affordable Care Act is  now being used as a political weapon against states where conservatives still retain power.  As this legislative drama has unfolded, life-long Democratic Party supporters at the local level are beginning to question if the law will ever live up to even the most modest of expectations.

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Mr. Obama and the tradition of the angry president

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Since his inauguration as President in 2009, President Barack H. Obama has been different from any other American president in recent memory. Beginning with his campaign in 2008, then Senator Obama stated in a campaign speech that if “the Republicans bring a knife to the fight, we’ll bring a gun…” which literally was a forewarning of what he, as president, would bring to Washington D.C.  Since that speech and at nearly every opportunity, Mr. Obama has not brought focus to our real foreign threats or even address issues affecting national policy, or the economy. Instead, the focus has been on the “enemies” of Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party’s agenda.

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Throughout the debate over the budget and the government shutdown that resulted, instead of actively engaging the Republican held House of Representatives, the president proclaimed to the world that he would not negotiate with Republicans to find a compromise solution to the budget or government borrowing. Even the mainstream media picked up on Mr. Obama’s narrative and ran articles about the Republicans – in particular, the Tea Party and Conservative members of that body – bent on being obstructionist and even racist or hostile towards Mr. Obama.  Throughout his time in office and through each political crisis that this administration has faced has been used as an opportunity to attack the critics as being the real problem or root cause.  Repeatedly, the Republicans, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Tea Party members, and others have been accused of undermining the president, attempting to distract the public from the real issues, and of sacrificing the security or economic health of the nation in order to make political gain.  There is no doubt that Mr. Obama is an angry president and always in search of a new political enemy to demonize.

Something else that this administration has taught us, as did the presidencies of Lyndon B. Johnson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, is that there is a real political price to be paid when the president is not willing to work with the opposition party.  Beginning with Theodore Roosevelt, his desire to implement his conservation and environmental agenda, he ignored the majority of his own Republican Party, catering solely to the progressives and early environmentalists. As the economy began to falter in 1907, not only did Roosevelt find himself alienated by the Republicans and Democrats who blamed his environmentalist policies as the root cause of the economic depression.  It would ultimately be the end of his ambitious political career and would sever his leadership within the Republican Party.

Woodrow Wilson attempted to ram through the very progressive concept of the League of Nations at the end of the first World War.  As a wartime president, he did experience a lot of political support from both the Republican Party and his own supporters within the Democratic Party.  Various laws were passed to regulate the economy, to control wartime prices, rents, and wages, and to even silence opposition to the war effort.  As the war in Europe came to an end, he attempted to tie the creation of the League of Nations into the Treaty of Versailles. His attempt, to force members of Congress to vote to create the League of Nations in order to ratify the treaty ultimately failed and not only caused him health problems, but caused many Americans to support the efforts of the more conservative elements in both parties.  The end result was a complete shift of power within the House, a White House dominated by Republican presidents from 1923 to 1933, and the groundwork for the Second World War.  It was an angry president unwilling to compromise with his political opposition within Congress that created an environment that would be disastrous for the United States and the average citizen.

Beginning in 1926, a growing crisis in Europe, the American farmer, and the global financial system were destined to create a new crisis much worse than any American politician ever imagined.  The Versailles Treaty that Wilson had helped to negotiate had placed extremely high reparations on Germany; with approximately 37% of all GDP of Germany awarded to France and Great Britain AND roughly 16% of all coal and iron ore production from the Ruhr River Valley which was one of the most productive industrial resource regions still under German control (the iron ore and coal rich region of the Sudetenland was now a part of the reconstituted Czechoslovakia).  Germany’s inability to repay these reparations would ultimately lead to one of the largest banking collapses in world history as Germany borrowed money from American banks to cover its treaty obligations and for rebuilding its infrastructure.  Soon, without any credit available and any real financial means to pay its international obligations, Germany would experience the worst economy in its history. Great Britain and France, who had counted on swift quarterly payments to met their international obligations, also borrowed money from America’s banks with the belief that a German default would be unlikely. By 1929, even the United States would be dragged into what would be later be named as the Great Depression.

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