So we have finished with the War between the states. A quick summary statement there was that this was one of the big moments in our march towards socialism, as it showed the power of the federal goverment to control the states, to the point of levying tariffs and not allowing states to secede from the union when they felt that tyranny was coming. However there is still much to cover before we get to the current administration and the moves happening today. Now, admittedly, I am able to cover the Civil War era fairly well. As I said, I grew up right next to Gettysburg, and a photographic memory coupled with annual field trips and reading can sink in quite well.
But on this next section I will rely on those who know better to correct me where I trip up. I have done the research and feel I will be accurate with what I present. But I do worry that I will leave something important out. I am operating mostly from memory of studying history the first time I went to college, which was 20 years ago. So I have ideas in my head, and I go and research them, but there may be ideas that I forgot or that were never there in the first place for me to think about and research! So if I miss something, please be kind, and simply point out my mistakes. It is late after all, my brain may have already gone to bed and I just don’t know it yet.
Following the Civil War was the progressive era, which perhaps was one of the most damaging aspects of our history in terms of individual liberty being taken away. The true progressive era began in the late 1800’s and lasted through the 1920’s. While progressive thinking has continued and has further evolved, this was the period where it took hold and brought massive change to our country that would set the table for many future actions, including those of the Obama administration.
Progressives advocated a wide range of economic, political, social, and moral reforms. Initially the movement was successful at local level, and then it progressed to state and gradually national. Both the reformers and their opponents were predominantly members of the middle class. There were many changes made to our Constitution as a result of the progressive movement, including Amendments 16 (income tax), 17 (Direct election of Senators), 18 (Prohibition), and 19 (Women’s Suffrage).
In the Gilded Age (late 19th century) the parties were reluctant to involve the federal government too heavily in the private sector, except in the area of railroads and tariffs. In general, they accepted the concept of lassiez-faire, a doctrine opposing government interference in the economy except to maintain law and order. This attitude started to change during the depression of the 1890’s, when small business, farm, and labour movements began asking the government to intercede on their behalf.
By the turn of the century, a middle class had developed that was leery of both the business elite and the radical political movements of farmers and laborers in the Midwest and West. Known as Progressives, these people favored government regulation of business practices to, in their minds, ensure competition and free enterprise. Congress enacted a law regulating railroads in 1887 (Interstate Commerce Act), and one preventing large firms from controlling a single industry in 1890 (Sherman Anti-Trust Act). These laws were not rigorously enforced, however, until the years between 1900 and 1920.
Many of today’s U.S. regulatory agencies were created during these years, including the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. Muckrakers were journalists who encouraged readers to demand more regulation of business. As a result, the federal government reacted with increased regulation on business. For example, the federal government responded to Upton Sinclair’s book (The Jungle, 1906) with the new regulatory Food and Drug Administration.
The Progressive Movement was an effort to cure many of the ills of American society that had developed during the great spurt of industrial growth in the last quarter of the 19th century. Much had been accomplished in America, but not all citizens shared in the new wealth, prestige, and optimism. Progressives lived in the conviction that government must play a role to solve social problems and establish fairness in economic matters. The progressives of this period were the liberals of today, determined to increase government’s role in equaling out the American experience by taking from the wealthy. As part of the second reform period, Progressivism was rooted in the belief, certainly not shared by all, that man was capable of improving the lot of all within society. As such, it was a rejection of Social Darwinism (which I am a believer in), the position taken by many of the rich and powerful figures of the day (and I am certainly not rich and powerful).
A vocal minority supported socialism, with government ownership of the means of production. Other Progressive reforms followed in the form of a conservation movement, railroad legislation, and food and drug laws. Such reforms as the direct primary, secret ballot, and the initiative, referendum, and recall were effected. Local governments were strengthened by the widespread use of trained professionals, particularly with the city manager system replacing the all-too-frequently corrupt mayoral system.
What is important to remember about the progressives of that time are that their offspring were the fascists (go back and re-read Part 2 with Fascism definition added, because that is what the progressive movement was actually promoting: fascism, not socialism). And the grandchildren of those fascists are the modern day progressives and liberals who are now moving towards socialism (Hence the March to Socialism theme, is it all coming together now?).
But a discussion of the progressive movement is just that, talk about a movement of the times. It wouldn’t be complete without the discussion of the Presidents who were central to the movement and who were the catalyst for the lasting changes made to the Constitution and our Federal Government that would resonate through history and set the stage for a continued march to socialism. It was these Presidents that moved from “Progressive” to “Fascist”. And remember here folks, fascism is not meant as a “negative” term, nor is “socialism”. These are merely the accurate terms for what is happening at the times mentioned. Those moving us there tell everyone we are using alarmist terms to “rile people up”, while never admitting that they are the accurate terms.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT – The 26th President 1901-1909
Good ‘ol Teddy Roosevelt was the first of the truly progressive Presidents. He took the view that the President as a “steward of the people” should take whatever action necessary for the public good unless expressly forbidden by law or the Constitution. “I did not usurp power,” he wrote, “but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power.” And that he did. What is not realized by many is the dramatic changes that Teddy brought in terms of how we view the rest of the world. We were blossoming into a major power. We were no longer the little colonies that felt lucky to be free of Britain’s tyranny. And Teddy knew that, and acted on it.
It was Teddy who was the first President to use the power and threat of our military to project our morals and values upon the world. This was in line with the progressive movement of the time. There is a lack of major or continuous military involvement on foreign soil prior to his Presidency, although I do note that this may have been because he was the first President with a powerful enough military to do so, with the addition of the Great White Fleet and expansion of the military. He was much more involved in foreign relations, brokering the end of the Russo-Japanese War. He also added the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that the United States and only the United States could intervene in Latin American affairs when corruption of governments made it necessary.
Roosevelt’s foreign policy is often referred to as the Big Stick Policy, which was mainly in respect to Roosevelt’s ideas of negotiation. He had impact in Puerto Rico, the Phillipines, Cuba and Panama as well. He is credited with the creation of the Panama Canal. In doing so he supported Panamanian separation from Columbia, and formed Panama as a nation, with the United States even writing their constitution for them.
As President, Roosevelt held the ideal that the Government should be the great arbiter of the conflicting economic forces in the Nation, especially between capital and labor, guaranteeing justice to each and dispensing favors to none. Roosevelt’s presidency marked a transfer of regulation from the states to the federal government. Roosevelt firmly believed: “The Government must in increasing degree supervise and regulate the workings of the railways engaged in interstate commerce.” Roosevelt emerged spectacularly as a “trust buster” by forcing the dissolution of a great railroad combination in the Northwest. Other antitrust suits under the Sherman Act followed. He distrusted wealthy businessmen and dissolved forty monopolistic corporations. He was clear, however, to show that he did not disagree with trusts and capitalism in principle, but was only against corrupt, illegal practices. He was the first U.S. president to call for Universal Health Care and National Health Insurance.
WOODROW WILSON – The 28th President 1913-1921
Wilson started Congressional Government, his best known political work, as an argument for a parliamentary system, but Congressional Government emerged as a critical description of America’s system. Wilson believed that America’s intricate system of checks and balances was the cause of the problems in American governance. He said that the divided power made it impossible for voters to see who was accountable for ill-doing. If government behaved badly.
The longest section of Congressional Government is on the US House of Representatives, where Wilson poured out scorn for the committee system. Wilson said that the committee system was fundamentally undemocratic because committee chairs, who ruled by seniority, were responsible to no one except their constituents, even though they determined national policy.In addition to its undemocratic nature, Wilson also believed that the Congressional Committee System facilitated corruption (He was certainly correct on this count, can you say Barney Franks and Chris Dodd?).
Wilson developed a program of progressive reform and asserted international leadership in building a new world order. In 1917 he proclaimed American entrance into World War I a crusade to make the world “safe for democracy.” (and the rest of that story, as they say, is history). American foreign relations since 1914 have rested on Wilsonian idealism, says historian David Kennedy, even if adjusted somewhat by the “realism” represented by FDR and Kissinger. Kennedy argues that every president since Wilson has, “embraced the core precepts of Wilsonianism. Nixon himself hung Wilson’s portrait in the White House Cabinet Room. Wilson’s ideas continue to dominate American foreign policy in the twenty-first century. In the aftermath of 9/11 they have, if anything, taken on even greater vitality.”
Wilson experienced early success by implementing his “New Freedom” pledges of antitrust modification, tariff revision, and reform in banking and currency matters. Wilson secured passage of the Federal Reserve system in late 1913. He took a plan that had been designed by Nelson Aldrich and banker, Paul Warburg. Wilson had to find a middle ground between those who supported the Aldrich Plan and those who opposed it. The opposition wanted a government-owned central bank which could print paper money whenever Congress wanted. Wilson’s alternate plan allowed the large banks to control the new federal reserve, but simultaneously created a central board made up of persons appointed by the President and approved by Congress who would outnumber the board members selected by bankers. Thanks for creating the Fed, Wilson. Jerk.
Also in 1913, the Underwood Tariff Act, better known as the US Revenue Act, lowered basic tariff rates from 40% to 25%. The revenue thereby lost was replaced by a new federal income tax, which was amended to the Constitution as the 16th Amendment (thus the beginning of government randomly taking a percentage of the fruits of your labor to spend wherever they saw fit, and that percentage has gone up ever since). The incomes of couples exceeding $4,000, as well as those of single persons earning $3,000 or more, were subject to a one percent federal tax. Further, the measure provided a progressive tax structure, meaning that high income earners were required to pay at higher rates (thus the beginning of screwing the wealthy by taking a higher percentage of the fruits of their labor). It would require only a few years for the federal income tax to become the chief source of income for the government, far outdistancing tariff revenues. Less than 1 % of the population paid federal income tax at the time. Thanks for creating income taxes Wilson. Jerk.
Wilson broke with the “big-lawsuit” tradition trustbusting, finding a new approach to encouraging competition through the Federal Trade Commission, which stopped “unfair” trade practices. In addition, he pushed through Congress the Clayton Anti-trust Act making certain business practices illegal (such as price discrimination, agreements forbidding retailers from handling other companies’ products, and directorates and agreements to control other companies). The power of this legislation was greater than previous anti-trust laws, because individual officers of corporations could be held responsible if their companies violated the laws. More importantly, the new laws set out clear guidelines that corporations could follow,
So basically Wilson expanded government’s powers over the free market even further, using public sentiment against a few out of control companies to warrant sweeping progressive reform that gave government unprecedented power. Good thing something like that never happened again…. wait
32. FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT 1933-1945 (4 Terms!)
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Roosevelt created the New Deal to provide relief for the unemployed, recovery of the economy, and reform of the economic and banking systems, through various agencies, such as the Works Project Administration(WPA), National Recovery Administration (NRA), and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). Although recovery of the economy was incomplete until World War II, several programs he initiated, such as the FDIC, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the SEC, continue to have instrumental roles in the nation’s commerce. Some of his other legacies include the Social Security Administration that the National Labor Relations Board (unions).
By 1935, both bankers and businessmen had become wary of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Roosevelt responded with a new program of reform: Social Security, heavier taxes on the wealthy, new controls over banks and public utilities (I have to say it again, sound familiar?). Recovery was pursued through “pump-priming” (that is, federal spending). The NIRA included $3.3 billion of spending through the PWA to stimulate the economy. Roosevelt created the largest government-owned industrial enterprise in American history, the TVA, which built dams and power stations, controlled floods, and modernized agriculture and home conditions in the poverty-stricken Tennessee Valley.
Roosevelt tried to keep his campaign promise by cutting the regular federal budget, including 40% cuts to veterans’ benefits (sound familiar, like say… trying to make veterans private health insurance pay for war wounds?) and cuts in overall military spending. He removed 500,000 veterans and widows from the pension rolls and slashed benefits for the remainder (as always, screw the vets). Protests erupted, led by the VFW. Roosevelt held his ground, but when the angry veterans formed a coalition with Senator Huey Long and passed a huge bonus bill over his veto, he was defeated. He succeeded in cutting federal salaries and the military and naval budgets. He reduced spending on research.
In 1936 he was re-elected by a top-heavy margin. Feeling he was armed with a popular mandate, he sought legislation to enlarge the Supreme Court, which had been ruling key New Deal measures as unconstitutional (because when the courts deem your government moves outside the constitutional authority of government, the proper move is to change the courts? Perhaps Obama will expand to 11 justices, allowing him to appoint more liberal ones and control those too). Roosevelt lost the Supreme Court battle, but a revolution in constitutional law took place. Thereafter the Government could legally regulate the economy. During the war he pushed for even higher income tax rates for individuals (reaching a marginal tax rate of 91%) and corporations and a cap on high salaries for executives (I won’t even say it this time). In order to fund the war, Congress broadened the base so that almost every employee paid federal income taxes, and introduced withholding taxes in 1943. Thanks for that Roosevelt. Jerk.
I could go on listing FDR policies and programs for days, but I think most of you know the deal. FDR sponsored the largest explosion of government expansion and control in history. As the third of the truly progressive Presidents, he was able to do the most in order to incorporate the the true meaning of fascism into the US federal government. As I am sure you can see, he is responsible for so much of the welfare, government control, and arrogant belief in the ability to legislate the economy that is the hallmark of today’s far left. I apologize for all the “sound familiar” comments, but I felt it important to make sure that everyone can see that the game being played in Washington today is not a new game. I thought it important that we see how radical reform can look when a party claims they have a mandate and a crisis. The progressives provided the template for the current wave of hysteria in today’s America.
I apologize for the length of this one. There was a lot to cover in my Part 3 lest I find myself adding even more parts. As it stands, I expect to wrap this up in one or two more parts. The next part will be Sunday night. Tomorrow is Friday so Guest Commentary Day! Then Saturday night is an easier read. Part 4 Sunday! I hope everyone is getting something out of this series of articles. I know it seems a bit boring to go through history. But I think to understand where we are heading we have to understand how we got here. I think the FDR section above especially shows us some very relevant history.