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"What's the 'Big Deal' About the New Deal?”
"What's the 'Big Deal' About the New Deal?”
Slide: “Limits to the New Deal”
Okay, let's pretend all of you are members of Congress in 1935 about to vote on the newly introduced Social Security Bill. All those in favor, please raise you hand. (Show of hands)
Just what I would have expected.
So how would you feel if I were to say, you just voted for an old age benefits bill that excluded 75% of all African-Americans and more than ½ of all women?
Real bummer, eh?
So how did that happen?
Despite the 1930s being a period of huge mass movements for social change and economic justice, that was the deal President Roosevelt was forced to cut in order to get the support of Southern Democrats, then known as Dixiecrats, now known as Republicans.
This major flaw in FDR's premier piece of his New Deal was not to be fixed until 15 years later.
So one of the severest limits of the New Deal was its failure to take on and overcome the institutional and structural racism that existed then and still exists today.
This accommodation to segregationists hurt poor whites as well as Blacks. It appeared again and again, in the CCC camps which were mostly segregated, government relief programs where local officials denied equal benefits to Black families and the GI Bill, passed in 1944, to repay our World War II veterans for their sacrifice and show our nation's appreciation for their service.
In the original Social Security bill Blacks and women were excluded not by name, but by category, specifically. the exclusion of all those who work as domestic or agricultural workers, meaning sharecroppers.
In the GI Bill, no such open racist language appeared either, but when Black veterans tried to purchase new homes in the suburbs where the government was approving mortgages, structural racism in the form of housing discrimination ended up denying them the GI Bill benefits they were entitled to.
The lesson for today? When progressives talk about addressing the inequality of wealth in America, we need to make sure the benefits of that social change are shared equally with all.Sam Stark, Southeast Michigan Jobs with Justice
The Make Government Work Project, Forum #3
“What’s the 'Big Deal' About the New Deal?”
One of the goals of this “Make Government Work” forum series is to re-claim the political debate in the United States on behalf of workers and lower- and middle-income people.
This is especially needed in the arena of discussing the role of government in people’s lives.
From the 1930s until the middle 1970s, there was a general consensus among Americans that government plays a constructive role in the way people live their lives and deal with their political, economic and social problems.
This understanding of a government that serves the General Welfare has been reversed.
U.S. corporations and Wall Street, through New Right Conservative think tanks and mass media, have been pushing the idea: "That government is best which governs least," a philosophy of government that serves moneyed interests best.
In 1981, Conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan put that philosopy into words that caught on and have been repeated in the media and most voters ever since:
“People talk about government as the solution to our problems.
Government is not the solution. GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM.”
One hundred and fifty years ago, another Republican President Abraham Lincoln had offered a totally different philosophy of government: “The purpose of government is to do for the people those things which the people cannot do for themselves.”
However, Lincoln's Republican successors went entirely in the other direction. By the mid-1920s, President Calvin Coolidge said: “The business of government is business.”
So when the Great Depression hit in 1929, President Herbert Hoover failed to address massive unemployment or inspire desperate Americans with his “Limited Government,” “Free Market,” and “Personal Responsbility” conservative philosphy of government.
In 1932, candidate Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed he would provide a “New Deal” for the American people. The comparison was to a game of cards, where the people were
stuck with a losing hand and would continue to be stuck until the cards were dealt again. Most people saw this idea of government as the constructive response to a terrible economic crisis.
The idea caught hold. Roosevelt was elected with a supportive Congress, and a succession of new laws were passed and new programs put into effect. Despite Wall Street's determined effort to defeat Roosevelt and destroy the New Deal four years later, millions of new voters rose up to his support. These new voters included millions of industrial workers who became union members due to the rise of the CIO – Congress of Industrial Organizations.
The new laws and programs became known as the New Deal. Individually they were called: the CCC, AAA, NLRA/Wagner Act, Social Security, Wage and Hour Law, WPA, PWA, TVA, REA, Glass-Steagall, G.I. Bill and others. They did great things for people. They became known as “alphabet soup,” with affection by their supporters and with venom by their detractors. Wall Street and corporate America set out immediately to try to repeal them and continue to do so.
Today, Reagan’s message has taken hold over public discourse: “Government is the problem.” The end result is that 75% of Americans now distrust government. We need to reverse this, or we won't be able to make social and economic progress on any front.
But now a new, tragic failure of government operating like a business (without democracy and focused only on The Bottom Line) has hit all Americans: the poisoning of Flint.
To restore people's faith that government can work and once again become the tool we use to build the kind of society we want is the goal of these “Make Government Work” forums.
We have our work cut out for us.
By Mike Kerwin, UAW Local 174, retiree_________________________________________________
What Progressives Can Learn from Conservatives
Lesson No. 1: They meet with each other
Every Wednesday since 1993, Grover Norquist, a central mover and shaker of the Conservative Movement, has chaired meetings of more than 120 elected officials, political activists and movement leaders, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses, American Conservative Union, National Rifle Association, bloggers, writers, religious leaders and others. President George W. Bush sent his own representative.
As the founder of Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist drafted the anti-government, anti-tax “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” in 1986, signed by 95% of members of Congress, all but one of the 2012 GOP presidential candidates and most of the Michigan State Legislature.
Norquist describes his “Wednesday Meetings” as “the physical representation of how the Leave Us Alone Coalition (Ed. Note - as he labelled it) works to build and organize the center-right.”
Similar meetings are held in 48 states.
Whadda ya think? Good idea for Progressives, too?
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