Friday, October 16, 2015

Progressives Must Teach History to the American People

Americans know very little history and, increasingly, a lot of what they know is being doctored to fit ideological agendas. Progressives must work to educate the public about what progressives have done for the U.S. in the past. Virtually every government program and activity that benefits the general population was initiated by progressive governments in the three brief periods in the 20th Century when progressives had control of the national government. 

The first period was during the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the first term of Woodrow Wilson, 1901-1917. Roosevelt and Taft were Republicans, but they also were progressive, Roosevelt more than Taft, but Taft more than he usually gets credit for. That's when women got the right to vote; food and drug inspection began; federal regulation of corporations began; unions began to get legal rights; federal regulation of banking was initiated; the progressive income tax and the estate tax were adopted.

The second period was during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, who came into office at the height of the Great Depression. His "New Deal" completely changed the relationship of the federal government with the people. He assumed command of the economy. No President had ever done that before in peacetime. The reforms he initiated turned things around. They included Wall Street regulation; increased bank regulation; Social Security; the minimum wage; limits on hours' child labor laws; the FHA to provide financing of home purchasing; the Works Progress Administration, which oversaw thousands of construction projects across the country; the CCC, which gave work and support to tens of thousands of young people across the country; and much more.

The third period was the brief time of Lyndon Johnson's Presidency, 1963-66 before the escalation of the Vietnam War brought him down. With more than a two-thirds control of both houses of Congress following the 1964 election, Johnson initiated "The Great Society," which resulted in voting rights for blacks; the end of institutional/legal segregation in housing, public accommodations, schools, and employment; Medicare and Medicaid; Head Start; various anti-poverty programs. The poverty rate in the U.S. by 1970 had dropped by 50%. Since 1980, the election of Ronald Reagan, it has increased by 50%.

On the other hand, Republicans have nothing in their modern history of horrible performance in government except wars, stagnated wages, damaged economies, enormous deficits, destruction of unions, and efforts to suppress the rights of women and of minorities. Republicans are terrible managers of government.
The people must learn this history and we must teach it to them.

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