Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More books added to the Books About Progressivism Page: LBJ, Nixon, Reagan

Books, mostly biographies, have been added to various sections of the Books About Progressivism page, but mostly about LBJ, the Great Society, Nixon and Reagan. Many more books on the Reagan Presidency to be added shortly.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says he will support the use of ground troops against ISIS, if needed.

This from www.democraticundergorund.com:

U.S. General Backs Limited Ground Operations Against ISIS if Needed

Source: NY Times

WASHINGTON — Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Tuesday that he would recommend deploying United States combat forces against Islamic extremists in specific operations if the current strategy of airstrikes was not successful, raising the possibility of the kind of escalation that President Obama has flatly ruled out.

General Dempsey said that the ground forces would likely be Special Operations commands who could call in airstrikes from the ground.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he said that while he was confident in the ability of the coalition of American, European and Middle Eastern governments to stop the Islamic State, he could not completely close the door to eventually asking Mr. Obama to commit ground troops to fight the group, known as ISIS or ISIL.

“My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true,” he said. “But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States, then I of course would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.”

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/world/middleeast/isis-airstrikes-united-states-coalition.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=LedeSum&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ken Burns' The Roosevelts: An Intimate History begins tonight on PBS

Image result for photos of theodore rooseveltImage result for photos of fdrImage result for photos of eleanor roosevelt

THE ROOSEVELTS: AN INTIMATE HISTORY chronicles the lives of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. It is the first time in a major documentary television series that their individual stories have been interwoven into a single narrative.  This seven-part, fourteen hour film follows the Roosevelts for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of those years, Theodore would become the 26th President of the United States and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry his fifth cousin, Franklin, who became the 32nd President of the United States. Together, these three individuals not only redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, but also redefined the role of the United States within the wider world. The series encompasses the history the Roosevelts helped to shape: the creation of National Parks, the digging of the Panama Canal, the passage of innovative New Deal programs, the defeat of Hitler, and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights abroad. It is also an intimate human story about love, betrayal, family loyalty, personal courage and the conquest of fear.
A film by Ken Burns. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward. Produced by Paul BarnesPam Tubridy Baucom and Ken Burns.

The Senate Tried to Overturn 'Citizens United' Today. Guess What Stopped Them?

Written by  John Nichols | The Nation
Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressional Democrats calling for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens UnitedSenator Bernie Sanders and Congressional Democrats calling for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United(AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
A majority of the United States Senate has voted to advance a constitutional amendment to restore the ability of Congress and the states to establish campaign fundraising and spending rules with an eye toward preventing billionaires and corporations from buying elections
Read the rest of the story at:
bernie sanders on meet the press

Bernie Sanders appeared on Meet the Press today for the first time and he took the Koch Brothers apart.

See a portion at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcaSYclEKQg

Read the story on PoliticusUSA at http://www.politicususa.com/2014/09/14/appearance-meet-press-bernie-sanders-terrifies-koch-brothers.html

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Koch Brothers are playing a long game that is very dangerous to our democracy

Koch Foundation Proposal to College: Teach Our Curriculum, Get Millions

This story was originally published by The Center for Public Integritywhich is a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, DC.
In 2007, when the Charles Koch Foundation considered giving millions of dollars to Florida State University’s economics department, the offer came with strings attached.
First, the curriculum it funded must align with the libertarian, deregulatory economic philosophy of Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican political bankroller.
Second, the Charles Koch Foundation would at least partially control which faculty members Florida State University hired.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Concluding chapter of Part I of Dan Riker's Let's Do What Works and Call it Capitalism

We need a new national progressive movement

Chapter 9.  A new "Common Sense."

"The cause of America is, in a great measure, the cause of all

"We have it in our power to begin the world over again."

- Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776


This brief review of American economic and political history shows that throughout our history there has been constant tension between two competing theories of government: the Jeffersonian vision of an agrarian democracy of semi-autonomous states with the federal government limited primarily to providing national defense; and the Hamiltonian view of a vibrant industrial nation unified by a powerful central government. By and large, the Hamiltonian view won out, but now our ability to meet the challenges of the 21st Century is threatened by a resurgence of support for something approximating the Jeffersonian view.
Abraham Lincoln's statement that government should do for the people what they need done but cannot do for themselves is particularly relevant to the mass, urban, society of 320 million people of 21st Century America. But now we are embroiled in the argument over the proper role of the national government that is blocking virtually all progress toward solving contemporary problems. Indeed, we have a major faction of one of our two major political parties seriously wanting to significantly weaken the federal government by limiting its scope and reducing its functions, leaving much to private enterprise, or to the states already so financially stressed many have reduced vital services. If this right-wing faction prevailed, what would be the outcome?
Economist Mark Thoma provides a succinct answer:
 “(T)he private sector will not, on its own, provide the correct amounts of infrastructure, retirement security, health care spending, protection against monopoly and corruption, unemployment insurance, national defense, environmental regulation, education, food and drug safety, bank regulation, innovation, anti-trust action, safe working conditions, support of basic research, stabilization policy...”[1]
Are these not necessary to a modern civilization? Are these what the people need to have done, but “can not do...for themselves?” If the private sector will not do them, or cannot do them, and the states cannot afford to do them, who can? The answer should be obvious, but to many it is not.
The arguments today over the proper role of the federal government in some ways seem no different from those between Jefferson and Hamilton, but there is a big difference between the opponents today. Even though Hamilton and Jefferson disagreed over the means by which it best could be achieved, those two shared with the other founders - the other authors of the American Dream - a vision of a nation that provided equality of opportunity and equality under the laws to all citizens, with no special privileges because of birth or wealth, and a nation that also protected the people from governmental violations of their basic rights, and personal freedom. 
The opponents in today’s struggle over the control and direction of the national government no longer share that vision. The Party that ended slavery no longer believes in the Constitution's concept of equality of citizenship, or even in the social contract, the fundamental basis of democracy. As a result, the “American Dream,” a notion of equality of citizenship, opportunity and basic freedoms for all, is in great danger.
Republicans argue for a less activist federal government because they do not believe  government should be a vehicle for improving the general welfare. They oppose all efforts to help the poor, or to restore the economic security of the middle class.  But they are perfectly content with the fact that most of the great fortunes made in the United States now held by their most important benefactors largely are due to government largesse, and/or the corruption of American governments. They continue to press for greater government benefits for rich and powerful established interests: More mining or drilling on federal lands, or offshore; permits for pipelines; lower taxes on the rich and on corporations; government subsidies through tax loopholes and benefits; suppression of unions; restrictions on voting; and reduction of financial and environmental regulation. They even seek to make the fundamental bedrock of democracy, free public education, another source of profit for private interests.
Republicans supposedly stand for conservative ideals of greater personal freedom, expanded economic opportunities, and free markets, but they are skillful in hiding the fact that they really don't. They have made millions believe the falsehood that they are the party of smaller government, lower taxes, and a stronger economy. Using the “Big Lie” technique of repeating untruths over and over until they are believed, they have been very successful in stirring up the suspicion of government that is in the DNA of Americans. They employ various techniques of “dog whistle” politics to ignite some of the nascent racism, nativism and misogynism in their base, unifying them into a major force of opposition to virtually all progressive programs, even though many of the poorer members of their base are, or would be, major beneficiaries of such programs.
Republicans repeatedly describe the Democrats as the “tax and spend” party when they have been responsible for more of both for many years.  When they have controlled the national government they have increased the National Debt more than the Democrats have when they have been in power. Republican tax cuts generally have only benefited the rich. During President Reagan's terms, taxes increased on the middle class. Nearly all the benefits of his tax programs, as well as those of George W. Bush, went to the rich.
Every one of the financial crises since 1900 that caused economic chaos in the nation occurred when Republicans held the Presidency. Rather than stimulating economic growth in the U.S., Republican economic policies of the past 30 years contributed significantly to the losses of millions of jobs. On average, since the end of World War II, the nation's economy has grown almost twice as fast when Democrats have held the White House than it has when there were Republican presidents.
Most of the federal government programs that have had the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people in the United States since 1900 were initiated during three brief periods: the Progressive period prior to World War I; during Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, prior to World War II; and in the very brief time before Lyndon Johnson's presidency was destroyed by the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Most of the programs of those periods are  enormously successful and popular. Most Americans today view food and drug regulation, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, and many more as essential government services.
Each progressive period began as the result of a calamity. However, in each case, the conditions were ripe for change. Two of the three progressive periods were set off by Presidential assassinations, of William McKinley in 1901 and of John F. Kennedy in 1963.. The election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 was the result the Great Crash of 1929 and the resulting Great Depression.
Each calamity brought in a dynamic leader with his political party in complete control of Congress, and each was in a position to have his legislation supported and passed. Theodore Roosevelt had the most difficult time because of the powerful conservative forces within his Republican Party. But, he was one of the most politically adept Presidents we ever have had, and he had the advantage over later Presidents of being the first to do so much of what he did.
While wars played a significant role in cutting short the progressive periods, each period also was too dependent on one personality. The high water mark of the first progressive period was the election of 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt ran on the Progressive Party ticket, and he, Eugene Debs and Woodrow Wilson accounted for 75 per cent of the vote. But Roosevelt did not stay with the Progressive Party, and it only nominated two more candidates for President, Robert LaFollette, in 1924, when he was at the end of his life, and Henry Wallace in 1948.
There was no progressive successor to Franklin Roosevelt because he died in office and was succeeded by Harry Truman. While Truman's performance today is regarded by historians rather favorably, he was not a progressive, and Democrats did not control Congress during most of his Presidency.
There was no general economic crisis when Lyndon Johnson became President in 1963, but there was a social crisis, the rapidly escalating civil rights crisis in the South, and despite a booming economy, there was a potential economic crisis because nearly 20 per cent of people were in poverty. Much of what he did with his Great Society programs addressed those two crises.
Progressives seem to have not fared well in national politics in times of general prosperity. World War I and World War II both were followed by periods of economic growth and prosperity, particularly World War II. Those periods were mostly overseen by Republican Presidents, Harding and Coolidge in the 1920s and Dwight Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961.
In 1980, however, a Republican conservative was elected President, and it was not because things were going well. The Nixon, Ford and Carter presidencies, between 1969 and 1981, were full of crises, scandals and economic disruption that included high oil prices, near-record inflation, and high unemployment. Government seemed incapable of coping competently with the nation's problems, and someone came along who said the New Deal and liberal ideas no longer worked, that there was another way, and, by a small margin, the people bought that argument. 
As it turned out, the radically conservative economic policies of Ronald Reagan, basically a return to the Social Darwinist “laissez-faire” policies of the Gilded Age, did not solve our problems. They made them far worse, but the extent of the damage is just beginning to be fully realized. As with other periods of laissez-faire government, there was significant economic growth, but as with those other periods, the benefits of that growth went mostly to the rich and to the big corporations. While taxes on the rich were lowered dramatically, they actually increased on the middle class. The average hourly wage declined during Reagan's Presidency, and the huge movement of jobs out of the country began.
None of Reagan's successors significantly altered the nation's economic policies, and now we know that 30 years of these policies have hollowed out the middle class, increased poverty, created the greatest economic disparity in modern history, and weakened the economy of the nation, and, as a result, our security.
I do not have as pessimistic a view of the possibility of changing the present course of events as does Thomas Piketty, although I don't underestimate the difficulty. Barack Obama's slogan of "Change We Can Believe In," struck a powerful chord with millions of Americans. He did not bring the change he promised, and that has been disillusioning to many of his supporters, and has weakened the Democratic Party's appeal. But the fact that the people so clearly wanted change shows that we have reached another of those times in our history when the situation is ripe for change, and when change is necessary to our survival as a democratic capitalistic society.
The opportunity exists once again, as it did in 1776, "to begin the world over again." The choice this time is better than it was in 1776. We do not have to have a violent revolution. Peaceful change can occur, but it will take more than a political slogan, or one leader. It will take a new national progressive movement. How that can happen is the subject of Part II.

[1] Thoma, Mark. “For Obama, State of the Union Means State of the People.” The Fiscal Times, February, 12, 2013.