September 30, 1794: George Washington marches on tax protesters

September 30, 2015

On September 30, 1794, President George Washington mounted his horse to lead a 13,000-man all-volunteer army, against Americans who refused to pay, or threatened to not pay taxes on whiskey.

Tea Partiers and Republicans might do well to spend a few minutes refreshing their memories from history class — or getting the information they didn’t get the first time around.  Citizens in western Pennsylvania, and that part of Virginia that would be come West Virgina, and the Ohio Territory, complained that federal taxes on whiskey were “theft.”

No, taxes are not “stealing.”  Here’s an offending but explanatory poster I found on Facebook:

Who are the history-illiterates who make these offensive posters? Taxes are not

Who are the history-illiterates who make these offensive posters? Taxes are not “stolen,” at least, not according to patriots like George Washington.

I told one guy who posted it that I thought it was a crude misrepresentation of George Washington, there on the left — but that I had always suspected he didn’t like the “founders,” and was grateful to have any doubts I may have had, removed.

He said, “Huh?”

This Prominent Americans series stamp of the U...

Pay your taxes, maybe they’ll put you on a stamp. This Prominent Americans series stamp of the United States from 1968 features Oliver Wendell Holmes. Wikipedia image

One could always refer to that wonderful line from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., about how he liked to pay taxes because “with them I buy civilization.”  But I suspect most tax revolters in the U.S. don’t much like civilization (and they have the guns to prove it).

Instead I simply told the story of George Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion, the first, and mostly-forgotten, case of U.S. tax rebels.  You know the story.

I wrote:

Yeah, in 1794, a bunch of farmers out in western Pennsylvania got ticked off at taxes. They said paying taxes was like the government stealing from them. And, they had their representatives explain to President George Washington, didn’t they fight a war against paying taxes?

Washington, you may recall, was the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in the great American Revolution against Great Britain. “No taxes without representation” was one of the original war cries.

Washington said, ‘It takes money to run the government, and that money is collected from the people in taxes fairly levied by their elected representatives.’

The farmers weren’t having any of that. They were way out in western Pennsylvania, near the wilderness Fort Pittsburgh. The federal government, what little bit of it there was, was in Philadelphia. ‘How are they going to make us pay taxes?’ the rebel leaders shouted to crowds.

George Washington

A more friendly portrayal of George “Pay Your Taxes or Swing” Washington – Wikipedia image (which bust is this? Library of Congress?)

Washington got a dozen nooses, and a volunteer army of 13,000 Americans, and marched to western Pennsylvania to hang anyone who wouldn’t pay the tax. Oddly, by the time Washington got there with the nooses, the rebels decided maybe it was a good idea to be patriotic about it after all.

So I assumed you just updated the pictures a little. [In the poster] There’s George Washington on the left, with his Smith and Wesson “noose,” telling the big corporate farmer to pay his taxes.I think your portrayal of Washington is a bit crude, but it’s historically accurate, with regard to taxes.

I always suspected you didn’t like George Washington. Now I know for sure you don’t.

You could have looked it up: The Whiskey Rebellion – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/duel/peopleevents/pande22.html

And it was on this day in 1794, September 30, that Washington and the army set out to put down the rebellion.

How would Washington have dealt with secession, or the Texas Republic movement?

I don’t much like crude political dysfunction and disinformation from people who don’t know U.S. history, and won’t defend American principles.  Am I being unreasonable?

More:

Gen. Washington, astride his favorite white horse, reviewing his troops at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, before the march to the western part of the state to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Image from the Department of the Treasury, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Gen. Washington, astride his favorite white horse, reviewing his troops at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, before the march to the western part of the state to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Image from the Department of the Treasury, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. (Just try to find who painted it!)

” . . . to execute the laws . . .” a painting by Donna Neary for the National Guard, on the Whiskey Rebellion. National Guard Caption: In September 1791 the western counties of Pennsylvania broke out in rebellion against a federal excise tax on the distillation of whiskey. After local and federal officials were attacked, President Washington and his advisors decided to send troops to pacify the region. It was further decided that militia troops, rather than regulars, would be sent. On August 7, 1794, under the provisions of the newly-enacted militia law, Secretary of War Henry Knox called upon the governors of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania for 12,950 troops as a test of the President’s power to enforce the law. Numerous problems, both political and logistical, had to be overcome and by October, 1794 the militiamen were on the march. The New Jersey units marched from Trenton to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. There they were reviewed by their Commander-in Chief, President George Washington, accompanied by Secretary of the Treasury and Revolutionary war veteran Alexander Hamilton. By the time troops reached Pittsburgh, the rebellion had subsided, and western Pennsylvania was quickly pacified. This first use of the Militia Law of 1792 set a precedence for the use of the militia to “execute the laws of the union, (and) suppress insurrections”. New Jersey was the only state to immediately fulfill their levy of troops to the exact number required by the President. This proud tradition of service to state and nation is carried on today by the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard.

Tip of the old scrub brush to the historians and other fine people at Mount Vernon, for the reminder:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


September 29, 1936: FDR warned Republicans would try to take away Social Security

September 29, 2015

How can this still be true, 79 years later to the day?

FDR warned us in 1936, that Republicans would try to gut federal programs that help people and make America great. It’s as if we have a haunting by Santayana‘s Ghost, on Social Security, unemployment insurance, job training, job creation and budget deficits:

Update: Shorter excerpt of speech, leaving out the parts I really wanted; the video originally featured is not available. Rats.

Our friend SBH pointed us to the text of the speech.  FDR addressed the New York State Democratic Convention, in Syracuse, on September 29, 1936  (Can you imagine — does any state have such thing still —  state party conventions so late in the year, today?).  He found it at UC-Santa Barbara‘s American Presidency Project website.  Here’s the text of the excerpt above, plus a little:

In New York and in Washington, Government which has rendered more than lip service to our Constitutional Democracy has done a work for the protection and preservation of our institutions that could not have been accomplished by repression and force.

Let me warn you and let me warn the Nation against the smooth evasion which says, “Of course we believe all these things; we believe in social security; we believe in work for the unemployed; we believe in saving homes. Cross our hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things; but we do not like the way the present Administration is doing them. Just turn them over to us. We will do all of them — we will do more of them, we will do them better; and, most important of all, the doing of them will not cost anybody anything.”

But, my friends, these evaders are banking too heavily on the shortness of our memories. No one will forget that they had their golden opportunity—twelve long years of it.

Remember, too, that the first essential of doing a job well is to want to see the job done. Make no mistake about this: the Republican leadership today is not against the way we have done the job. The Republican leadership is against the job’s being done.

Read more at the American Presidency Project: Franklin D. Roosevelt: Address at the Democratic State Convention, Syracuse, N.Y. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=15142&st=Roosevelt&st1#ixzz1T2VHx1tx

More:

Social Security Poster: old man

Social Security Poster: old man (Photo from the Social Security Board, via Wikipedia)

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

 


Unintentional bogus history: Archduke Ferdinand assassinated! British lead assault on Damascus!

June 30, 2014

Santayana said it:  Those who don’t remember history, yada, yada, yada.

It almost turned Dada-esque over the weekend, when a Syrian television editor mistook a “history-as-it-happened” Twitter feed for actual events.

One reason to learn history, I tell students, is so that you cannot be jived by politicians and others who wish to persuade you falsely.  Add to that:  So you won’t be suckered by false news reports when you’re at the editor’s desk.

I wonder how many hoaxes get started this way?

Is that today's newspaper? Toronto Daily Star, June 29, 1914. Not today's edition.

Is that today’s newspaper? Toronto Daily Star, June 29, 1914. Not today’s edition.


Quiz answer: Who ratted out the Republicans like this, and when?

September 3, 2013

I said earlier that you may wish to file this under o tempora, o mores; or perhaps under plus ça change.  

These words seem oddly, perhaps astonishingly appropriate to political discussion today.  They come from the past, from more than a half-century ago, but they refer to issues that have not yet been solved, and to issues that were resolved, but have come undone, or just come around again.

GOP vs. Dems. Image from Addicting Information.

GOP vs. Dems. Image from Addicting Information, “15 differences between Democrats and Republicans.”

I posed this a quiz in a post a couple of days ago.

Does history repeat itself?  George Santayana said history repeats for those who forget what happened before.

Here’s a political speech given in Minnesota.  Without hitting Google, can you tell who said this, and when?

Democracy does not work that way. Democracy is a matter of faith–a faith in the soul of man–a faith in human rights. That is the kind of faith that moves mountains–that’s the kind of faith that hurled the Iron Range at the Axis and shook the world at Hiroshima.

Faith is much more than efficiency. Faith gives value to all things. Without faith, the people perish.

Today the forces of liberalism face a crisis. The people of the United States must make a choice between two ways of living–a decision, which will affect us the rest of our lives and our children and our grandchildren after us.

On the other side, there is the Wall Street way of life and politics. Trust the leader! Let big business take care of prices and profits! Measure all things by money! That is the philosophy of the masters of the Republican Party.

Well, I have been studying the Republican Party for over 12 years at close hand in the Capital of the United States. And by this time, I have discovered where the Republicans stand on most of the major issues.

Since they won’t tell you themselves, I am going to tell you.

They approve of the American farmer-but they are willing to help him go broke.

They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing.

They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights.

They favor a minimum wage–the smaller the minimum the better.

They indorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools.

They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them.

They approve of social security benefits-so much so that they took them away from almost a million people.

They believe in international trade–so much so that they crippled our reciprocal trade program, and killed our International Wheat Agreement.

They favor the admission of displaced persons–but only within shameful racial and religious limitations.

They consider electric power a great blessing-but only when the private power companies get their rake-off.

They say TVA is wonderful–but we ought never to try it again.

They condemn “cruelly high prices”–but fight to the death every effort to bring them down.

They think the American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people.

And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.

Now, my friends, that is the Wall Street Republican way of life. But there is another way–there is another way–the Democratic way, the way of the Democratic Party.

Of course, the Democratic Party is not perfect. Nobody ever said it was. But the Democratic Party believes in the people. It believes in freedom and progress, and it is fighting for its beliefs right now.

In the Democratic Party, you won’t find the kind of unity where everybody thinks what the boss tells him to think, and nothing else.

But you will find an overriding purpose to work for the good of mankind. And you will find a program–a concrete, realistic, and practical program that is worth believing in and fighting for.

Now, I call on all liberals and progressives to stand up and be counted for democracy in this great battle. I call on the old Farmer-Labor Party, the old Wisconsin Progressives, the Non-Partisan Leaguers, and the New Dealers to stand up and be counted in this fight.

What clues does that passage contain that it wasn’t said in the past year?  Or was it?

I’ll post the answer in a day or so — take a guess in comments.

James said it was Harry Truman, and indeed it was.

President Harry S Truman, image from UCSB American Presidency Project

President Harry S Truman, image from UCSB American Presidency Project

Truman spoke to a crowd in Minnesota, in the St. Paul Municipal Auditorium, on October 13, 1948, about three weeks before the 1948 election in which he “upset” New York Gov. Thomas Dewey.  This was part of Truman’s famous Whistle Stop speaking tour of the U.S.

If the words look like they could have been said today, perhaps we should pay attention to them today, no?

Surely someone has a photograph of Truman speaking in St. Paul — but I haven’t found it yet.

More:


Who ratted out the Republicans like this, and when?

September 2, 2013

You may wish to file this under o tempora, o mores; or perhaps under plus ça change.  

GOP vs. Dems. Image from Addicting Information.

GOP vs. Dems. Image from Addicting Information, “15 differences between Democrats and Republicans.”

 

Does history repeat itself?  George Santayana said history repeats for those who forget what happened before.

Here’s a political speech given in Minnesota.  Without hitting Google, can you tell who said this, and when?

Democracy does not work that way. Democracy is a matter of faith–a faith in the soul of man–a faith in human rights. That is the kind of faith that moves mountains–that’s the kind of faith that hurled the Iron Range at the Axis and shook the world at Hiroshima.

Faith is much more than efficiency. Faith gives value to all things. Without faith, the people perish.

Today the forces of liberalism face a crisis. The people of the United States must make a choice between two ways of living–a decision, which will affect us the rest of our lives and our children and our grandchildren after us.

On the other side, there is the Wall Street way of life and politics. Trust the leader! Let big business take care of prices and profits! Measure all things by money! That is the philosophy of the masters of the Republican Party.

Well, I have been studying the Republican Party for over 12 years at close hand in the Capital of the United States. And by this time, I have discovered where the Republicans stand on most of the major issues.

Since they won’t tell you themselves, I am going to tell you.

They approve of the American farmer-but they are willing to help him go broke.

They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing.

They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights.

They favor a minimum wage–the smaller the minimum the better.

They indorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools.

They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them.

They approve of social security benefits-so much so that they took them away from almost a million people.

They believe in international trade–so much so that they crippled our reciprocal trade program, and killed our International Wheat Agreement.

They favor the admission of displaced persons–but only within shameful racial and religious limitations.

They consider electric power a great blessing-but only when the private power companies get their rake-off.

They say TVA is wonderful–but we ought never to try it again.

They condemn “cruelly high prices”–but fight to the death every effort to bring them down.

They think the American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people.

And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.

Now, my friends, that is the Wall Street Republican way of life. But there is another way–there is another way–the Democratic way, the way of the Democratic Party.

Of course, the Democratic Party is not perfect. Nobody ever said it was. But the Democratic Party believes in the people. It believes in freedom and progress, and it is fighting for its beliefs right now.

In the Democratic Party, you won’t find the kind of unity where everybody thinks what the boss tells him to think, and nothing else.

But you will find an overriding purpose to work for the good of mankind. And you will find a program–a concrete, realistic, and practical program that is worth believing in and fighting for.

Now, I call on all liberals and progressives to stand up and be counted for democracy in this great battle. I call on the old Farmer-Labor Party, the old Wisconsin Progressives, the Non-Partisan Leaguers, and the New Dealers to stand up and be counted in this fight.

What clues does that passage contain that it wasn’t said in the past year?  Or was it?

I’ll post the answer in a day or so — take a guess in comments.


Taxes are “stolen?” Those who don’t know history, shouldn’t pretend to complain about taxes

August 24, 2013

No, taxes are not “stealing.”  Here’s the offending poster I found on Facebook:

Who are the history-illiterates who make these offensive posters? Taxes are not "stolen," at least, not according to patriots like George Washington.

Who are the history-illiterates who make these offensive posters? Taxes are not “stolen,” at least, not according to patriots like George Washington.

I told one guy who posted it that I thought it was a crude misrepresentation of George Washington, there on the left — but that I had always suspected he didn’t like the “founders,” and was grateful to have any doubts I may have had, removed.

He said, “Huh?”

This Prominent Americans series stamp of the U...

Pay your taxes, maybe they’ll put you on a stamp. This Prominent Americans series stamp of the United States from 1968 features Oliver Wendell Holmes. Wikipedia image

One could always refer to that wonderful line from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., about how he liked to pay taxes because “with them I buy civilization.”  But I suspect most tax revolters in the U.S. don’t much like civilization (and they have the guns to prove it).

Instead I simply told the story of George Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion, the first, and mostly-forgotten, case of U.S. tax rebels.  You know the story.

I wrote:

Yeah, in 1794, a bunch of farmers out in western Pennsylvania got ticked off at taxes. They said paying taxes was like the government stealing from them. And, they had their representatives explain to President George Washington, didn’t they fight a war against paying taxes?

Washington, you may recall, was the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in the great American Revolution against Great Britain. “No taxes without representation” was one of the original war cries.

Washington said, ‘It takes money to run the government, and that money is collected from the people in taxes fairly levied by their elected representatives.’

The farmers weren’t having any of that. They were way out in western Pennsylvania, near the wilderness Fort Pittsburgh. The federal government, what little bit of it there was, was in Philadelphia. ‘How are they going to make us pay taxes?’ the rebel leaders shouted to crowds.

George Washington

A more friendly portrayal of George “Pay Your Taxes or Swing” Washington – Wikipedia image (which bust is this? Library of Congress?)

Washington got a dozen nooses, and a volunteer army of 13,000 Americans, and marched to western Pennsylvania to hang anyone who wouldn’t pay the tax. Oddly, by the time Washington got there with the nooses, the rebels decided maybe it was a good idea to be patriotic about it after all.

So I assumed you just updated the pictures a little. [In the poster] There’s George Washington on the left, with his Smith and Wesson “noose,” telling the big corporate farmer to pay his taxes.I think your portrayal of Washington is a bit crude, but it’s historically accurate, with regard to taxes.

I always suspected you didn’t like George Washington. Now I know for sure you don’t.

You could have looked it up: The Whiskey Rebellion – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/duel/peopleevents/pande22.html

I don’t much like crude political dysfunction and disinformation from people who don’t know U.S. history, and won’t defend American principles.  Am I being unreasonable?

More:

Gen. Washington, astride his favorite white horse, reviewing his troops at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, before the march to the western part of the state to put down the Whiskey Rebellion.  Image from the Department of the Treasury, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Gen. Washington, astride his favorite white horse, reviewing his troops at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, before the march to the western part of the state to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Image from the Department of the Treasury, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. (Just try to find who painted it!)

” . . . to execute the laws . . .” a painting by Donna Neary for the National Guard, on the Whiskey Rebellion. National Guard Caption: In September 1791 the western counties of Pennsylvania broke out in rebellion against a federal excise tax on the distillation of whiskey. After local and federal officials were attacked, President Washington and his advisors decided to send troops to pacify the region. It was further decided that militia troops, rather than regulars, would be sent. On August 7, 1794, under the provisions of the newly-enacted militia law, Secretary of War Henry Knox called upon the governors of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania for 12,950 troops as a test of the President’s power to enforce the law. Numerous problems, both political and logistical, had to be overcome and by October, 1794 the militiamen were on the march. The New Jersey units marched from Trenton to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. There they were reviewed by their Commander-in Chief, President George Washington, accompanied by Secretary of the Treasury and Revolutionary war veteran Alexander Hamilton. By the time troops reached Pittsburgh, the rebellion had subsided, and western Pennsylvania was quickly pacified. This first use of the Militia Law of 1792 set a precedence for the use of the militia to “execute the laws of the union, (and) suppress insurrections”. New Jersey was the only state to immediately fulfill their levy of troops to the exact number required by the President. This proud tradition of service to state and nation is carried on today by the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard.


Encore haunting by Santayana’s Ghost: FDR warns about Republican hypocrisy and sarcasm, from 1936

September 10, 2012

A haunting by Santayana‘s Ghost, on Social Security, unemployment insurance, job training, job creation and budget deficits:

[Editor’s note, 2016: Rats! that almost-perfect speech excerpt has disappeared from YouTube. Here’s a shorter excerpt.]

Our friend SBH pointed us to the text of the speech.  FDR addressed the New York State Democratic Convention, in Syracuse, on September 29, 1936  (Can you imagine — does any state have such thing still —  state party conventions so late in the year, today?).  He found it at UC-Santa Barbara‘s American Presidency Project website.  Here’s the text of the excerpt above, plus a little:

In New York and in Washington, Government which has rendered more than lip service to our Constitutional Democracy has done a work for the protection and preservation of our institutions that could not have been accomplished by repression and force.

Let me warn you and let me warn the Nation against the smooth evasion which says, “Of course we believe all these things; we believe in social security; we believe in work for the unemployed; we believe in saving homes. Cross our hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things; but we do not like the way the present Administration is doing them. Just turn them over to us. We will do all of them — we will do more of them, we will do them better; and, most important of all, the doing of them will not cost anybody anything.”

But, my friends, these evaders are banking too heavily on the shortness of our memories. No one will forget that they had their golden opportunity—twelve long years of it.

Remember, too, that the first essential of doing a job well is to want to see the job done. Make no mistake about this: the Republican leadership today is not against the way we have done the job. The Republican leadership is against the job’s being done.

Read more at the American Presidency Project: Franklin D. Roosevelt: Address at the Democratic State Convention, Syracuse, N.Y. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=15142&st=Roosevelt&st1#ixzz1T2VHx1tx

More:

Social Security Poster: old man

Social Security Poster: old man (Photo from the Social Security Board, via Wikipedia)

This is mostly an encore post.


Haunted by Santayana’s Ghost: FDR warns about Republican hypocrisy and sarcasm, from 1936

July 23, 2011

A haunting by Santayana’s Ghost:

Was this a convention speech?  I wonder when and where it was.  Can anyone help?

_____________

Ha!  In comments, SBH points us to the text of the speech.  FDR addressed the New York State Democratic Convention, in Syracuse, on September 29, 1936 (Can you imagine — does any state have such thing still —  state party conventions so late in the year, today?).  He found it at UC-Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project website.  Here’s the text of the excerpt above, plus a little:

In New York and in Washington, Government which has rendered more than lip service to our Constitutional Democracy has done a work for the protection and preservation of our institutions that could not have been accomplished by repression and force.

Let me warn you and let me warn the Nation against the smooth evasion which says, “Of course we believe all these things; we believe in social security; we believe in work for the unemployed; we believe in saving homes. Cross our hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things; but we do not like the way the present Administration is doing them. Just turn them over to us. We will do all of them- we will do more of them we will do them better; and, most important of all, the doing of them will not cost anybody anything.”

But, my friends, these evaders are banking too heavily on the shortness of our memories. No one will forget that they had their golden opportunity—twelve long years of it.

Remember, too, that the first essential of doing a job well is to want to see the job done. Make no mistake about this: the Republican leadership today is not against the way we have done the job. The Republican leadership is against the job’s being done.


Quote of the moment, and Rick Santorum: Langston Hughes, “Let America be America again”

April 25, 2011

Rick Santorum, CBS News image

Rick Santorum: Running with . . .

Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes

. . . political philosopher, and Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes?

News item: Rick Santorum is running for president. No, seriously — he is. In order to run, a candidate needs a catchy slogan.

Santorum’s campaign announced he is planning to use “Let America be America, again” as his slogan.

It’s a phrase borrowed from Langston Hughes.  One wonders if Rick Santorum reads any poetry, let alone someone from the Harlem Renaissance.

Did Santorum really intend to borrow from Hughes?  Does he think Hughes would approve?

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

Full text of the poem here, at the American Academy of Poets.

No, it appears Santorum did not wish to affiliate with Langston Hughes. One more reason to vote against Santorum, as if anyone needed more.  Santorum even admits not being much of a poetry fan.

How about this for a Santorum slogan:  “All santorum, no guts or brains.”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.


Republican policy: Forward to the Gilded Age

April 10, 2011

Cover of "The Gilded Age"

Cover of "The Gilded Age," a novel by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner published in 1873. Image courtesy of the Center for Mark Twain Studies, Elmira College.

You know why it was called the Gilded Age, right?

Santayana’s Ghost keeps telling me the Republicans don’t know why.  Republicans as a rule do not read Mark Twain, so it’s a cinch they’ve never read Mark Twain plus Charles Dudley Warner.

Mark Twain, PBS image from Mark Twain House

Mark Twain, who wrote the novel, The Gilded Age, with Charles Dudley Warner. Twain wrote of the Republican Manifesto earlier: "What is the chief end of man?--to get rich. In what way? -- dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must." Image from Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut, via PBS

Still, don’t you recall with some fondness the Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford years, when Republicans at least pretended not to be grand misanthropes?  Do you remember that?  Nixon tried to make nicey-nice with conservationists and environmentalists, expanding the National Parks and creating the Environmental Protection Agency (fitting, since the environmental movement had been born among and from wealthy  and smart Republicans); even after killing the air traffic controllers union, Ronald Reagan enjoyed easy camradary with Teamsters, and to some degree, even with the heads of the AFL-CIO.    Reagan encouraged and signed a jobs training bill, and signed our first home health care law, making it possible for people to go home to die, where they ironically lived much longer than in hospitals, but at much reduced cost to Medicare.

Forget those days.  Forget that human compassion.  Today’s conservatives don’t have time for the wimpiness of Ronald Reagan.

Did you see the full list of proposed agency cuts the Republicans tried to pin on the 2011 appropriations bill, H.R. 1?

Here’s the entire list, from OMB Watch:  OMB_Watch-HR1_Policy_Riders (April 7, 2011).  I’m sure OMB Watch  has a bias, but the descriptions of the cuts are so balanced and neutral that they may hide some of the more unscrupulous, Scroogey actions.

In consumer protection, for example, Republicans inexplicably oppose the creation of watchdogs to prevent another housing bubble — are Republicans protecting criminals here?

Prohibits the Federal Reserve from transferring more than $80 million to the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Sec. 1517
Prohibits funds for a government sponsored “consumer products complaints database,” Sec. 4046.

No one to prevent new crimes, and no collecting of information to warn consumers of dangerous products.  Wonderful.

Prohibits funds to take any action to effect or implement the disestablishment, closure or realignment of the US Joint Forces Command.  Sec. 4020

No, no, don’t want the Pentagon to save money — heaven knows, wasting money at the Pentagon is flag-waving patriotism — so let’s ban the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, from making changes that save money.  It’s in the Bible that this must be done, I’m sure.

Prohibits funds for implementing a provision specific to the State of Texas in the “Education Job Fund.”  Sec. 4051

After claiming he wouldn’t accept “bailouts” from the federal government, Texas Gov. Rick Perry accepted money from Congress to prevent the loss of teaching jobs — but then threw the money into a different pot, so teachers were not protected.  U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, amended the last appropriation bill to say that Texas can’t take money from the teachers — but the Republicans want to allow Perry to take the money, and keep it from the teachers, again.  It’s the old playground game where the big kids play keep away from a little kid.  It’s vicious, of course, and should be criminal — but the older kids have a lot of fun.

Prohibits funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program or the State Energy Program.  Sec. 1434

Let the poor people freeze in the dark — they all vote Democratic, anyway.  But wait!  Tea Partiers, fresh from the Mad Hatter’s, say that global warming will take care of the poor people!   No need for weatherization.

Prohibits funding for various environmental projects in California.  Sec. 1475
Prohibits funding for a climate change czar in the White House.  Sec. 1535
Prohibits funding for EPA efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.  Sec. 1746

Oh, well, maybe there isn’t any global warming.  Yeah, this is contrary to what the Republicans said about warming keeping the poor from needing weatherization — but they’re just poor people, the Republicans say.  Let ’em get a job!  (Where?  Not the problem of Republicans; Republicans identified that the poor need to get a job, and that should be the limit of federal action . . .).

This morning on CBS, New York Sen. Charles Schumer said he would not list cuts until he sees a final copy of the bill.  Probably wise — but it’s also almost a cinch that almost all of the cuts will be mean-spirited, worthy of Ebenezer Scrooge before his conversion, and damaging to the U.S. people and the U.S. economy.

What in the hell is going on in Washington?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Jean Detjen, protecting the nation from being over-run by Canadians up there in the north, in Wisconsin.


Ironic anniversary: Marshall Plan, April 3, 1948

April 4, 2011

Texas Republicans rammed through their radical budget cut program on April 3, 2011 — ironically on the anniversary of another legislative decision made in the depths of deficit spending.

President Truman signing legislation to create the Marshall Plan, 1948 - Library of Congress, Averill Harriman collection

Caption from Library of Congress: "Surrounded by members of Congress and his cabinet, on April 3, 1948, President Harry S Truman (1884-1972) signed the Foreign Assistance Act, the legislation establishing the Marshall Plan. His official statement said, "Few presidents have had the opportunity to sign legislation of such importance. . . . This measure is America's answer to the challenge facing the free world today." The Marshall Plan was a bipartisan effort--proposed by a Democratic president and enacted into law by a Republican Congress in a hotly contested presidential election year. The plan's supporters shown in the photograph are (l-r) Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R--Mich.), Treasury Secretary John Snyder, Representative Charles Eaton (R--N.J.), Senator Tom Connally (D--Tex.), Secretary of the Interior Julius A. Krug, Representative Joseph Martin (R--Mass.), Representative Sol Bloom (D--N.Y.),and Attorney General Tom Clark." Copyprint from The Marshall Plan at the Mid-Mark. Averell Harriman Papers, Manuscript Division

April 3 is the traditional anniversary of the Marshall Plan.  From the U.S. Census Bureau:

SUNDAY, APRIL 3: MARSHALL PLAN

Profile America — Sunday, April 3rd.  One of the major programs that helped to shape history after World War II was signed into law on this date in 1948.  The European Recovery Program — far better known as the Marshall Plan, was suggested a year earlier by Secretary of State George Marshall. It had become clear that the economies of the nations battered by the war were not recovering on their own, and millions of people were not only jobless, but were also going hungry.  The Marshall Plan lasted for four years, distributing some 130 billion in today’s dollars, and helped many nations on the road to recovery.  Recently, the U.S. has given nearly $34 billion a year in economic aid and some $15.5 billion in military aid to countries around the world.  Profile America is in its 14th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sources:  Chase’s Calendar of Events 2011, p. 204

Statistical Abstract of the United States 2011, t. 1298

Profile America is produced by the Public Information Office of the U.S. Census Bureau. These daily features are available as produced segments, ready to air, on a monthly CD or on the Internet at http://www.census.gov (look for “Multimedia Gallery” by the “Newsroom” button).

SOURCE U.S. Census Bureau

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/04/02/3523990/us-census-bureau-daily-feature.html#ixzz1IY7ec6mu

On that date in 1948, the U.S. faced the greatest deficits the nation had ever seen, leftover from World War II. Faced with the choice of deeper deficits or no Marshall Plan, Members of Congress chose to borrow the money to rebuild nations hammered by the war,  including our enemies, Germany, Italy and Japan.

What would have happened had the U.S. said “we can’t afford a Marshall Plan?”  Santayana’s Ghost shakes his head.  The U.S. would not have had the aid of growing, free-market economics in France, Germany, Italy, England and Japan, during the Cold War.  Advantages would have been conceded to the Soviet Union and communism, worldwide.

Notice the photograph includes Republicans and Democrats.

What are Texas and U.S. legislators thinking these days?

Resources:


Boston Tea Party: An anti-corporation protest?

April 3, 2011

Thom Hartmann said so.  In Hartmann’s reading, the 1773 Boston Tea Party was as much a protest against corporate oligarchy as a protest against government — quite the opposite of the way most Neo Tea Partiers see things.   Is he right?  Historians, what say you?

Hartmann relies on his copy of George R. T. Hewes’ book, A retrospect of the Boston tea-party, with a memoir of George R. T. Hewes, a survivor of the little band of patriots who drowned the tea in Boston harbour in 1773 (1834). Are you familiar with the book?

George R. T. Hewes in 1835, a veteran of the 1773 Boston Tea Party - CUNY image

George Robert Twelves Hewes in 1835 at age 93, a veteran of the 1773 Boston Tea Party. Painting by Joseph G. Cole. CUNY image

More, and resources:


Can’t fire the bums to make a quality school: Principals division

February 8, 2011

Be sure to see the story in the New York Times today. Obama administration “Race to the Top” money went to states who proposed to replace principals in failing schools. A problem in the strategy threatens the program:  Not enough qualified people exist to replace all the “bad” ones.

Wrong-headed education “reformers” keep talking about “firing the bad ones,” teachers, administrators, or janitors.  Without significantly raising the pay for teachers, without greatly increasing the number of teachers and administrators in the pipeline from teaching colleges or any other source, reformers can’t attract anyone better qualified than the people they wish to replace.

Pres. Obama and Sec. Duncan and the 6th grade at Graham Road Elementary, Falls Church, Virginia

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan took questions from a 6th grade class at Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, Virginia, January 18, 2010 – photo credit unknown

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time these reformers took a step back and did some study, perhaps from the quality gurus, Deming and Juran and Crosby, or from the heights of championship performance, in basketball, football, soccer, sailing (try the America Cup), horse racing or politics:  No one can use firing as a chief tool to turn an organization around, nor to lead any organization to a championship.  Threatening people’s jobs does not motivate them, nor make the jobs attractive to others.

How can we tell the fire-the-teachers-and-principals group is on the wrong track?  See the article:

“To think that the same leader with a bit more money is going to accomplish tremendous change is misguided,” said Tim Cawley, a managing director at the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a nonprofit group that began leading turnaround efforts in Chicago when Mr. Duncan was the superintendent there.

“This idea of a light-touch turnaround is going to sully the whole effort,” Mr. Cawley added.

Tell that to Steve Jobs, who turned Apple around.  Tell it to Jack Welch, the tough-guy boss from GE (who had his own peccadilloes about firing, but who emphasized hiring and pay, at least, as the way to create a succession plan for the vacancies).  Tell it to any CEO who turned around his organization without falling on his own sword.

Any competent quality consultant would have foreseen this problem:  Nobody wants to train for a job with little future, less money to do the job right, little authority to get the job done, and the sole promise that the exit door is always open.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan should know better, intuitively.  He used to play basketball, professionally.  Surely he knows something about team building and team turnarounds.  What caused his astounding, expensive amnesia?

Part of the issue identified in the article is training:

Because leading schools out of chronic failure is harder than managing a successful school — often requiring more creative problem-solving abilities and stronger leadership, among other skills — the supply of principals capable of doing the work is tiny.

Most of the nation’s 1,200 schools, colleges and departments of education do offer school leadership training. “But only a tiny percentage really prepare leaders for school turnaround,” said Arthur Levine, a former president of Teachers College who wrote a 2005 study of principal training.

That only contributes to the larger problem, that people in the positions are, often, the best ones for the job already; firing them damages turnaround efforts.

In Chicago, federal money is financing an overhaul of Phillips Academy High School. Mr. Cawley’s nonprofit trained Phillips’s new principal, Terrance Little, by having him work alongside mentor principals experienced at school makeovers.

“If we’re talking about turning around 700 schools, I don’t think you can find 700 principals who are capable of taking on the challenge of this work,” Mr. Little said. “If you could, why would we have this many failing schools?”

Education’s problems are many.  Few of the problems are the result of the person at the chalkboard in the classroom.  Firing teachers won’t help.  W. Edwards Deming claimed that 85% of the problems that plague front-line employees, like teachers, are management-caused.  Firing their bosses won’t solve those problems, either, but will just push the problems around.   (What?  “Deck chairs?”  “Titanic?”  What are you talking about?)

Did you hear?  Texas plans to cut state funding to all education by at least 25% for next year, due to Gov. Rick Perry’s $25 billion deficit, which he worked so hard to conceal during last year’s election campaign.

Santayana’s Ghost just dropped by to remind us, suitably the day after Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday anniversary, of the Report of the Commission on Excellence in Education, the report that saved Reagan’s presidency and got him a second term:

Our nation is at risk. The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity. If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament. History is not kind to idlers.

When do we get political leaders who will swim against that tide instead of trying to surf it?

 

Dan Wasserman cartoon, Boston.com

Dan Wasserman, Boston Globe

See a small collection of  Dan Wasserman’s cartoons on Race to the Top, here.


The future: Promise, or threat?

January 30, 2011

Rather sweeping changes coming in Advanced Placement courses — World History, German and French for the coming year, Spanish and Latin for 2012-13, and probably Biology.  Changes for U.S. History (APUSH) got delayed however.

At AP’s website where teachers can look at the proposed changes, three quotes alternate on the first page, including one from our resident ghost, George Santayana:

We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past.

Promise?  Threat?  Meant to cheer, or strike fear and doubt?

Or is it  just a good line from Santayana in an ambiguous situation?

(You’ll find the quote here:  The Philosophy of George Santayana, Northwestern University Press, 1940, p. 560)


Santayana’s Ghost

January 28, 2011

George Santayana was a Spanish-born (Madrid, December 16, 1863), American-educated philosopher who practiced education at Harvard University (died September 26, 1952, in Rome).  In an almost-off-hand comment in a book, he wrote the statement which is this blog’s unofficial motto:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

(The Life of Reason, vol. 1: Reason in Common Sense)

Who or what is Santayana’s Ghost?  It’s the shade of Santayana, watching us, watching those condemned to repeat history as they repeat the bad parts over and over.  The shade smiles when a student learns a valuable lesson from history, and laughs with delight when those lessons find application to prevent further tragedies that could so easily be prevented, if policy makers only made the effort to avoid the errors of the past.

Why does the ghost haunt us?  Because he knows, as Santayana also wrote, “only the dead have seen the end of war.” (Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies, number 25 (1922))


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