Sunday, August 29, 2010

Take Back Our Country From Whom, Exactly?

The Tea Party rallying cry is "Take Back Our Country!" But exactly who are they wanting to take it back from? The average tea partier would probably say, in their ignorance, "From the people trying to make America a socialist country." Many of course would privately think, "From all those minorities who are taking over our country--we want to make America a white country again."

The history of the United States is the story of the people of this country taking power away from the elite and spreading it more equitably.

One way power has been taken is political; through the widening of citizenship. When the Constitution was first implemented the only people who could vote were white male property owners. In other words, all political power was held by a minority--the white property-owning class. And "white" meant northern European: Asians and southern Europeans like Spaniards and Italians were all considered "non-white" by our Founding Fathers. The history of the United States is a story of ever greater inclusiveness. We the people have taken our country and made it ours in a very profound sense.

Another way power has been taken from the elite is economic. The irony is most of these tea partiers are beneficiaries of the "socialist" policies of the last 70 years. Social Security, the 40-hour workweek, unemployment insurance, workmen's compensation, and Medicare lifted countless millions out of poverty and created a large middle-class.

And the tea partiers are mostly ignorant of the way they are being manipulated by some very wealthy people. Jane Mayer, in the August 30 edition of the New Yorker ("Covert Operations"), has published a chilling expose of the Koch brothers, two billionaires who are major financiers of the tea party movement.

The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States. And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

The Kochs advocate the elimination of federal taxes and federal regulation. They hate Social Security, minimum-wage laws and most agencies of the federal government. You can imagine why a billionaire owner of a corporation would advocate eliminating federal taxes and regulation; they cut into his profits.

Harder to understand is why the average middle-class American is falling for this. The policies advocated by the Tea Party will hurt those of us who aren't billionaires.

I met an early tea partier in the summer of 2009; she was protesting alone at a Fourth of July picnic. Her main focus was on the federal deficit, she claimed we couldn't afford Obamacare and all the other Democratic policies. But when I asked her what she knew about the history of the federal debt her ignorance was profound. She knew nothing about the federal debt quadrupling during Reagan's tenure, or even how it doubled during George W. Bush's time. As far as she knew Obama and the Democrats had invented the deficit. Everything that came out of her mouth was straight from talk radio and FOX news. She really thought she was a patriot and that she was advocating freedom, not realizing she was a pawn of the elite who were using her to maintain their control over her life.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Deny Citizenship to Who?

Until today it had never occurred to me that the soldiers of the Confederacy had renounced their citizenship of the United States and that after the Civil War was over there was a question of whether they could regain their citizenship--they were traitors after all.

This subject came up in Harold Meyerson's column today in the Washington Post. He was discussing the latest wacko idea from the right: denial of citizenship rights to people just because they are born here. In effect, repealing the 14th Amendment. What Meyerson was saying is the 14th Amendment was just as much about bringing the Confederates back into the Union as it was bestowing citizenship on the former slaves.

Of course the reason Republicans are talking this way is because they know the demographics of this country are working against them. As Meyerson puts it, "they are trying to preserve their political prospects as a white folks' party in an increasingly multicolored land."

Meyerson concludes that the GOP has decided that to keep their base happy they have to keep attacking the Hispanics, so the only solution to the demographic problem is to deny them citizenship:

By pushing for repeal of the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause, the GOP appears to have concluded: If you can't win them over -- indeed, if you're doing everything in your power to make their lives miserable -- revoke their citizenship.

On this page last week, my colleague E.J. Dionne Jr. rightly noted that by attacking the amendment, Republicans seek to undo one of their party's greatest and most inclusionary achievements. Civil War- and Reconstruction-era Republicans took pains to ensure the citizenship not only of freed slaves and their children. They -- in particular, Abraham Lincoln -- also decided not to permanently keep millions of Confederate soldiers and sympathizers from regaining their citizenship.

The Confederates had renounced all allegiance to the United States. They made war on the United States -- the Constitution's definition of treason -- and, in an effort to keep 4 million Americans enslaved, killed more of our soldiers than any foreign army ever did.

Yet Lincoln was determined to make it easy for Confederates to regain their citizenship. By taking an oath to support the United States and its Constitution, Confederates were made Americans again.

Suppose, though, that Lincoln had been filled with the spirit of today's Republicans. The crimes that Republicans ascribe to today's illegal immigrants pale next to those of Confederate leaders and supporters (chiefly, treason). A Lindsey Graham-like Lincoln would never have let the Confederates regain citizenship. Moreover, he would have denied citizenship to their children and their children's children. A large share of the nation, certainly of the white South, would have drifted endlessly in a legal limbo. The current Republican Party, anchored as it is in the white South, would scarcely exist.

So, the question for Lindsey Graham is: Are you serious about revoking the citizenship of 4 million children, their children and their children's children? How about a package deal: Stripping their citizenship in return for stripping the citizenship of Confederate descendants. A sort of Missouri Compromise for our times. Bipartisanship in action.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Presidents and Daughters

Has anyone else noticed that the United States tends to elect men to be President who have only daughters? I've not heard anyone comment on this but the trend became clear to me during George W. Bush's tenure and our latest president just confirmed it. I've been reminded of the subject with Chelsea Clinton's wedding this weekend.

Here are the presidents of my lifetime and their children at the time of their election:

John F. Kennedy----- 1 daughter -----(1 son was born after election)
Lyndon Johnson------2 daughters
Richard Nixon --------2 daughters
Jimmy Carter---------1 daughter
Ronald Reagan--------3 daughters & 1 son ---(and adopted 1 son)
George HW Bush -----2 daughters & 4 sons
Bill Clinton -----------1 daughter
George W. Bush------ 2 daughters
Barack Obama -------2 daughters

I skipped Gerald Ford because he was appointed, not elected.

I don't know if this means anything at all but I find it interesting!