2006-12-29 / Columnists

The Progressive

A Newer New Deal
Commentary By John Paul Culotta

Last November’s midterm congressional election has been considered by many as a referendum on the decider’s abilities. Many political pundits considered the election a reflection of the despair Americans feel regarding the situation in Iraq. Other political observers feel it was a revolt against the insidious systematic corruption that exists in our body politic. Blue-collar workers, civil servants, hospital and healthcare professionals, and many middle class Americans are worried about their long-range economic prospects and may have voted their pocketbook as the main source of concern. Democrats, if they are clever, should realize all these concerns gave the party control of both houses of congress.

Republicans are now claiming the election was not a refutation of their core beliefs by the American voters. They conjecture that the sole reason for their defeat was the public’s distaste for the recent political scandals. This is an enormous and grievous mistake. The American voter rejected the core beliefs of the Republican Party. What are the core beliefs of the GOP? The beliefs of the party can be ascertained by their actions since the days of the Gipper- the esteemed Great Communicator- Ronald Reagan. Bush 41 and 43 continued the legacy that Reagan started- of having a strong, powerful military and using the military rather than diplomatic avenues to settle differences with our adversaries.

Outsourcing of governmental duties to corporations is another part of the legacy. Privatization of governmental powers is a major goal.

Another part of the legacy is to weaken labor organizations. The wall between church and state for many Republicans is a myth. According to these Republicans our founding fathers never wanted a wall to exist. (This opinion, according to most historians, is totally false.) Our new GOP does not believe in progressive taxation. Corporations should benefit from any governmental benefit program it would appear. The recent drug benefit for seniors is an example. Deficits do not matter according to the new Republican Revolution. Proposals to privatize Social Security were made. In conclusion the GOP is opposed to the advances this nation enjoys from the Progressive Era and the New Deal.

What are the advances of the Progressive Era and the New Deal? History demonstrates the free market system cannot prosper for the benefit of all without regulation by government. President Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson believed the enormous gap between the most prosperous and the most unfortunate of American society was a threat to our democracy. Progressive income tax system was the result of this thought. Our more fortunate were to pay a higher percentage than those most in need. Our meat was inspected to ensure sanitary standards. President Theodore Roosevelt felt bad business practices are ultimately bad for business. In 1906 he signed the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug act. Predatory corporate activity was curbed. Conservation of our national resources was a priority. Women were given the right to vote. President Theodore Roosevelt felt government had a responsibility to act as an arbiter between the needs of labor and corporations.

Municipal public health programs were established to prevent the spread of disease. When the Great Depression of the 1930’s destroyed the economic life of the nation President Franklin Roosevelt gave us the New Deal. Rural areas were electrified. Social Security was established. Legislation gave labor organizations legal status and by 1955 twenty-five percent of Americans were unionized. A realization that civil liberties should not be denied to people of color developed. President Truman promised to continue the New Deal. He proposed universal health care for all Americans. Medicare/Medicaid was considered to be a step towards that goal. When President Eisenhower was elected, there was some concern that the New Deal programs would be abolished. Americans were concerned Social Security would cease, and labor unions would lose their status as a part of the social fabric that held us all together. Some felt the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) would be privatized. Of course, this did not occur. Americans were pleased with the role of government in their daily lives. President Nixon, for the most part, allowed the New Deal and Great Society programs to continue.

It was not until President Reagan began the new Republican Revolution and the GOP stated government was the problem and not a part of the solution to our nation’s problems. Consecutive Republican administrations and congresses have given tax cuts to the wealthy, weakened government supervision and regulation of industry, have been anti-labor, and have jeopardized the health and safety of Americans at work, eating in restaurants, and when buying produce in supermarkets In 2000, consumer groups warned our nation’s leaders of the possibility of our produce becoming contaminated because of the increasing centralization of our food delivery system. President Bush’s administration ignored the need for better inspection of our food products. Cutbacks and budget reductions for government agencies that inspect our medicines and food products have been the GOP’s legacy. As you can see, government regulation and oversight is the problem and Taco Hell is the result.

If the Democrats wish to build on their gains, they must pledge to renew the Progressive Era and New Deal policies. Government needs to be a useful and strong partner in our social, economic, and political life. Corporations should not be allowed to contribute to political campaigns. Individual monetary contribution to candidates should be limited. Campaign financing reform must be a priority of their platform. Universal health care for all must be established. Drug costs must be regulated by government regulation. All our veterans should be entitled to the same benefits. Outsourcing of government work should cease. Paul Krugman in an op-ed column on December 11, 2006, wrote about the modernization program the Coast Guard outsourced to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The result was higher costs, ships that weren’t seaworthy, and work steered to subsidiaries or business partners that did not provide the best price. Our Coast Guard ignored the repeated warnings of their engineers regarding the scandal. Our own city Department of Education (DOE) is hiring consultants at considerable cost to give counsel regarding educational practices. Pedagogues who work at the DOE are ignored or marginalized. Contractors in Iraq are awarded lucrative jobs without oversight. Our newly elected Congress needs to investigate the corrupt crony corporate bleeding of our coffers that is occurring in occupied Iraq. We also need a single food safety agency to safeguard our food products.

Conservative TV and radio commentators have said that any investigation into crony corruption and our invasion of Iraq will only divide the nation and be partisan. Unfortunately, the need for the nation to be aware of the sinister nature of corporate miscreant behavior and the Republican dismantling of government safeguards overrides their concern for national unity.

At the Christmas season, many of us think of the miracle the birth of any child is. On November 22, 2006 E.J. Dionne a Washington Post columnist wrote: “In September, a group of 22 pro-choice and pro-life Democrats House members introduced what they called the ‘Reducing the Need for abortion and Supporting Parents Act.’ This bill favors effective contraception programs and gives parents full access to health coverage, childcare and nutritional assistance. We should all applaud this proposal. I suspect many on the religious right and economic conservatives will not.”

We also are reminded during the season that the Christ child was born in a stable because of the lack of proper shelter. The Newhouse News Service also reported: “Several firms that track foreclosures have released data in recent days that show more and more homeowners are missing mortgage payments, are in danger of losing their homes or are in the process of losing them forever.” On November 25, 2006 the New York Times reported: “In the third quarter of this year, the number of city residents who missed more than three months of mortgage payments jumped by 20 percent compared with the same quarter a year ago.” Housing needs need to be addressed by all levels of government, business, and civic and religious organizations.

Cinemas will have the final installment of the Rocky saga this Christmas. Rocky Balboa is the film and now in Philadelphia the statue again has been placed outside the Museum of Art. Why the interest in the fictional character? Michael Vitzer, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter has written a book of essays regarding the Rocky mystique. Many of us were and are inspired by the story. Americans identify with the underdog. We need a story of hope and faith and of people overcoming great odds-especially at this time of year.

The Democrats need to address the needs of the American people and institute a new New Deal!

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