Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What happened to progressive government?

Once upon a time in America
The recent PBS documentary on the Roosevelts reminds us that progressive government is a thing of the distant past.

Teddy Roosevelt fought the big corporate trusts of his day and won. He also set aside more than 125 million acres for national forests under public protection and was known as the Great Conservationist. That Roosevelt would be hounded out of the Republican Party today.

FDR, aided by his wife Eleanor, was the most progressive president in history. His administrations ushered in most of what we take for granted today: the minimum wage, child-labor laws, Social Security, the FDIC, the G.I. Bill, etc.

There has been some social progress since FDR's time, but the breakthroughs have been few and far between.

President Johnson gave us Medicare, Medicaid and civil rights for African-Americans.

All this proved too much for Americans and we went into a nearly 50-year period of regressive policies spanning Democratic and Republican administrations.

Not until President Obama has this country started to move in the right direction again.

Yes, the Affordable Care Act doesn't go nearly far enough, in that health care should be a single-payer system like Medicare. But, it's a major step in the right direction.

President Obama is the first president to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriages and the Supreme Court has largely agreed.

He's trying to raise the minimum wage to where it would be, in buying power, in 1968. He wants equal pay for equal work and he wants us to stop rewarding corporations for sending jobs overseas. Republicans have largely thwarted those efforts as well.

These modest gains under Obama could very well lead to another extended period of regressive governance which began in 2010, led by the Tea Party, complete with tricorn hats.

The local daily newspaper editorialized against the government mandating paid sick leave for workers in the private sector. That mindset also opposed the creation of the minimum wage and child labor laws decades ago.

Time magazine ran an article arguing that the reason the latest session of Congress is the least productive in history is that both Democrats and Republicans have largely got what they've wanted and there isn't much else to accomplish.

That is so wrong.  There is much to do.

There are no laws that can be written to eliminate racism, sexism or homophobia, but we can do a lot more to protect the rights, not to mention lives, of minorities and women.

There is a battle being waged in this country between religious rights and human rights, and human rights are losing. That must be reversed.

Those that believe America should be a "Christian" nation need only marvel at what an Islamic nation looks like today.

Also, by remaining addicted to oil we are not only beholden to the crazies of the Middle East but we are also now destroying our ground water through fracking.

Relying on coal for electricity is bad for the environment in so many ways.

President Obama has tried to steer this country toward a more clean-energy future, but entrenched interests, namely the "oiligarchy," have thwarted those initiatives.

Just as Social Security is still being challenged by Republicans today, it will likely take decades for Americans to accept "Obamacare" and gay marriage.

Unfortunately, the only progress that Americans and the media seem to embrace is what new iPhone is being released. That, and keeping up with the Kardashians.

So, I guess we deserve whatever regressive era that lies ahead.

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