Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Brief Ideological History of American Politics

Democrats are liberals and progressives who believe in the expansion of government and more federal control. Republicans are the conservatives who stick up for individual rights, state rights, and smaller government... right?


While there has been truth to both of these statements at one time or another in our modern era... it just isn't that simple. Both sides have expanded freedom, and more often than not, reined it in. So I thought I'd try to provide everyone with a short ideological history of the modern era to show who the real heroes and villains are.

It is best to start with Republican Herbert Hoover who took the presidency in 1929. While the government had been growing slightly for some years, it was the Hoover administration that started things down the wrong path. In an effort to deal the the Great Depression Hoover began to listen to the Keynesians... he started make-work programs, raised taxes, and signed the disastrously protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act that caused far more economic distress that it could ever have solved. A lot of conservatives like to blame FDR for our problems, but the really bad shit started under Hoover... FDR just took things much, much further.

FDR was a democrat and an egotistical monster who wanted to be king. That's harsh, but I'm going to stick by that statement. He did more than anyone in American history to shit all over our constitution. In all practicality, we lost our democracy under FDR, and only gained it back because Eisenhower and Kennedy were better men.

FDR ruled by executive order, declaring things law, and sending them to congress to pass the next day, often without finished text. When the Supreme Court struck down a number of his New Deal policies... he threatened to simply nominate a few new justices... the court backed down. FDR also broke President Washington's precedent of only running for two terms, which is essential for balance between the executive and the courts. He ran for 4 terms... this allowed him to pack the court with a bunch of his ideological cronies who were willing to sign on to any of his schemes.

I'm not done with FDR. His most flagrant violation of our Constitution and of human rights was Executive Order 9066 in which he imprisoned over 100,000 Japanese nationals and American Citizens based purely on their race. They lost their homes and their businesses because of this tyrant's rule by fiat. Short of slavery, this was the most offensive violation of the the wording of our Constitution ever committed. Fuck you FDR... fuck you!

Yup... still not done with FDR. He raised top marginal tax rates as high as 90%, and he ran the farm sector like a command economy with price controls and output quotas. Surprise... farm output went down disasterously. The government started paying large farming operations to destroy crops and livestock during a time of food shortages. FDR redistributed taxes to swing states and political cronies, and sold so much government debt he crowded out all sorts of private investment... making a proper recovery from the Great Depression that much more difficult.

Nobody in private industry could work around federal encroachment in most sectors of the economy, and as a result only large businesses with political ties succeeded while others failed. FDR claimed to be for "the little guy", but government control of the economy left thousands without their farms and businesses. I could go on, but I think I've made my point. FDR was more than a well meaning progressive pushing failed ideas, he was downright sinister.

The Eisenhower administration was not filled with strict constitutionalists, but Ike was a huge improvement of the tyrant FDR. The Eisenhower administration kept income tax rates high, but they did undo the most offensive of FDR's policies. By 1953, America was in a much better place.

Things start to get really confusing with John F. Kennedy. Kennedy really wasn't very liberal... at least not in the FDR mold. In Fact, Kennedy passed one of the the biggest tax cuts in American history. Top marginal rates fell from about 90% to around 60%. This was certainly a win for those who believe in freedom. Kennedy was also a hawk, though he entered office a bit naive, made some early mistakes, and began our Vietnam entanglement. Kennedy did abuse the FBI and the CIA with illegal wiretaps on political enemies and civil rights leaders... but the real tragedy of the Kennedy administration is his untimely death, which gave his Vice President Lyndon Johnson all the political capital he needed to tear up what was left of The Constitution.

Lyndon Johnson was a miserable asshole racist intent on growing his political base by making more Americans dependent on the government. It was under Johnson that black Americans gained the remainder of their civil rights... and while this was clearly a positive development... black America was then saddled with LBJ's "Great Society". Federal welfare programs would go on to completely destroy black culture and the black family in America. Just as black were poised to enter American life on equal footing... they were crassly struck down by LBJ's political maneuvering to secure long-term majorities. I know, some of you will say that black Americans still had opportunities... and they did... but I'd like you to show me any culture that wouldn't be destroyed by getting everything for free. The catastrophic cultural failure of black America can be placed on the head of LBJ as far as I'm concerned.

LBJ's administration tried to deal with economic problems with a loads of unconstitutional federal price controls. He also escalated Vietnam and made that "war" the disaster we now see it as by micro-management and running the war from behind a desk. But as LBJ won his second term in a landslide, his opponent Barry Goldwater helped to change the entire political landscape for decades.

Barry Goldwater lost when he ran against LBJ, but Goldwater was a true believer in freedom and the Constitution. Even with Goldwater's example set, we would still have to suffer through two terrible Republican Presidents before seeing any real change. The Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations bleed together for me. They abused their power, and continued failed "Keynesian" economic policies. Price controls were used to "solve" food and gas price inflation, monetary inflation ran rampant destroying savings accounts, high interest rates made home ownership more difficult... and Americans were overall becoming less and less free. At best, our basic freedoms lay stagnant for most of the 60's and 70's... as did our economy.

Ronald Reagan was a Goldwater conservative. He entered office determined to lessen the power of the federal government, solve our economic problems, and stand up to the Soviet Union. On most accounts... he delivered. Top marginal tax rates fell from 75% down to 50%, then down to 28%, while government revenue went up.

New monetary policy from the fed managed to control inflation, enabling middle class citizens to save their money again. Interest rates came down. Entire industries were deregulated (some of which began under Carter), and the economy responded in a big way. Reagan may not have cut the size of the federal government, but he did succeed in minimizing its encroachment into our daily lives. Ronald Reagan wasn't perfect, but his administration was a huge plus for those of us who believe in freedom and the Constitution.

The best thing about the Reagan era, was that it continued for two more administrations. George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton both raised taxes before they left office. But Clinton's top marginal rate was never higher than 40%... and Clinton cut capital gains taxes as he raised income taxes. This was clearly a better situation than we had under Nixon, Ford, and Carter. Clinton also signed the massive federal welfare reform that has raised the living standards of many who were previously on federal aid, and who are now productive workers. I have my complaints about Clinton personally, but in hindsight, his administration was a huge improvement over the Democratic, and most of the Republican Presidents that came before him. The Reagan era lived on!

George W. Bush ran as a conservative against Al Gore, but Bush was no conservative. Bush expanded government entitlements with Medicare Part-D, ran up massive debt with pork-laden budgets, pandered to religious groups to consolidate power, and build a new and completely unnecessary cabinet level bureaucracy called The Department of Homeland Security. Now our airports are filled with fat depressed federal employees, just sucking up our hard earned tax dollars. Fuck you W!

All of this is bad, but the single worst thing about the Bush administration wasn't Bush's big government liberal policies... it was the fact that his failure was branded as conservatism in the media and the public's eye. The name of conservatism was tarnished... which leads us to Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama is a power hungry statist who has been able to lead America to the left by falsely calling Bush's policies the failed ideas of the right. Right now the Obama administration is making Bush's already massive debt look like child's-play, and they are passing out federal dollars to all sorts of political interest groups in very much the same way as FDR.

The government now owns Chrysler and GM, and is dictating where they build their cars, where their front offices must be located, and what types of cars they make. Money from government managed bankruptcies (a bankruptcy through the courts would have been just fine) was illegally given to bankrupt union pension programs, while preferred lenders stood around contemplating the meaning of "the rule of law".

We may soon be saddled with federally managed health care, and a debt that will be impossible to pay off without massive tax increases and inflation. We are looking at an almost certain return to the stagflation of the 1970's. It seems Obama has learned nothing from the mistakes of the past. If the Democrats are smacked down in the mid-term elections we may be able to avoid disaster... but don't bet on it. Thanks a bunch George W. Bush!

There you have it... a modern ideological history of both parties. Some good, some bad, some presidents who fit our conventional wisdom, and some that break it...


Arthur said...

Great article man. Can I borrow it? Ha, Ha.

Shatner said...

You'll get it sir! Let me know when it is up in your queue.

Mike said...

You were far too nice to FDR. There's a reason you see him grinning in his photos with Uncle Joe Stalin and Adolph. He was a shitsucker of the worst class.