Monday, June 28, 2010

Neglecting History

Paul Rosenberg at Open Left eviscerated a segment served up by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on June 25. Following is Rosenberg's edited version, while the transcript is here and video below:

It turns out that a lot of things that have happened in the less than two years of this administration are the biggest or first or most important in generations. On the occasion of the Wall Street reform announcement today, Taegan Goddard at "CQ Politics" wrote, "Not since FDR has a president done so much to transform this country."

Even before today`s historic Wall Street reform agreement, President Obama, of course, did what politicians have been trying to do for more than 60 years. He passed health reform, which, for the first time, establishes government responsibility for the health care of American citizens.

Consider also the stimulus bill. It didn`t just throw a lasso around our entire economy and yank and yank it back from the brink. It also pumped about $100 billion into the crumbling embarrassment of our national infrastructure and transportation system.

It was the largest investment in infrastructure since Ike....

But presidential legacies are complex. Not even the Reagan administration`s legacy is pure as the conservative-driven snow. But Taegan Goddard at "CQ Politics" was right today about nothing this big happening since FDR.

The list of legislative accomplishments of this president in half a term even before energy reform which he`s probably going to get to is, to quote the vice president, "a big freaking deal." Love this administration or hate it, this president is getting a lot done.

The last time any president did this much in office, booze was illegal. If you believe in policy, if you believe in government that addresses problems, cheers to that.

Not only that, he calmed the sea, fed 4,000 people, destroyed a fig tree, walked on water, and turned water into wine! (Rachel especially liked that one.)

Maddow may be only 37, but that doesn't excuse her for not reading about the achievements of President Lyndon Baines Johnson (noted by Rosenberg), which included:

Civil rights
* Voting Rights Act of 1965
* Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965

War on Poverty
* Upward Bound
* Head Start

* Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
* Higher Education Act of 1965

* Medicare
* Medicaid

Arts and Culture
* National Endowment for the Arts
* National Endowment for the Humanities

Consumer protection
* Cigarette Labeling Act of 1965

* Land and Water Conservation Act of 1965
* Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965
* Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act of 1965

On a darker note, another former President had a far greater impact than President Obama has had, or is likely to have. As part of a "Reagan Revolution: Home to Roost" series, Dave Johnson of the Campaign for America's Future explains:

So with the conservative government of Reagan and then later under the all-out anti-government conservative administration of George W. Bush we have had the opportunity of seeing just what happens when these "free market" ideas are given free reign to replace democracy. Anti-government zealots were put into positions inside the government and used that power to take apart the protections that We, the People had painstakingly built.

Taxes were cut to "defund" government in order to "starve the beast." The strategy was create huge deficits so the public would later demand cuts in government benefits. In the meantime the deficits would be used as an excuse to cut government oversight, inspections and enforcement of rules restricting the activities of big corporations. But all they did was create huge deficit that added up to massive debt.

Katrina was the first clear, public demonstration of the governing offered by conservatives. When they talked about replacing progressive ideas of "we're in this together" and "watching out for each other" with "personal responsibility" they meant it. And the country saw what that meant to real people in real trouble.

More recently we have been hearing about disaster after disaster and catastrophe after catastrophe, all caused by businesses running out of control, aided by conservative government that relaxed or just stopped enforcing regulations and laws. Each catastrophe is beyond the scope or willingness of private businesses to repair, requiring public intervention, at great cost. (But never any suggestion of "clawback" - or getting back the profits that were made while creating the catastrophe.)

We all certainly know about the Wall Street financial crisis caused by the big banks and insurance giants. We heard about the SEC ignoring warnings about Bernie Madoff and Goldman Sachs and all the others. We've seen hearings about the things that WaMu was doing, and loans going to people who couldn't read, and brokers making up incomes on "liar loans" and ratings agencies giving top ratings to "designed to fail" bond deals that investment banks and hedge funds had put together so they could make huge "swap" bets against them when the loans went under... The government, under control of "free market" conservatives looked the other way the whole time.

They brought down the economy of the whole world, requiring government bailouts that added up to more money that has been spent by our government in the history of the country. And now they are fighting tooth and nail to keep We, the People from passing financial reforms to bring Wall Street back under control.

Just recently there was the West Virginia mining disaster caused by deregulation, sweet deals between the company and regulators and lack of enforcement. The CEO of the Massey Energy had literally bought himself a judge, who then voted in favor of Massey Energy. Corrupted absolutely, 29 dead later.

And now, the huge, huge catastrophe in the Gulf.

This is the Reagan Revolution coming home to roost....

Although George W. Bush was a far more conservative and confrontational president than was Ronald W. Reagan, the undermining of American society, including the diminution of the middle class, either began or was given its biggest boost under the 40th President. Two-thirds of the most far-reaching social safety net (Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security), federal aid to education, and application of federal power in the cause of civil rights should be attributed to Lyndon Johnson. And Rachel Maddow believes an astonishingly weak health care bill, a trimmed stimulus bill that has helped bring unemployment down to 9.7%, a reshuffling of the Minerals Management Service after the greatest environmental disaster in American history, and a feeble financial services reform bill (not yet passed by Congress) are evidence of "nothing this big happening since FDR."

If this were FOX News reporting on a Republican president, it at least would be understandable. But from Rachel Maddow, it was surprising, disappointing, and remarkably lacking in perspective.

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