An Meine Enkelinnen (To My granddaughters)
I am compelled by the tenor of our times. I am compelled by the fact that you are flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. I am compelled because time is precious. I am compelled because I love you.
I must share with you or forever regret that I failed to do so.
First, I must remind you of my bona fides, that is, the documentary evidence of my legitimacy, my credentials. Your professors call this Curriculum Vitae. It’s how they explain the alphabet soup they place following their names.
Most professors offer you the vegetables of their personal garden plots. Doctoral dissertations. Masters theses. Few, if any, of these academics can match my bona fides.
My sources are what I have seen and experienced, in situ, that is, in and within its original place. My sources are street-level, nitty-gritty, real people who lived with and during socialism, communism, and national socialism. I spoke, and still speak, face-to-face with these people. I dined with them. I lodged with them. I went to their weddings and their funerals. I wept with them and laughed with them. I went with them into their churches, their schools. I worked and sweat with them. Picked mushrooms in the forests with them. I shopped with them. Played cards and chess with them. I learned their language, their history, their culture.
So, damn it, when I tell you what I know about socialism, communism, and national socialism, listen to me!
Your professors can lecture you on Engels, Marx, Hegel, Trotsky, and Lenin. That’s their turf. I, on the other hand, offer you a reality check. Consider this: if I throw an apple to break a window, does that rob all apples of nutrients? Ought we campaign to remove all apples from the grocer’s shelves? Alas, this is the flaw in the writings of Engels, Marx, and the rest. I won’t argue whether these scholars observed abuse at the hands of some they called capitalists. But we don’t behead a sick hen in the attempt to cure her! At least not if we wish to continue having eggs. This is likewise the very illogic indulged in by many who today call themselves progressives or liberals and seek to cure our ills with socialism. They speak of utopian dreams. I reduce those dreams to hard facts.
Let’s start with hard fact number one. Let’s say I apply to an apple a sticky-label reading “banana.” Does the apple become a banana? Of course not. And the same is true with the label “socialist” and, for that matter, “communist.” If I label an autocracy as socialist, it remains an autocracy. Likewise true for a communist state labeled “Democratic Republic.”
Have I ever seen a communist country bearing the label “Democratic Republic”? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I have! I have even traveled to and within such a place. The German Democratic Republic. That happens to be the place your grandmother Josefine was born.
Problem is, only one word of that label was true. It was German. But it most assuredly was not democratic. Nor was it a republic.
The point here is that just as we cannot judge a book by its cover, neither can we judge a country by its label. We have to examine how it behaves and what it does. Only then can we decide what it is.
Speaking of labels and terminology, stop for a moment and reflect on these questions:
What is the difference between an oligarchy and an autocracy?
Who has greater prestige – the proletariat or the bourgeoisie?
How does socialism differ from communism?
Is one better off being an Apparatchik or being a Politburo member?
Is the United States a democracy? Or, is our country a republic?
What is the meaning of the suffix “cracy”?
If you can answer these questions with ease, thank your high school teacher or your college professor. If, on the other hand, you struggle with any of these, your professors may not be worth their paychecks.
Now, let’s get back to labels. And some facts.
Russia was not a communist country. But it was an oligarchy hiding behind the label of communism. Had it been communist, it would have been a classless society. But it wasn’t, and still isn’t. Those at the helm of leadership and most of their apparatchiks had privileges not available to the rest of society. They had special stores where they could buy Western products. They had private country villas (dacha — a country house or cottage). They drove quality cars – the Volga rather than the Lada. The working-class rode — and still ride — street cars, buses, and subways.
Definitely not classless. The oligarchs lived a lifestyle several notches above that of the commoners. “But they have elections,” you might say. True, but their elections are like crystal selling for the price of diamond. Later we’ll examine detailed facts about elections in Russia, Cuba and Iran. But for now, ponder, please, on this:
2018 – Vladimir Putin, President (Prime Minister is Dmitry Medvedev)
2012-2018 Vladimir Putin, President (Prime Minister is Dmitry Medvedev)
2008-2012 Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister (President is Dmitry Medvedev)
2000-2008 Vladimir Putin, President
This exercise of musical chairs is oligarchy at its most brazen. And what your professors likely do not tell you is this: Executive power in each of these political dances always remained with Putin. When Medvedev was president, the office was ceremonial head of state, while the office of prime minister under Putin wielded executive power.
What I most hope you will discern is how people who seek power will abuse labels – sort of the wolf in sheep’s clothing – to gain control over others. Hopefully, once adequately informed, you can avoid buying into the deceit offered by those who choose to ignore, or hide, reality.
So let’s take a closer look at elections. What I am about to reveal to you is true for Russia, China, and Cuba to mention only three. But it also is true for Iran. Iran? Yes, but the labels are different. A hammer remains a hammer even when it has a religious label!
I don’t wish for this essay to grow to the 560 pages of Marx’s Capital, so I’ll be concise. I’ll focus on common denominators to put it arithmetical terms. Let’s start with a few quotes from sources you might recognize. These folks are telling you what I – as noted earlier – already know because I have seen and witnessed these events over a period of years.
First this from Cuba’s most recent election:
“If the Cuban Communist Party — the only party allowed to participate in elections under the one-party regime….”
“The 86-year-old Castro will remain head of the Communist Party, which is designated by the constitution as ‘the superior guiding force of society and the state.’ As a result, he will still be the most powerful person in Cuba for the time being.”
“As in Cuba’s legislative elections, all of the leaders selected Wednesday were picked by a government-appointed commission. Ballots offer only the option of approval or disapproval and candidates generally receive more than 95 percent of the votes in their favor.”
And now this from Iran’s most recent election:
“The Supreme Leader — currently an ultra-conservative cleric named Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — helps appoint the Guardian Council, an unelected panel of conservatives that decides who gets to run for president (and who doesn’t). Many popular reformist candidates have been disqualified from running in recent elections.”
“But not everyone is allowed to take part. The guardian council, a powerful body of six clergymen and six jurists, vets each candidacy. Political competence and loyalty to the fundamental principles of the Islamic republic and its religion are among the main issues considered by the council. This year, out of more than 1,600 who applied to run, only six candidates were accepted.”
Not too difficult to spot common denominators, eh? Single party, government appointed commission, only “vetted” candidates permitted. And, yes, the labels vary, but this process is the same for Russia and China.
Do you really need arithmetic now to grasp why candidates in these –and other such – countries receive 95% of votes cast. (Okay, sometimes for appearance sake we’ll see only 75% or so. That usually means that only 75% voted, not that 25% voted for another candidate. After all, there was no other candidate.)
Now let’s shift our attention to economics.
You may notice I’ll be making little distinction here between communism and socialism when it comes to economics. That’s because it’s sort of a Fifty Shades of Grey thing. What one calls state ownership of the means of production, the other calls social ownership and workers’ self-management of the means of production. With Cuba, it’s blatantly black-and-white. Not much grey. Here is how the New York Times puts it:
“The Cuban military, through its conglomerate Gaesa, owns the vast majority of firms that operate engaged [sic] in trade, from hotels to foreign exchange houses to ports, which gives it control of up to 60 percent of incoming hard currency. Any economic reformer knows that breaking a monopoly is difficult, even more so if the monopolist also holds power over arms and intelligence. Cuba’s military is committed to not just one-party rule, but also, it seems, to one-firm economics. And because Cuba’s economy is so closed, the private sector is small and weak.”
Just for emphasis if not for clarification, I would add this: Cuba’s military and Cuba’s communist party is a symbiotic relationship so tightly bound it could pass for a Möbius strip.
But let’s get to the point here. When we speak of socialism/communism, we must clearly discern its effect on a nation’s economy. Otherwise, we are simply fooling ourselves. Or, we are allowing ourselves to be fooled. Take your pick.
Here the Chicago Tribune puts it well:
“He (Castro) has failed to fix the generally unproductive and highly subsidized state-run businesses that, along with a Soviet-model bureaucracy, employ three of every four Cubans. State salaries average $30 a month, leaving workers struggling to feed their families, and often dependent on corruption or remittances from relatives overseas.”
Don’t allow the arithmetic to slip past you here. A whopping 75% of Cubans earn an average of $30 a month. Keep that in mind as adherents of socialism in our country block your view with labels!
Speaking of $30 a month, allow me to share with you how and where I learned about the “benefits” of socialism. In this case “democratic socialism.” That’s a blended system. Seen in such places as Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
So, what do I know about Socialism in Denmark? Well, I lived and worked side by side with two Danes for a full year. In a place called Thule. Owing to periods of 24-hour darkness and others of 24-hour daylight, there’s plenty of time for chatting. Their names were Michael Lindblad and Lars Norgard and what they had to say astounded me, then and still does today.
Unlike the Americans who spent a year at Thule (a U.S. Air Force Base not far from geographic North Pole, which itself was not far from North Magnetic Pole) many Danes remained living and working at Thule for 10, 15, or 20 years before heading back to Denmark.
One day I asked Michael and Lars why they stayed so long at Thule. They explained it was because of taxes. As long as they worked at Thule, their income was 100% tax-free. And that made a lot more sense when they added the rest of the story. Danes back home paid taxes of 60% on their income. Sixty-percent! Reverse that and you’ll see that Danes receive only 40% of their income. For every 10 hours of work they’d receive 4 hours of pay.
Do I need to tell you more about Socialism? I will, because there’s much more to tell. But keep this image in mind. It’ll be useful as we progress.
Progress. That’s an interesting word. It can be a noun. It can also be a verb. Notice the shift in sound. What we need to notice is that progress, in the sense of productivity, is what suffers first and most when socialism (or unions) change the emphasis of a company from creating and producing widgets to creating and fostering a social agenda for the workers.
Here’s what happens. A company is founded by one or more investors. These folks invest cash to launch the company. They do so in a quest for profit. That’s not evil, by the way. Especially when investors use profit to build more companies. More workers have jobs.
Okay, so that’s a brief primer on free enterprise, also known as capitalism. (Investors put up the capital. They also shoulder the risk of failure.) Investors fund research and development. When it’s time to produce widgets (my term for any product), the company hires people. Then the buzz begins. Investors purchase raw materials. Transportation enters the picture. Company work staff assembles and finishes the widgets. Transportation reenters the picture. Move the widgets from the factory to the marketplace.
And so it goes. Until? Well, until we look at the impact of socialism – by whatever label. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that labor and management in free enterprise should not identify and address issues to improve the workplace and the workforce. That’s an obvious win-win for all concerned. The issue is a matter of responsible balance. In most successful businesses, this practice is already well-established.
The impact of socialism has already been partially addressed. Earlier I mentioned what suffers first and most when socialism (or unions) change the emphasis of a company. There is a shift from creating and producing widgets to creating and fostering a social agenda for the workers. In my Air Force career, we spoke of “time over target,” and in my teaching career we spoke of “time on task.” Both of these referred to the amount of time devoted to a particular task. (Though the Air Force term could also refer to time-of-arrival over target.) So, let’s focus on widgets and the time necessary to produce them.
Here, the number 86,400 comes to mind. That’s the total number of seconds in a day. Now let’s reduce that to a standard 8-hour shift at work in the factory. Now we’re down to 28,800. That’s the number of seconds workers in any factory have to produce widgets. That looks like a hefty number of time until we reduce it to minutes. We have but 480 minutes in that 8-hour shift to produce widgets.
This makes it easier to see the impact of socialism in the factory environment. The first thing we lose is time-on-task. That translates to fewer widgets. And that, in turn, translates to fewer sales. You see where this is going, right?
Socialism (and our own labor unions) bring about a second reduction in both productivity and profit owing to the issue of work incentives. But before departing too far from that word profit, let us keep in mind that it is profit in free enterprise business that allows owner-investors to fund growth in the company. Often, this is overlooked by critics of capitalism.
Now, returning to work and work incentives, allow me to remind you that my source materials for the following are both my own personal experience (labor union) together with the experience of family, friends, and co-workers I mentioned above.
Labor unions reduce productivity in this way: Labor and management negotiate to establish a quota. Let’s say 15 widgets produced per hour per employee. An employee – eager to achieve – produces 20 widgets per hour. This employee will be severely ostracized, cold-shouldered, shunned by fellow employees and especially by the union. Why? First, because the overachiever makes fellow employees appear to be laggards. But more important – to the union – is that owner-management would be encouraged to raise the quota having seen the achievement. But union leaders do not want a quota raised. Why? They want owner-management to hire additional employees. Why? Each union employee pays monthly dues to the union.
We’ll return to the effects of Socialism upon a nation’s economy following this brief segue into labor union realities. Looking solely at the AFL-CIO (a federation of some 56 unions), here are some revealing facts which illustrate the above “why” questions. This federation of unions:
Has 12,475,220 members.
Collects member monthly dues of $112,276,800.
That’s an annual sum of $1,743,321,600.
Pays its top 10 employees an annual sum of $2,413,604.00.
Contributes $1,562,358,840.00 in election donations.
Of these election donations 93.5% goes to Democrat Party.
(I did not “invent” these facts. They come directly from this web page –
And, please, don’t overlook this rather salient detail: That annual sum of employee dues paid is $1.7 billion that would have gone into employee paychecks and into the economy had it not gone to the union! And that’s just AFL-CIO money. If you have a bit more curiosity than a lizard has fur, you might ferret out an aggregate figure for all union dues. I’d be impressed!
Now let’s review those “why” questions:
But union leaders do not want a quota raised. Why? They want owner-management to hire additional employees. Why? Each union employee pays monthly dues to the union.
With this as a means of comparison, not to dollar figures, but to the effects of socialism upon a nation’s economy, let’s dig deeper.
While I know from personal observation and family discussions what follows, I’ll be quoting from a clearly written article. I’ll source the article for you at the end of this section. You might want to read “the rest of the story” to quote Paul Harvey. But let’s begin with these nuggets:
Socialism creates a strong incentive to shirk.
Socialism penalizes industrious behavior.
Socialism rewards sloth and indolence.
Socialism promises prosperity and freedom. But the incentives created by socialism place it in a dilemma. If the workers are allowed to remain “free,” they will not produce. To stimulate production, they must be denied their freedom. Thus, socialism cannot achieve both prosperity and freedom. Usually it results in neither.
This anecdote reveals the conundrum:
Assume that an individual, Clem, is a member of a socialist commune. Assume that there are 1,000 members of the commune and that the output is divided equally among the members. (For the sake of simplicity, we will ignore matters such as capital investment.) Let’s say that the production of the commune totals 100,000 bushels of wheat a year, or an average of 100 bushels per member. At a price of, say, $5.00 per bushel total receipts for the commune are $500,000, or $500 per member. The question is: How is Clem likely to behave? Will he work hard? Will he shirk?
Let’s assume that Clem is both naturally industrious and socially conscientious. He is concerned about the overall good of the commune. As a result, Clem works very hard and increases his production from 100 to 150 bushels of wheat a year. This increases the annual output of the commune from 100,000 to 100,050 bushels. At $5.00 per bushel the income of the commune increases from $500,000 to $500,250. Since total income is divided equally among the members, the income of each member rises from $500 to $500.25 a year. Thus, because of his extra work Clem’s production increased 50 per cent. But his income increased by a mere 25¢ or by 0.05 per cent. Moreover, the income of the other 999 members also increased by 25¢ even though they did not work any harder and their productivity did not increase.
Clearly, Clem’s activities benefited everyone in the commune except himself. Everyone else had his income increase without increasing his work. But Clem’s income increased only 25¢ despite increasing his work load by 50 per cent. While the benefits of the extra production were diffused throughout the commune, the costs were concentrated on Clem.
Poor Clem! He’s no better off than the American union laborer who gets ostracized for exceeding his quota. Hmmm.
But thanks to Clem, we are now in a better position to understand today’s Cuba and this quote:
He (Castro) has failed to fix the generally unproductive and highly subsidized state-run businesses that, along with a Soviet-model bureaucracy, employ three of every four Cubans. State salaries average $30 a month, leaving workers struggling to feed their families, and often dependent on corruption or remittances from relatives overseas.
So, returning to where we began. Your professors can lecture you on Engels, Marx, Hegel, Trotsky, and Lenin. That’s their turf. I, on the other hand, offer you a reality check.
That is what I am compelled to do. Because I love you enough to give a damn!
It is written:
Feed a man a fish for he has hunger.
Teach a man to fish, he’ll feed himself.
The first sates his hunger.
The second grants him dignity.
The first without the second creates dependency.
The second without the first invites failure.
So, which is compassionate?
Congress: Ethics & Standards of Conduct
To my Grandson, to help clarify a few points.
The concepts here are relatively simple, but they are frequently ignored. Even when not ignored, the lines differentiating between what is “right” or “wrong” or “legal” or “illegal” will often be blurred.
If you are employed by someone, you are obligated to use both time and resources to the benefit of the employer.
Time: The time for which you are “employed” belongs to the employer.
Resources: The property, building, equipment, supplies, money, utilities (electricity, water, heating, cooling) and sometimes vehicles (cars, trucks, aircraft) belong to the employer.
When you use the employer’s time or resources for personal use, you are stealing.
All members of the Federal government, whether elected or appointed, are employees (President, Congress, Senate, judges, and military and civilian staff members of all Federal agencies or departments).
They are employed by the “People of the United States.”
They receive salary and benefits from the “People of the United States.”
They are obligated to use both time and resources to the benefit of the employer, the “People of the United States.”
If they use time and resources for personal gain or personal endeavors, they are violating the law.
There are literally hundreds of laws, directives, and published policies that specify detailed examples of legal or illegal activities.
(Note: These same obligations/laws apply to all levels of government whether individual states, counties, cities, townships, or school districts.)
Examples of Misconduct:
A U.S. President is charged with personal misconduct while in his office. He uses his staff (legal advisors, secretaries, administrative assistants) to prepare documents, statements, press releases, and press conferences on his behalf.
A U.S. Senator flies aboard a military aircraft to Europe to attend a conference. He tasks his staff to get tickets for himself and his wife to attend a Formula One auto race in Italy the weekend after the conference.
A Federal judge uses his staff to do research, uses his office computer word processing software, and uses his office hours, all to write a novel he plans to publish.
An Air Force commander uses a fighter jet and flies to Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, Nevada, so that he can attend his daughter’s wedding.
A U.S. Senator pushes legislation for a fighter jet the military has not requested and does not want. The aircraft in question is produced in the Senator’s state.
A lobbyist pays (or gives gift, i.e. vacation travel) a Congressman in return for the Congressman’s vote or sponsoring a bill favoring the lobbyist’s business!
Other Examples of Misconduct:
As State Governor: (from: CBS Chicago.com)
Blagojevich was trying to get (himself) appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett to President Obama’s Senate seat.
Blagojevich was trying to get Obama’s help setting up a non-profit funded with millions of dollars, which Blagojevich could run after leaving office.
Blagojevich was trying to shake down racetrack owner John Johnston for $100,000 in campaign cash in exchange for Blagojevich quickly signing legislation to benefit the racetracks.
Blagojevich was trying to get $1.5 million in campaign cash from supporters of Jesse Jackson Jr. in exchange for appointing Jackson to the Senate.
Blagojevich was trying to shake down Children’s Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Magoon for a $25,000 campaign fundraiser in exchange for approving a state funding for doctors at the hospital.
Another State Governor uses a police helicopter to have himself flown to his child’s soccer game.
A bus-boy in a restaurant conceals himself for five-minutes (not official break time) and uses his own cell phone to call a friend.
An I.T.T. employee uses a company-provided rental car while on business in Colorado; he drives the car to Des Moines, Iowa, to visit his cousin Zeke.
An office worker uses the office computer and printer to print a term paper for a college course.
Consequences of a Failed Coup
If President Trump pulls off a win in 2020, there is going to be a great deal of soul searching, not to mention wailing and gnashing of teeth. Many will ask how, how could someone so disliked win another term? I am not saying he is going to win. I have no idea. But, if he does, I am suggesting that history can give us a clue as to the event that helped him win.
I recently wrote an article looking at the ideological ancestry of Progressives and one of the men I mentioned was Huey Long. As important as Long was in the 1930s, he is a character largely forgotten to time. Even with the 1946 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the King’s Men and the subsequent two movies of the same name (1949 and 2006) being loosely based on Long, he is lost to history. Yet for some time, Long was the loudest voice of protest against President Roosevelt, and one of the most influential men in America. His “Share Our Wealth” program hoped to do more to eliminate poverty than anything the New Deal considered. Yet, before Long could become the champion of the people, first he had to endure government attacks and impeachment attempts.
Long grew up poor in rural Louisiana but had well-educated parents for that time and place. He was described as having a photographic memory and excelled in school, but not so much getting along with others, including teachers. After being expelled, he later took some classes from Oklahoma Baptist University, as well as the University of Oklahoma. He did not finish either, but he did end up attending Tulane Law School for one year before passing the bar.
Long worked as a lawyer for a few years, as he worked his way up through Louisiana state politics, until he ran for governor in 1928. He was able to beat a powerful political machine by consolidating the rural poor vote with the minorities and Catholic votes. He ran a Bernie-Sanders-small-donation type of campaign that he called “Every man a king, but no one wears a crown.” He promised public works projects, free textbooks, and higher taxes on the wealthy. Once in office, he lived up to his promises; he was the New Deal before there was such a thing.
As Governor, Long ran Louisiana like a dictator. He pushed all his opponents out of offices and replaced them with loyalists. He took on big business, especially Standard Oil, and was able to impose his will over the legislature. Because he had a demagogue-like hold over the people of his state, he also used shady finances and physical force to build his power.
When Long tried to raise the tax rate on oil companies, they fought back. Supported by the oil companies, the conservatives tried to impeach him for everything from blasphemy and corruption to attempted murder. One opposition leader supposedly said that you can impeach for anything. Impeachment is political. These may be the truest words ever said. Long felt as if he was not being fairly treated in the press, who were connected and backed by big government. He did not have Twitter, but in the 1920s, he did the next best thing. To get his own message across to the public, he started his own paper and mounted speakers to a car to deliver his thoughts. Most importantly, he utilized a new technology, 1920s social media, the radio. A medium his future opponent, FDR, would also use to perfection.
In the end, the people rallied to Long’s side and he pulled in enough senators to pledge not to vote for any charges. Long walked away stronger than before; he became the “Kingfish” and ruled his state with an iron fist. He said something along the lines that he used to ask please of the government, but now he used dynamite. Having survived impeachment, he gained complete control over Louisiana, and then turned his sights to the national stage.
As a democratic senator, Long championed the democratic candidate, FDR, in the 1932 election. Long took credit for FDR’s wins in several states and felt he earned an unofficial advisor position to the new president. Roosevelt saw things differently, saying, “He really is one of the two most dangerous men in the country.” When Long began to speak for the administration and proposed his plan to limit income, FDR distanced himself from the Kingfish. There is too much to write about here, but the two men quickly came to odds, leading Long to use his significant public influence to attack the New Deal. The administration counterattack was in the form of the Treasury Department launching an investigation into Long’s tax returns (some things never go out of style), as well as a special senate investigation into election fraud in Louisiana. Finally, with a possible weakening of the Kingfish, his Louisiana enemies saw the chance to take back the state and attempted to oust the Long-controlled state government.
When Long was finally brought to a hearing, the evidence against him was flimsy and unimportant. It looked as if prosecutors were working out personal grudges. It did not take long for the hearings to fall apart and the people to lose interest. In the end, those who had attacked Long suffered greater than Long ever did. Once again Long emerged stronger than before. If was after the government attacks that Long proposed the “Share Our Wealth” program to redistribute wealth. He also began to prepare to take on FDR in the next election. Before he could challenge the President, however, he was shot down by an assassin. I am not saying that he could have defeated FDR, but his power and popularity had grown even more since being attacked by the Government and he was emerging victorious.
I don’t know what the final outcome of the Mueller report will be and I am not here to weigh in on Trump’s impeachment chances. But historically speaking, if after two years of investigating Trump and nothing comes from it and if Democrats continue to investigate, it starts to look like an abuse of power from the Democrats. As with Long, the constant attacks only strengthen his base and even draw in others. If after the 2020 election, Trump is still in power and the left is scrambling again to figure out why, their answer may likely be the very investigation they started.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.
Imagine you are the owner of ABC Widget Company and that you have just discovered some of your employees have regularly been leaving company premises during paid work hours. These employees have been collecting pay for work not performed. And while they were away, your widget production fell.
Wouldn’t you, as a business owner, feel you have been wronged? Wouldn’t you feel you have a legal right to recover your losses?
I’d side with the business owner on this one. Call me old-fashioned, but I was raised in a generation that believed a dollar’s worth of work ought to be rendered for a dollar’s worth of pay. I’d feel that the business owner ought to legally recover not only the lost wages, but he also should recover his losses for widgets not produced.
Now, would you be surprised if I told you that nearly every member of the U.S. Congress is doing precisely what those imaginary wayward employees of ABC Widget Company were doing? Am I saying that your congressman is collecting a $174,000 salary and is leaving company premises during paid work hours? Yes, that is precisely what I am saying. And more. Our elected congressional representatives are pocketing the salary that you and I pay them and are busily “out of their offices” engaged as telemarketers. They are dialing your phone number and mine raising funds for their next election!
There are “call centers” complete with “scripts” to aid individual congressmen in “dialing for dollars.” Both parties have told newly elected members of Congress that they “should spend 30-hours a week” in these call centers which are conveniently located just down the street from their offices.
Why just down the street? Because by law members of Congress cannot make such fund-raising calls from their offices. So our elected representatives circumvent the law, go outside of their offices and spend 4 or more hours a day making fund-raising calls. They are literally told to do so by political party leadership. Why? Because the Political Action Committees (PACs and Super-PACs) have helped fund their elections. Congressmen are told their first priority each day is to raise $18,000 to replenish the Super-PAC’s funds for the next election.
If you would like to verify this, you can do what I did. Go online to the CBS website and navigate to Season 48, Episode 32 of the 60-Minutes show. You can hear reporter Norah O’Donnell interviewing Florida Rep. (R), David Jolly, Wisconsin Rep. (R) Reid Ribble, New York Rep. (D) Steve Israel, and Minnesota Rep. (D Rick Nolan. You’ll hear these congressmen spell out the details. They are sponsoring a bill (H.R. 4443) attempting to stop the practice of federal elected employees from “dialing for dollars.”
Former Rep. Israel admits he has spent more than 4,000 hours soliciting donations. Israel adds that congressmen spend more time raising money than on constituent needs or being on the floor of Congress. Rep. Nolan tells us the “last few years of Congress have been the most unproductive ever.”
Now let’s return to our imaginary ABC Widget Company. If you or I were among those employees collecting pay for work not performed, would we not likely be prosecuted under the law? Might we not be convicted for embezzlement? Why, then, do we sit idly by and allow our elected congressmen to break the law?
What is a Progressive?
It is currently looking like in June that at least twenty-five Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination for the presidency. With so many candidates, there seems to be a growing wedge in the party over the term “progressive.” In a “60 Minutes” interview, Nancy Pelosi said her party needed to come back towards the center, whereas many of the newer members are moving too far left.
Pelosi claimed the socialist wing of the party is small, but the interviewer countered that the progressive wing is actually getting larger. Pelosi’s response was that she is a progressive. As the party of Wilson, FDR, and LBJ, being a progressive is a badge of honor for the Democrats, and if some is good, more must be better. With so much talk about progressives, it is worth taking a look at the Progressive movement and consider who they were and what they stood for. When we understand the original movement, it becomes clear that progressivism is often misunderstood and misused.
In America’s first century, life could be hard on the poor, kind of an understatement, I know, but during this time it was not considered the government’s job to care. Government was much too busy in the Gilded Age passing tariffs and fighting about who started the Civil War to care about the poor. The initial real push for change did not come from the progressives, but actually the Populist movement. This radical fringe movement first suggested government should actually help those in need. It was this movement that first introduced many of the reforms that Progressives would later claim, like income tax, direct election of Senators, women’s suffrage, and prohibition.
What hurt the Populists were some of their more radical ideas, such as government takeover of railroads and adding silver to the gold standard to increase the money supply. Ultimately, the Populists were too radical too quickly for the American public, however, they set the stage for things to come. It was the Progressives who, after the initial shock, asked for many of the same reforms but did so in a much more conservative, orderly, and controlled fashion. They allowed Americans to ease into the drastic changes, while also not going as far as government takeover.
Today the historical faces of the Progressive moment are Teddy Roosevelt, William H. Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. With two Republicans and one Democrat, we see that Progressivism did not follow party lines but actually brought them closer together. The Progressive presidents became famous for “trust busting,” or going after monopolies. Wilson’s approach was to break up companies in order to restore competition between larger and smaller businesses, while TR wanted to expand the regulatory power of the Federal Government to control rather than destroy business. None of the Progressives wanted to end capitalism or business. All three men ran in the 1912 election (TR for the Bull Moose Party) and all three opposed the socialist candidate, Eugene Debs, and his platform.
Some historians, most notably Joan Hoff Wilson, believe there was a fourth progressive president, Herbert Hoover. Even though a Republican, Hoover worked for Wilson during the Great War and inspired his beliefs in cooperation in the economy and volunteerism between labor and business. Hoover differed from fellow 1920s Republican presidents who believed “less government in business and more business in government.” Hoover, like his fellow progressives, did not want business in government. They wanted regulations but also did not want government completely controlling business.
If Hoover was a Progressive, as Wilson suggests, that means that FDR was not. Hoover had serious reservations about the New Deal and did not consider FDR a progressive. The problems Hoover had with the New Deal were that, first, it did not actually fix the Depression. Second, Hoover did not believe mixing capitalism with some of FDR’s more socialist ideas worked. Giving handouts, or what Hoover called “the dole,” hurt traditional freedoms and independence of Americans. Lastly, he feared the individual was becoming a pawn of the state and the government becoming too powerful.
Based on this example, it is Pelosi’s moderate wing of the Democratic Party that seems more in line with the Progressives. The Ocasio-Cortez wing fits more into the Populist ideology or even more like Deb’s socialists.
For historians who disagree with Dr. Wilson and who see FDR as a true Progressive, once again the Ocasio-Cortez wing does not match up with FDR’s progressivism. What I have always found the most interesting thing about the loudest critical voices of the New Deal were that they did not come from the right, but actually from further left. In FDR, America had a president who did more for welfare than any president ever had, but there were complaints that he should do more.
The two loudest voices were Louisiana Governor-turned-Senator Huey Long and Catholic priest-turned-radio star Father Coughlin. Long wanted a tax code that destroyed concentration of wealth by capping income. Father Coughlin wanted a complete overhaul of our monetary system, including adding silver to our monetary system, and nationalism of railroads. Both seem more influenced by the Populists, even to the point of free silver, than they do to the Progressives. Both men believed the answer to all ills was more government control, way more that FDR did.
What we see is that Pelosi’s call to return to the center is more in line with historical progressivism and Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist’s wing is fighting against it. If anything, the far left in the Democratic Party is more in line with the Populists. The problem is we have changed meanings of words; we call Trump a populist when he has nothing in common with the Populist Party and Ocasio-Cortez a progressive even though she does not have ties with the historic Progressive movement. Words also matter in that labeling yourself a progressive is beneficial, so that anyone who opposes you becomes a non-progressive. Also, calling yourself a socialist will hurt electability. Pelosi understands that.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.
OPINION: Time to pull up our bootstraps as American tax paying citizens and stand up
Most of the one side of my family has lived in and around Warren County for a very long time. In discussions I have had with family and others in the area, the perception of leadership since the 1980s has seemed to steadily decline in the areas of government leaders, law enforcement, and even dealing with drugs and other illegal activities. Even though the County and the town of Front Royal has seen times of infrastructure improvement and new businesses welcomed into the area, there is perceived to be through media and “talk around town” a steady decline in morals, ethics, and just common decency and transparency from the standpoint of governmental leadership, enforcement of law and order, and related business dealings for which the citizens deserve and should demand as residents, voters, and taxpayers.
This spring brought the ultimate clarity of a decline when the top of local law enforcement, the sheriff, took his own life with the presumption of illegal activity looming for this long serving public servant. This should be a loud wake up call to everyone that the corruptness you thought existed and suspected in at least some areas most likely exists and has tentacles into other areas of town and county politics and government as well as some businesses, but the courts and investigators will have to determine hopefully the true depths as well as guilt and innocence of this activity, and all the individuals involved.
If the residents of Front Royal and the County of Warren expect to see a return of peaceful and orderly living for them and their families and desire a Respect and Trust in the elected officials and employees of the Town and County, than folks in the local organizations, churches, households, and businesses are going to need to pull up their bootstraps as American tax paying citizens and stand up.
One clear way to pull up those boot straps would be to clean house. Not to proclaim guilt or misdoing on any person in particular myself as that is for the courts and evidence to prove out the truth, but to clear the air and give the community a renewed confidence in their leadership, may I suggest that citizens need a whole new supervisory board and council, new leadership in the town and county law enforcement, and these selections need to be backed by your state representatives and state law enforcement to remove all of the suspected and/or perceived corruptness that has been a cloud over the area for a long time.
Further, don’t think you are cleaning house if you end up electing people to office that are even remotely related to anyone or any event in question that has occurred in the County or Town over the last 20-25 years, or you are fooling yourself that things will get better; much less re-elect previous people that have stepped down, etc… Because the corruptness will just carry on for the next generation of your family to have to deal with. Lastly, electing any person who moves into the community and just wants a hobby into a public leadership role should be looked at carefully. The public should always want the opportunity to have the final say.
As a man who has fond memories of spending time in Warren County as a boy, I hope and pray that the next quarter century is better for this community, but the citizens have to want that by making your voices loud and clear that enough is enough, and by showing up at the ballot box to make your voice have substance, and showing up in numbers at council and board meetings. I hope that each person will take this time in local history very seriously for your community and your family’s sake.
Martinsburg, West Virginia
Laura Galante: Statement On Mass Shootings In El Paso and Dayton
In the span of a mere 13 hours this weekend, 29 Americans, including 4 children, were murdered at a Wal-Mart in El Paso and at an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio. The El Paso shooting is the 8th deadliest in American history, and the Dayton shooting is the 250th mass shooting this year. Two other shootings earlier this week, one at a neighborhood Wal-Mart and another at a garlic festival, mean 34 Americans died in mass shootings this week alone.
We mourn and pray for the families who lost loved ones in El Paso, Dayton, Gilroy and Southaven, but we owe these families more than words. Law–abiding gun owners in rural Virginia know what responsible gun ownership looks like. It’s time our politicians took their responsibility to preserve both public safety and the Second Amendment seriously. We must act now to deal with this scourge at both the state and federal level.
In Virginia’s General Assembly that means enacting common sense measures like:
• Enacting Extreme Risk Protection Orders—so that when someone sees something and says something, law enforcement and a judge have the tools to act if someone is a danger to themselves or others.
• Expanding Background Checks—87% of gun owners support background checks. We must eliminate the background check loopholes, especially for online sales.
• Increasing mental health resources for schools and communities. Virginia has a serious shortage of mental health professionals and services. We need to address the shortage with improved access, especially in underserved areas of the Commonwealth.
This year, when presented with opportunities to address these same measures, Michael Webert failed us. He refused to consider Extreme Risk Protection Orders, which allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from people who endanger themselves or others. He voted against requiring criminal background checks on Internet sales. Webert voted to allow gun purchasers who could not pass a background check within 3 days to buy guns anyway. That’s not leadership; that’s abdicating your responsibility as an elected official.
Enacting these measures won’t stop all shootings but they will help. They will help more Americans come home alive from shopping malls, restaurants, festivals, schools and churches. “We have a culture of firearm safety and responsible ownership in the 18th District,” said Laura Galante. “It’s time our politicians became as responsible as the law-abiding Virginia citizens they seek to represent.”