“They That Sow The Wind Shall Reap The Whirlwind.”

I must share with you, those who don’t read through the comment section of this blog, a remarkable post by Henry “Bud” Morgan, a retired (and by all accounts superb) English professor who taught at Missouri Southern State University. And although he probably doesn’t know it, my daughter was one of his students (that’s how I know how good he was).

Mr. Morgan took the time to offer the following, in response to my piece on the Republican’s “war on voting” :

Duane:

I seems to me that the most tragic element of this voter suppression scheme is that the very people who are being most suppressed are the ones who paid perhaps the highest price to gain that vote. The Freedom Riders, the Edmund Petttus Bridge survivors, the three college students murdered in Mississippi in 1963, the numerous nameless elderly men and women who put on their finest garb to go and march in a protest when they knew in advance that they were going to be beaten severely by local thugs and willing cops, and all the others who were willing to put their bodies and lives on the line to gain the right that should have been theirs automatically, these are the very targets of the modern-day suppressors.

That American citizens ever had to fight for the right to vote should shame all of us; that they are now having to do it twice should make us question our values and our “loyalty” to this nation. In the Alabama of my youth, where voting required a poll tax, a literacy test, and a “voucher,” an already registered voter who would vouch that the person seeking registration was who he said he was, was the age he claimed, and lived where he said he did. The absence of already-registered Black voters presented a major hurdle for would-be black voters. When two of my black friends, vets like me, asked me to be their voucher, I agreed. The “literacy” they were required to take involved reading and interpreting an obscure section of the Alabama Statutes. When they both failed the test, one of them said, “Yeah, I know what that statute meant. It meant ‘Ain’t no nigger gonna vote in Alabama.’”

In 1964, when the Voting Rights Act was passed, it was the crowning achievement of brave and resolute people who had put all on the line. That a group of American citizens in 2012 is trying to reverse that Law is disgraceful, shameful, and a blight upon the nation.

“They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.”

Henry

The only thing I can add to that is the following speech given by an American hero, John Lewis, at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.  Lewis was one of the original “Freedom Riders” that Henry mentioned, and now he serves the people of Georgia’s 5th district in the U.S. House of Representatives (that gives me chills to write).

Please take the time to watch this speech, which brought me to tears when I saw it this summer. There aren’t many heroes of America’s Civil Rights Movement left for us to appreciate in real time:

How Conservatives Subvert Self-Government

The entire modern conservative movement consists of an ongoing attempt to sever the relationship of a self-governing people to their government, to break down the concept of a political commonwealth.”

—Charles Pierce

n Sunday’s Joplin Globe appeared a column from a local college professor (of finance) named Richard La Near. Suffice it to say that, although I have lately ignored him, I have previously taken on this union-hating, learned man—God, how I wish I could put “learned” in quotation marks.

But this shouldn’t be ignored: Arguing for “partially and slowly” privatizing Social Security, the “Honorary Chairholder of Free Enterprise at Missouri Southern State University” butted in a long line of melodramatic conservatives by falsely calling the wildly popular social insurance program a “legalized Ponzi scheme.”

And while that should have been dreadfully ditsy enough, he wrote the following, presumably in reference to “Obamacare”:

The passage of one more entitlement program will prove that too much democracy can be devastating to a great nation. Again, the takers will outnumber—and outvote—the makers, and more people will vote for a living rather than work for a living.

Ah, how clever. And how cynical.

Now, I’m not one to extol the virtues of ignorance and bigotry that sometime (okay, often) accompany the exercise of our democratic heritage, but we are what we are. Abraham Lincoln called the American people his “rightful masters.” If La Near’s “too much democracy” brings about our national extinction, if we find that self-government by America’s rightful masters will one day lead to our ruin, then so be it.

As a bona fide member of the rightful masters class, I’d rather go down as the victim of people in welfare hammocks than of conservative capitalist carnivores like Mitt Romney, a man who has successfully preyed upon the working class such that he can bulldoze a $12 million, 3,000-square-foot beachfront house only to replace it with an 11,000-square-foot beachfront house.

Charles Pierce wrote recently:

In modern conservative thought…and in the mindset it seeks to ingrain on the people of the country, the government is the ultimate Other.

In doing so, the corporate masters of the conservative movement are good with all of this because they seek a wary, frightened and insecure people.

Yes, Amen! Yes! Conservatives seek a “wary, frightened and insecure people.” People suspicious and afraid of too much democracy, afraid, for God’s sake, of their own government! That’s the message Dr. La Near is trying to send.

Thomas Frank, in his book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared The Nation, essentially documents the attempts by right-wingers to take over government only to undermine it, to subvert it, to, as Charles Pierce so aptly described it, break down the concept of a political commonwealth.”

You see, conservatives talk of a “commonwealth“—”a group of persons united by some common interest“—mainly in terms of war, of fighting terrorism or some other common enemy. There isn’t much of a sense of political commonwealth worth preserving here at home, beyond the small commonwealth of the wealthy.

Conservatives these days, for instance, see no pressing domestic need to provide an affordable college education to our kids or to keep sick folks from going bankrupt, but they do see a pressing need to keep taxes low on the rich.

John Dean, whose book, Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches, is a must read, said of contemporary conservatives:

they are radicals more interested in power for themselves and other Republicans instead of serving the general public interest.

There simply is no “general public interest“—no national commonwealth—that a conservative can love, so long as it is tied up with an effective, domestically-interested government. But we have to ask ourselves just what the Constitution means by its splendidly pithy preamble:

We the People  of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Clearly this government—our government—was established as an instrument of the People that would go about the sometimes messy business of forming a “more perfect Union” and creating fairness and peace at home, protecting ourselves from external enemies, promoting “the general Welfare,” and fortifying our Liberty.

It’s not possible to neatly separate the domestic duties of our constitutional government from its duty to defend us, as so many on the right are wont to do. The two are tightly bound together and Americans should also be tightly bound together around the idea that we are all-in on a we-the-people government.

And by using language like “legalized Ponzi scheme,” in reference to the old age fear-killer we call Social Security, or saying that too much democracy can be devastating” to, uh, a democratic nation, Richard La Near, and others like him, are sadly pulling apart the bonds that hold us—we the people—together.

In La Near’s final paragraph, he wrote:

In conclusion, I would note that every great nation must periodically deflate to remain competitive. Those with flexible economic and political systems can do so…

America must “deflate to remain competitive”? I wonder just what segment of our society he has in mind that will have to do all the deflating? The deflated poor? The deflated sick? The deflating middle class? You will search La Near’s “financial Armageddon is coming” writings in vain for any kind of sign that he believes the wealthiest Americans should get in on the deflating, at least by paying a little more in taxes.

But you will find much wariness, much fear, and much insecurity about our democracy, about self-government, about America’s rightful masters. In short, you will find the philosophy of contemporary conservatism.

A Remarkable Day

“The cameras may leave. The spotlight may shift. But we will be with you every step of the way until Joplin is restored. We’re not going anywhere. That is not just my promise; that’s America’s promise.”

Barack Obama, Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011

There are lots of great pictures of Barack Obama’s inspirational visit to Joplin on Sunday, but I just want to post one that I think captures much about Mr. Obama and the residents hit hardest by the tornado. Former or current Joplinites know what I mean:

Okay. Maybe two photos:

 [Top: AP; Bottom: White House]

Joplin Globe Opinion Page: Fantasia

fan·ta·sia 1. A free composition structured according to the composer’s fantasy.—2. A medley of familiar themes, with variations and interludes. [The Free Dictionary]

 

For their daily dose of misinformation and silliness, conservatives have Fox “News” and talk radio, and local conservatives have those sources plus a bonus source: the editorial page of the Joplin Globe.

Today’s dose of deception comes from frequent letter-writer and former professor in the computer information science department (!) at Missouri Southern State University, John Cragin.* Here is part of what the learned professor wrote:

The pitiful cries of extreme stalwarts in the most socialistic administration in our mutual history is a case of the pot calling the tea kettle black.  On is hard-pressed to view as not extreme the deliberate case of a highly partisan president who wept about inheriting a $3 trillion debt from President George W. Bush, going back as far as Herbert Hoover.

Having wept about his inherited debt, he proceeded to run the national debt from $3 trillion up to $14 trillion in less than two years.

Did I mention that this man was once a professor at our local university? 

Let’s get straight what Cragin is saying: In less than two years, Barack Obama has added $11 trillion dollars to the national debt!  Get that?  That kind of dishonesty makes the Rush Limbaugh Show sound like NPR.

Nevertheless, that’s the kind of stuff that regularly appears in my local paper, mostly coming from letter-writers who apparently have untethered themselves from reality, seeking the comfort of interpreting their own sets of facts.

In any case, here are the reality-based particulars:

When George W. Bush took office in January of 2001, he inherited Clinton-era budget surpluses.  Along with those surpluses, he inherited a cumulative national debt of almost $6 trillion.  When he left office, the national debt was around $10 trillion.  That’s ten trillion. Mr. Cragin’s three trillion wasn’t even close by conservatives’ standards.

But that’s not the whole story.  During the first two months of Obama’s presidency, more than $400 billion was added to the debt due to the federal bailout of the finance industry, and almost a trillion was added to the debt in order to counter the effects of Bush’s Great Recession by stimulating the economy.  So, it’s wildly unfair to blame Obama for all the spending needed to avoid an economic depression that was looming largely due to years of Republican misgovernance.

Finally, we should all take note of this: According to an article on Wikipedia titled, National debt by U.S. presidential terms, when Bill Clinton left office, he had trimmed the federal debt as a percentage of GDP from 66.1% to 56.4%.  George Bush took that 56.4% debt ratio and increased it to 83.4% of GDP.  And that doesn’t count all the spending that was necessary to pull the economy out of the sinkhole that his administration left it in.

So, now we have people like John Cragin, who apparently slept through the profligate and socialist Bush years (remember Bush’s expansion of Medicare, Mr. Cragin?), creating his own facts and labeling Obama a socialist and crying for fiscal responsibility, as if Democrats invented the national debt.

Here is a chart from the Wikipedia article which shows the various presidencies since WWII and the percentage of debt to GDP.  Notice that all the red numbers are under Republican presidents:

___________________

*I’d supply a link to Cragin’s letter, but mercifully someone neglected to post it on the Joplin Globe website.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 627 other followers

%d bloggers like this: