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“Deja vu On Obamacare”: In The Crossfire Tonight, Americans Begin Signing Up For FDR’s New “Social Security” Program

Voiceover: It’s December 1, 1936 — in the Crossfire tonight — Americans begin signing up for FDR’s new “Social Security” program — but can the post office handle the volume? And is it essential protection for seniors — or the slippery slope to socialism? In the Crossfire — Frances Perkins, secretary of labor, who supports the program — and congressman Daniel Reed, Republican of New York, who opposes it.

Good evening, I’m Upton Sinclair, on the left.

And I’m Freddy Hayek, on the right.

Sinclair: After 18 months of planning, President Roosevelt’s breakthrough Social Security program to ease poverty among senior citizens recently began its rollout, with application forms sent to post offices across the country — and with employers forced to register as well. Freddy, I think it’s a milestone for a civilized nation. After all, two dozen countries already have systems of social insurance on the books. And the whole idea was invented by a conservative, Otto von Bismarck, back in the ’80s as a shrewd way to assure social peace. Can’t you concede that morality, not to mention the survival instincts of the ruling class, requires a decent society to offer something like Bismarckcare to protect against destitution in old age?

Hayek: Spoken like a communist out to weigh the economy down, Up. Don’t you lefties see that your taxing and spending will put us on the road to serfdom?

Sinclair: Catchy phrase, Fred — might want to hold onto that for a book at some point. Let’s bring in our guests. Congressman Reed, here’s what you said about Social Security during the House debate over the legislation: “The lash of the dictator will be felt, and 25 million free American citizens will for the first time submit themselves to a fingerprint test.” One of your Senate colleagues said the new program would “end the progress of a great country and bring its people to the level of the average European.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with the average European. But isn’t this rhetoric a bit over the top?

Reed: Not at all, Upton. This is simply the reality. As another Republican in our caucus says, “Never in the history of the world has a measure been . . . so insidiously designed as to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers, and to prevent any possibility of the employers providing work for the people.”

Hayek: Secretary Perkins, you don’t look convinced.

Perkins: It’s always the same sob story from the party of wealth. The sky is falling, the lights of freedom are being extinguished, blah blah blah blah blah.

Reed: Plus, the darn thing doesn’t cover enough people.

Perkins and Upton: What?

Reed: It’s only slated to reach a couple hundred thousand Americans in 1940. And with very modest benefits.

Perkins: So your beef with a program you want to kill is that it doesn’t do enough for enough people in need?

Reed: Well, that, plus it’s very complicated and hard to sign up for. Have you seen the lines at the post office? People have no idea what to do. The wait can take hours.

Sinclair: You can’t blast a program for existing and also for being inadequate.

Perkins: Sure you can, Upton, if you’re a Republican. But my real problem with the GOP is different. More than 50 percent of our seniors live in poverty. You see them in the street every day. Charities are overwhelmed. These poor souls have nowhere to turn. They can’t afford food or medicine. And Republicans say there’s nothing the government of a great nation can do.

Hayek: Congressman, what say you?

Reed: Isn’t this socialism, Frances?

Perkins: Absolutely not.

Reed: Come, Secretary Perkins. Isn’t this a teeny-weeny bit of socialism?

Perkins: It’s a load of common sense and decency, is what it is.

Reed: It will discourage people from saving for their own retirement. And it creates incentives for employers to drop any pension coverage they offer now. They’ll assume everyone can just be dumped into the government system.

Perkins: No, congressman, it’ll save companies money by letting them tailor any pensions they offer to work atop the national minimum that Social Security provides. Some basic level of government-funded retirement security is good for business.

Reed: Then why does every thinking businessman in America oppose it?

Perkins: Don’t throw oxymorons at me, Dan. Mark my words: Social Security will end up bigger than anyone today can imagine, even as America grows much, much richer — proving that social insurance and capitalism are mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive.

Hayek: Such poetry, Frances — such misguided but lovely-sounding poetry!

Upton: After the break — some Democrats are urging FDR to go big on basic health coverage for every American, too — but the president says we can come back and address that question in a few years. Who’s right? Answers just ahead — when Crossfire returns . . .

 

By: Matt Miller, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 30, 2013

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Maine’s Assault On Labor History Really Means And Why Governor LePage Can’t Erase History

Maine Governor Paul LePage has ordered state workers to remove from the state labor department a 36-foot mural depicting the state’s labor history. Among other things the mural illustrates the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston. It also features the iconic “Rosie the Riveter,” who in real life worked at the Bath Iron Works. One panel shows my predecessor at the U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, who was buried in Newcastle, Maine.

The LePage Administration is also renaming conference rooms that had carried the names of historic leaders of American labor, as well as former Secretary Perkins.

The Governor’s spokesman explains that the mural and the conference-room names were “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals.”

Are we still in America?

Frances Perkins was the first woman cabinet member in American history. She was also one of the most accomplished cabinet members in history.

She and her boss, Franklin D. Roosevelt, came to office at a time when average working people needed help – and Perkins and Roosevelt were determined to give it to them. Together, they created Social Security, unemployment insurance, the right of workers to unionize, the minimum wage, and the forty-hour workweek.

Big business and Wall Street thought Perkins and Roosevelt were not in keeping with pro-business goals. So they and their Republican puppets in Congress and in the states retaliated with a political assault on the New Deal.

Roosevelt did not flinch. In a speech in October 1936 he condemned “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.”

Big business and Wall Street, he said,

had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred.

Fast forward 75 years.

Big business and Wall Street have emerged from the Great Recession with their pockets bulging. Profits and bonuses are as high as they were before the downturn. And they’re spending like mad on lobbying and politics. After the Supreme Court’s disgraceful Citizens United decision, there are no limits.  

Pro-business goals are breaking out all over. Governors across America are slashing corporate taxes as they slash state budgets. House and Senate Republicans are intent on deregulating, privatizing, and cutting spending and taxes so their corporate and Wall Street patrons will do even better.

But most Americans are still in desperate trouble. Few if any of the economic gains are trickling down.

That’s why the current Republican assault on workers – on their right to form unions, on unemployment insurance and Social Security, on public employees, and even (courtesy of Governor LePage) on our common memory – is so despicable.

And it’s why we need a President who will fight for workers and fight against this assault — just as Perkins and FDR did.

By the way, Maine’s Governor LePage may be curious to know that the building housing the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington is named the “Frances Perkins Building.” He can find her portrait hanging prominently inside. Also portraits and murals of great leaders of American labor.

A short walk across the mall will bring Governor LePage to an imposing memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt, should the Governor wish to visit.

Governor, you might be able to erase some of Maine’s memory, but you’ll have a hard time erasing the nation’s memory – even if it’s not in keeping with your pro-business goals.

By: Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley, March 23, 2011

March 24, 2011 Posted by | Big Business, Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Dictators, GOP, Gov Paul LePage, Governors, Ideologues, Maine, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Unions | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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