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Friday, November 14, 2008

WHY I CAN'T BE A REPUBLICAN (I)

"Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism."
- Hubert H. Humphrey -

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt -

I can't, and will undoubtedly never be, a Republican. The Democratic Party has made its share of mistakes over the years to be sure, and it will do so again. It has not always been fully honest and forthright in its presentations to the voting public. But in my lifetime, and for the 40 or so years preceding my birth, the Democrats have striven to make government a beneficial force for the majority of the population, especially for the poor, working, and middle classes. The same cannot be said for the Republicans.

I COULD have been a Republican once: In Lincoln's day, or again in the Teddy Roosevelt era. In those all too brief times, encompassing a total of roughly 12 years, the Republicans were actually a progressive party, 180 degrees from the dinosaurs they are today. Both Lincoln and Roosevelt believed in a strong federal government, as do I. They believed government has the duty and moral obligation to protect average citizens from the excesses of greedy, self-serving reactionary forces and institutions. I share that belief. Lincoln's GOP abolished the evil institution of slavery. Teddy Roosevelt broke up the corrupt big business trusts of his day, which were then, much like now, exerting an undue stranglehold on government and the economy. He established numerous regulatory agencies like the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that business was operating under fair standards, and for the benefit of the people instead of just for itself. He made sure that concentrated capital did not reign supreme and that it was accountable to the public interest. An avid conservationist, he was also responsible for the establishment of our National Park system. I could and would have been an ardent Republican in each of those times, but not between them or since.

After Lincoln's assassination, the Democrats were in disarray. They had sympathized to a degree with the agrarian south and had derived their support there. With the south in ruins following the Civil War and many former Democrats or southern leaders now barred from holding public office, the Republicans became the prominent national political party. This marked the end of the first progressive and liberal bent of the Republican Party. The GOP allied itself with northern industrialists, big business, and bankers. It fell under the domination of often corrupt conservative business interests. Instead of a strong federal government, the GOP now favored the individual states having the greater say on issues, especially the economic ones. This continued from roughly 1868 until Roosevelt's presidency began in 1901, and resumed in about 1910 through the present day. Since the 1880s or so, the party has exhibited a distinct bias for big business rather than individuals, and has opposed and fought organized labor every step of the way. Republican administrations have been marked by repeated scandals, from 1872's Credit Mobilier example, to the early 1920s' Teapot Dome gem, to the Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, and mortgage banking scandals of the George W. Bush era. Though not caused exclusively by Republicans, the party's constant pressure for total freedom for big business has repeatedly bred a climate of business excess and corruption. In all cases, business benefitted and the mass public was victimized. I cannot support the Republican idea of a totally unregulated market. Such policies have failed us time and again. They have meant freedom for the wealthy and restricted economic gain for everyone else. They have consistently led to unfair economic repression for workers and the poor. Today, this has manifested itself in skyrocketing CEO salaries and benefits coupled with frozen or declining worker wages (even in the face of rising labor productivity and corporate profits) and the exporting of millions of good paying American jobs to cheap foreign labor markets overseas. This insistence on a hands-off policy for government regarding business has been disastrous time after time. In the 1800s, its hallmark was miserably low wages, very long hours, and near slave labor conditions for factory workers, women, and even young children. In the 1920s, these policies helped create the Great Depression, which in turn led to World War II. Today, they have resulted in a falling standard of living, collapse of financial markets, and may even lead to another depression. The net result of these laissez-faire economic policies is always the same: Redistribution of wealth upwards instead of evenly across the board. They also always mean hardship for all but a priviliged few wealthy elite. Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans' use (or misuse) of government always benefits the few who need no benefit rather than the many, who do.

Republicans love to say they support free enterprise, but that is not at all true. What they REALLY practice is state-sponsored capitalism, a sort of fascism-lite. Corporate welfare could be another term used. They absolutely hate the idea of government giving economic aid to down-and-out individuals, but they are happy to accept government subsidies, government contracts, and even government bailouts for business, as well as huge, disproportionate tax cuts for big business and the wealthy. It's economic intercourse, to be sure, but all except the rich are the ones continually getting f_cked by it, all the time.

These are merely my ECONOMIC reasons for whi I can't be a Republican. My social and political reasons will follow in the next blog or two. Feel free to comment below if you like. Thank you.

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