Obama Can’t Bring Back the 1900′s.

December 7th, 2011 at 1:25 pm | 35 Comments |

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Walter Russell Meade captures something about the current moment that can be overlooked to easily. Ron Paul and Barack Obama are forces for Americas that don’t and can’t exist anymore. The America where 90% of the people farm is not coming back.

But less acknowledged is that the post-war America that dominated manufacturing, could spend on social programs and where most people trusted the Government and large institutions to solve problems, and had many more young people than old, is not coming back either.

President Obama tried to stir up a little Teddy Roosevelt in Kansas (not Texas as he apparently thought) but when Teddy Roosevelt gave his speech Government spending was about 8% of GDP, now its about 40%. It’s as if he called on Roosevelt’s ghost to warn about the growing power of Czarist Russia.

The world has moved on and the Federal Government’s main contact with Americans is not the post office as it was in Roosevelt’s day. There was no income tax in 1910. There was no social security. No medicare. The peacetime military was tiny. Thus 75% of the budget items we now have barely existed then. And we were a young country. Demographically there were many workers for every “retiree” (a concept that barely existed then). The Federal deficit in 1910 was eleven million dollars and the next year would be a surplus larger than that.

It is one thing to call for more federal spending and power when there is virtually none and another to call for it when it is choking off American prosperity. I don’t think Hamilton would be a Hamiltonian now. The Republicans are not for spending more than we have forever. The Democrats are. The Senate has not produced a budget in two years. President Obama produced one that projected deficits forever and was voted down practically unanimously.

I don’t think Mitt Romney is going to address this problem in any concrete way and I don’t think Newt Gingrich has the steadfastness to do so even if he were to be elected. Whatever is going to be done-if anything is before disaster strikes as it is striking Europe-must come from Congress. That is not a prospect that cheers.

Recent Posts by John Vecchione



35 Comments so far ↓

  • ottovbvs

    I thought the folks trying to bring back the 1900′s were the Republicans. After all income inequality is now back to 1928 levels and they think that’s just great.

  • Ray_Harwick

    …and JV can’t bring back Herber Hoover.

  • Rabiner

    Can you at least spell Walter Russel Mead’s name correctly? The rest of your article lacks any concept of intellectual thought.

  • heap

    wtf-am-i-reading.jpg goes here.

  • wileedog

    “And we were a young country. Demographically there were many workers for every “retiree” (a concept that barely existed then)”

    Because life expectancy was in the mid-40′s. Most people worked themselves to death long before they could even think about retiring.

    Is that what you are advocating instead of SS and Medicare spending, or should we just go “Logan’s Run” on everyone at age 45?

    “The Republicans are not for spending more than we have forever.”

    Show me a single Republican not named Ron Paul serious about cutting back out of control defense spending and I might consider taking this line seriously. The last time the Republicans had complete control of everything they completely trashed a budget surplus and crashed the economy. Fool me once…

    • armstp

      “Logan’s Run” on everyone at age 45?

      HaHaHaHaHa!!!!

      That is the funniest line I have read on FF for a while….

  • tctribune

    Unfortunately for the GOP, this speech was delivered perfectly and right on target. Unlike the Republicans, Obama is seizing the vital middle ground. He’s saying exactly what most rational people know and feel. This message will resonate with voters because through all the partisan bloviating from the right this message is going to win hearts and minds. We can’t go back to the failed policies of the past 30 years. Right now, that’s all the GOP is offering.

  • abellia

    It is one thing to call for more federal spending and power when there is virtually none and another to call for it when it is choking off American prosperity.

    There is no evidence for this. It’s simply bombast. We aren’t the same place that we were in 1910 and that’s OK. We need to face the issues we have today and propose solutions that are feasible today. The role of government – all governments – has changed drastically in the last 100 years. To suggest that we would all be better if we went back to some other time is naive. We can’t turn back the clock, nor should we be so enamored with the past.

    • ottovbvs

      If you look at the full text of TR’s speech and ask yourself does it sound more like a 2011 Republican or a Democrat it’s a no brainer. And yes tribune I think you’re right basically the President highlighted all the basic themes were going to see dominate this campaign. One of the things I find about a lot of comment about Gingrich on conservative blogs, these folks think he’s going to wipe the floor with Obama. Now they’re welcome to underestimate Obama if they want but somehow I don’t see the ice cool tall dude and the erratic little fat guy being quite the walkover they clearly anticipate.

      • margoharris1

        The Newt is a bloated, egomaniacal, amoral evil gnome who represents everything that is AWFUL in politics.

  • icarusr

    “I don’t think Hamilton would be a Hamiltonian now.”

    Of all the fatuous, arrogant, moronic comments to make, surely this one would take the cake.

  • TerryF98

    Another pile of stinking poop by Vecchione to add to the huge mountain hes has written here. At least he managed not to lie egregiously in this one.

  • Reflection Ephemeral

    If you care about the deficit, do everything in your power to defeat Republican candidates at every level.

    Also, note that the US is a low-tax, low spending country.

  • _will_

    The Republicans are not for spending more than we have forever

    and yet every shred of evidence we have is to the contrary…

    • chephren

      Yup. From 1981 on, as soon as Reagan signed off on Kemp-Roth, the US government added to debt at TWICE the rate of economic growth. This reversed the trend of the previous 36 years, in which debt consistent shrank as a proportion of GDP (from 120% down to less than 30%).

      The essence of Reaganomics was deficit spending. It was a massive debt-stimulus program that lasted a generation. For some weird reason, conservatives thought the reckoning could be deferred forever.

    • LFC

      And yet they can’t come up with a single remotely plausible plan to even slow down the growth of the deficit. The Ryan “plan” that practically all of them lined up behind was scored by the CBO as growing the deficit. They GOP would, however, like to decrease spending. They want to cut Medicare to create surpluses in that program, and then use those surpluses to pay for the thing THEY want … just like they did before.

      Vote no to any proposal that would create an annual surplus into a trust fund unless that trust fund is walled off from the general budget.

  • MaxFischer

    The America where 90% of the people farm is not coming back.

    Ridiculous hyperbole or indicator of a serious comprehension problem?

  • Primrose

    This was a dumb article. It has no substance. I can hear Meghan Kelly’s peroxide laugh at the end of it.

    Is the point we can’t listen to any president except today’s? Or is the point that our best days are behind it and we must resign ourselves to being a third world country ruled by wealthy oligarchs.

    I might take claims of Republican frugalness more seriously if Mr. Vechione didn’t approach national defense like an angry drunk at a bar. He and his fellow Republicans think money spent on war is monopoly money that doesn’t mysteriously count toward the budget.

    • JohnMcC

      I have a huge crush on our Ms Primrose!! The ‘angry drunk in a bar’ remark stole my heart.

  • Xunzi Washington

    I’d rather have the Dems try to embody the 1900s than the Reps trying to embody the 1800s.

  • Graychin

    “The Republicans are not for spending more than we have forever. The Democrats are.”

    Fail. With a premise like that, you always fail. Republicans favor spending more than we have until Democrats get into office.

    I never expect more from JV, so I’m never disappointed.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    The Republicans are not for spending more than we have forever. The Democrats are.

    I had no idea that Bill Clinton and his surpluses were Republican, and that Bush’s tax cuts instead of paying down the debt were really somehow Democrat.

    Funny though that JJV is sticking up for TR considering how to Republicans now TR is a Socialist Commie Pinko, this from Timothy Noah:

    One of the reasons that it was clever for Obama to give his Dec. 6 speech about inequality, opportunity, and the middle class in Osawatomie, Kansas, where Teddy Roosevelt gave his “New Nationalism” speech in 1910, is that it provided an occasion to be reminded that today’s GOP has little use for the 26th president of the United States–you know, that comsymp carved into Mount Rushmore along with Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington.

    A 1997 ranking of the presidents, based on a survey of 32 experts chosen by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., put TR sixth, after Lincoln, Washington, FDR (all judged “great”), Jefferson, and Jackson (“near great,” a category that included not only TR but also Wilson, Truman, and Polk, who’s been enjoying a revisionist revival in recent years). A rival 2000 ranking sponsored by the conservative Federalist Society and Wall Street Journal editorial page bumped TR up to fifth place. The GOP’s last presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (R., AZ) spent much of 2008 pledging to follow in TR’s footsteps.

    But don’t tell that to George Will. In May Will complained that presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty sounded “like a dime-store Teddy Roosevelt” and added, parenthetically, “the real TR was bad enough.” On National Review Online Michael Knox Beran has complained of TR, “Rather than use government to promote freer, more competitive markets, he used it to promote government itself.” Need I remind you that TR was for Obamacare before even Mitt Romney?

    The Heritage Foundation’s Web site reproduces TR’s “New Nationalism” speech and, in a preface, explains that this was a key historical turning point that put America on the road to serfdom:

    “The radical change from the Founders and Lincoln is clear: In the name of ‘national efficiency,’ Roosevelt calls for ‘real democracy.’ Society’s needs become the measure of individual rights. ‘We should permit [fortunes] to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.’ Such an admittedly dramatic ‘increase in government control is now necessary.’ He proposes a ‘Federal Bureau of Corporations.’ There follow graduated or progressive income and inheritance taxes on ‘big fortunes.’ Thus, the federal and state Departments of Agriculture should ‘extend their work to cover all phases of farm life.’

    “But the regulation of the national economy requires control over private life as well. In order to fulfill government’s purpose of serving the welfare of the people, Roosevelt demands ‘a genuine and permanent moral awakening.’ The federal government must even mold the family and education to guarantee Progressive results. The ‘New Nationalism’ stands not only for a strong military and global presence but also nationalization of life generally.”

    Last year Glenn Beck (who used to be a big deal on the right) identified TR as pretty much the antichrist. Yesterday on Fox News correspondent Chris Stirewalt said,

    “What Teddy Roosevelt was calling for was sort of a socialistic nationalism in which the government would take things away from people who got things that he didn’t think they should have, give it to the working man, they talk about the square deal, fairness, all of these new mandates for government, something the Republican party has walked away in very decided fashion certainly since the Reagan era, in terms of what the role and purpose of government is.”

    The distinguished presidential historian Megyn Kelly chimed in: “Teddy Roosevelt was calling for something akin to a socialist nationalism,” prompting Stirewalt to reply, “Exactly.” Kelly then puzzled over why Obama would embrace so obvious a scoundrel: “Why would President Obama want to do anything that would associate himself with that word, ‘socialist,’ which has been used against him by so many of the current Republican presidential candidates, among others?”

    I think maybe she was confusing TR with Emma Goldman. An easy enough mistake to make.

    When McCain was running around in 2008 comparing himself to TR I wrote a Slate piece headlined “McCain’s Hero: More Socialist Than Obama!” But let the record show that I was kidding (“TR, of course, was no socialist”). Roosevelt was a reformer who worried that unless America’s disparities of wealth were addressed there might be a Marxist revolution. It sounds quaint today, but Republicans (and Progressives) used to worry about that sort of thing. Here’s what TR wrote in his 1916 autobiography:

    “I have always maintained that our worst revolutionaries today are those reactionaries who do not see and will not that there is any need for change. Such men seem to believe that the four and a half million Progressive voters, who in 1912 registered their solemn protest against our social and industrial injustices, are ‘anarchists,’ who are not willing to let ill enough alone. If these reactionaries had lived at an earlier time in our history, they would have advocated Sedition Laws, opposed free speech and free assembly, and voted against free schools, free access by settlers to the public lands … and the abolition of imprisonment for debt; and they are the men who today oppose minimum wage laws, insurance of workmen against the ills of industrial life and the reform of our legislatures and our courts, which can alone render such measures possible. Some of these reactionaries are not bad men, but merely shortsighted and belated. It is these reactionaries, however, who, by ‘standing pat’ on industrial injustice, incite inevitably to industrial revolt, and it is only we who advocate political and industrial democracy who render possible the progress of our American industry on large constructive lines with a minimum of friction because with a maximum of justice.”

    Aren’t you glad we don’t have anybody like that today?

    • ottovbvs

      “Teddy Roosevelt was calling for something akin to a socialist nationalism,” prompting Stirewalt to reply, “Exactly.”

      Not as unusual as you think. Conservative blogs regularly have fruitcakes insisting TR was going to impose Fascistic govt on the US!!!

  • Frumplestiltskin

    And here is TR himself:
    Check out the original:

    “The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise. [...] We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.”

    Teddy was right.

  • ottovbvs

    The bad news for jvv is that the Dems have to be feeling increasingly confident as the president goes over to the offensive.

  • baw1064

    The Republicans are not for spending more than we have forever.

    True, they only liked deficit spending until they got voted out of power.

  • valkayec

    JJV, I had known before I clicked on the headline that this blog post had been written by you, I would have skipped reading it. Your analysis and political theses leave a great deal to be desired in terms of logic and reason. Aristotle undoubtedly would tear you apart.

    This post is among the most trite and irresponsible I’ve read on this forum. It is filled with the most absurd analyses, unreasoned logic, and simple-mindedness that I have ever read outside of watching a brief segment – all I could tolerate – of Glenn Beck on Fox.

    You sincerely need to go back to school to learn more about European and American history because right now you are living in a fantasy land, devoid of facts and credible historic evidence.

    I’d feel sorry for you but I fear my empathy would be totally wasted on one such as yourself.

  • hisgirlfriday

    Obama isn’t trying to bring back the 1900s.

    The Ayn Rand freaks who wanted to eliminate progressive income taxation, the estate tax and allow massive concentration of corporate and private wealth to create a massive gap between the rich and the poor and a new Gilded Age brought back the 1900s.

    Now that we’re stuck with Gilded Age II, we’re going to get Progressive Era II. Deal with it, Vecchione.

  • Rob_654

    I really doubt anyone who isn’t a pasty, old, white person would want to bring back the 1900′s…

  • YuriPup

    We have the world’s most amazing economy.

    We all already know that the US consumer is 70% of the US’s GDP. Add in JV’s figure of 40% of GDP coming from the government and another 15% or so coming from business and we are running at an amazing 125% of GDP.

    Must be nice.

  • think4yourself

    Walter Russell Mead does a nice job of showcasing the rise of the Federal Gov’t (Hamiltonian) over the last 200 years. JJV, not so much.

    JJV, you can certainly make a Conservative argument that the Federal Gov’t is much more intertwined (intrusive?) in the individual’s life today than it was 110 years ago. And it’s a reasonable to debate if that is a good thing or not. Ron Paul is attempting to make that argument now. However the rest of government is much like how people view the healthcare law, there is often a knee jerk reaction against it, but people overwhelmingly like the details.

    John, which part of the Federal Gov’t and it’s spending would you roll back; Defense? How about no restrictions of any kind on Wall Street and investment bankers? Labor laws were instituted to protect workers from horrific working conditions that occurred in the 1800 & 1900 hundreds, should we eliminate them?

    It’s nice to compare the Hamiltonian versus Jeffersonian models, but as Jefferson himself found governance changes things. Under President Jefferson, he sent warships to Tripoli, tried (and failed) a palace coup there (not authorized by Congress), completed the Louisiana Purchase (not expressly allowed in the Constitution), and didn’t get Congressional approval for it until 5 months later. In the run up to the War of 1812, he banned all trade with Europe and then had that rescinded after the ban had devastated the American economy http://millercenter.org/president/jefferson/essays/biography/5.

    JJV, you want to argue for a smaller gov’t, fine. But give us real arguments as to how you would do it and why it would make sense.

    But statements like this don’t do it: “It is one thing to call for more federal spending and power when there is virtually none and another to call for it when it is choking off American prosperity.”(please provide proof) “The Republicans are not for spending more than we have forever. The Democrats are” (The GOP has shown by their actions are for deficit spending. The Dems record is mixed – in neither party do we have concrete evidence that those promoting fiscal balance have sway).