09 January 2009

Theodore Roosevelt was no conservative

“I opened the doors of the Democratic Party, and 20 million people walked out.”

- George McGovern, 1972 (Source: The Making of a President 1972 by Theodore White)

There are people who ask me why I am not a Republican.   That one has a pretty simple and straightforward answer.  H/t to Michelle Malkin on the latest inanity of Sen. Mitch McConnell on the 'need to bail out' all but two States of the Union.  The strength of the federal system is keeping federal government in check so that it does not become a drag on us all, not that it is a great boon to the Nation and its primary strength.  Do you note the way the system works under this concept?

The States pay TO the federal government for COMMON services to the Nation?

And then the DEBT is SHARED by the Nation to pay back?

This was changed during the Progressive era ushered in by President Theodore Roosevelt, so that we can now have a Republican stand up and talk about LOANING money TO the States FROM the federal government (Source: 04 JAN 2009 This Week, ABC News):

The top Republican in the Senate proposed for the first time on "This Week" that the government pass an immediate middle-class tax cut.

"A possibility would be to take a look at 25 percent [tax] rate currently applied to the middle class and lower it to 15 percent," Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told me on "This Week."

McConnell also proposed that an economic stimulus money designated for states be a loan, not a grant.

"We want to be a part of the process, and it might make sense to lend the money to the states that will make them spend it more wisely," he said, "Nobody thinks that we ought to be spending this money on mob museums and waterslides and if the money were lent rather than just granted, states would, I think, spend it wisely and the states that didn't need it at all wouldn't take any."

But its money to be spent for all of us, right?

If that is the counter-argument, the rejoinder is not to have the federal government collect it IN THE FIRST PLACE and let the tax rate plummet so that local control and oversight which is MORE EFFICIENT and MORE ACCOUNTABLE can then use those funds as they see fit.  While nearly half of Americans pay no taxes, the effect of dropping the tax rate would be to put more money into the hands of those who can and WILL invest those funds locally, either through economic stimulation via purchases or direct infusion into businesses to grow into new areas.  The worst possible place to spend money is from the federal level that has the worst oversight, least accountability and lowest amount of knowledge of where to spend money at the small scale.

Just look at the 'Community Reinvestment Act' that allowed for Congressional oversight to change the way that loans were given and MANDATED that the poorest, least able to pay off loans MUST get them.  That starting under President Clinton's term... and do note that Republicans have had years in the full majority under Bush, and in the Congressional majority under Clinton, to REPEAL this nonsense.  They didn't.  When you are the one spiking the punch bowl with 120 proof vodka, you are in a poor position to complain about the lack of sobriety amongst the party goers.  Or to say that this lovely brandy will help you out, so long as you pay back for it via an IOU.

Don't mind the other party setting up the tray of brownies laced with hashish, our brandy is much better for you...

If the States so desperately need money, here is a great way to get it: reduce the size and effect of the federal government so that the funds stay IN the States to BEGIN WITH.


Radical notion that.


Founded a Nation.


The reason for the title of the article comes from Theodore Roosevelt, himself, and his view of the way the federal government should act.  In case 'conservatives' forget, Teddy Roosevelt hated their guts:

This had, regrettably but perhaps inevitably, tended to throw the party into the hands not merely of the conservatives but of the reactionaries; of men who, sometimes for personal and improper reasons, but more often with entire sincerity and uprightness of purpose, distrusted anything that was progressive and dreaded radicalism. These men still from force of habit applauded what Lincoln had done in the way of radical dealing with the abuses of his day; but they did not apply the spirit in which Lincoln worked to the abuses of their own day. Both houses of Congress were controlled by these men.


I made a resolute effort to get on with all three and with their followers, and I have no question that they made an equally resolute effort to get on with me. We succeeded in working together, although with increasing friction, for some years, I pushing forward and they hanging back. Gradually, however, I was forced to abandon the effort to persuade them to come my way, and then I achieved results only by appealing over the heads of the Senate and House leaders to the people, who were the masters of both of us. I continued in this way to get results until almost the close of my term; and the Republican party became once more the progressive and indeed the fairly radical progressive party of the Nation. When my successor was chosen, however, the leaders of the House and Senate, or most of them, felt that it was safe to come to a break with me, and the last or short session of Congress, held between the election of my successor and his inauguration four months later, saw a series of contests between the majorities in the two houses of Congress and the President,—myself,—quite as bitter as if they and I had belonged to opposite political parties. However, I held my own. I was not able to push through the legislation I desired during these four months, but I was able to prevent them doing anything I did not desire, or undoing anything that I had already succeeded in getting done.

That from Chapter X of his autobiography (Source: Project Gutenberg).

Yes those who wanted to step away from having government control the economy, as it had done during the Civil War, were conservative and derided by Teddy Roosevelt.  Roosevelt self-identified as a Progressive, and governed like one.  If there are those in the Republican Party who want to trace the start of the federal government encroaching on places where it is not given power to do so, you can peruse Chapter X and come up with this lovely little gem:

The most important factor in getting the right spirit in my Administration, next to the insistence upon courage, honesty, and a genuine democracy of desire to serve the plain people, was my insistence upon the theory that the executive power was limited only by specific restrictions and prohibitions appearing in the Constitution or imposed by the Congress under its Constitutional powers. My view was that every executive officer, and above all every executive officer in high position, was a steward of the people bound actively and affirmatively to do all he could for the people, and not to content himself with the negative merit of keeping his talents undamaged in a napkin. I declined to adopt the view that what was imperatively necessary for the Nation could not be done by the President unless he could find some specific authorization to do it. My belief was that it was not only his right but his duty to do anything that the needs of the Nation demanded unless such action was forbidden by the Constitution or by the laws. Under this interpretation of executive power I did and caused to be done many things not previously done by the President and the heads of the departments. I did not usurp power, but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power. In other words, I acted for the public welfare, I acted for the common well-being of all our people, whenever and in whatever manner was necessary, unless prevented by direct constitutional or legislative prohibition. I did not care a rap for the mere form and show of power; I cared immensely for the use that could be made of the substance. The Senate at one time objected to my communicating with them in printing, preferring the expensive, foolish, and laborious practice of writing out the messages by hand. It was not possible to return to the outworn archaism of hand writing; but we endeavored to have the printing made as pretty as possible. Whether I communicated with the Congress in writing or by word of mouth, and whether the writing was by a machine, or a pen, were equally, and absolutely, unimportant matters. The importance lay in what I said and in the heed paid to what I said. So as to my meeting and consulting Senators, Congressmen, politicians, financiers, and labor men. I consulted all who wished to see me; and if I wished to see any one, I sent for him; and where the consultation took place was a matter of supreme unimportance. I consulted every man with the sincere hope that I could profit by and follow his advice; I consulted every member of Congress who wished to be consulted, hoping to be able to come to an agreement of action with him; and I always finally acted as my conscience and common sense bade me act.

The start of the rot of Progressivism does not go to FDR nor to Woodrow Wilson, but to a man with the big, bold (and he did everything in big and bold ways, didn't he?) R after his name.  You want to see where the political parties start with the lovely notion of going beyond the Constitution for governmental powers and you need only go as far as Theodore Roosevelt to find the 20th century source.  President Lincoln did utilize war time powers, but there did happen to be a WAR going on at the time.  Theodore Roosevelt is proposing that the delimited war time powers of the government should be ALL THE TIME.

And the concept of States Rights?  To TR that is a 'fetish' with only a minor placement in law and really is an old-fashioned way of doing things, the idea that the States should have some input into the federal government so as to limit it.  The Progressives worked to get Amendments passed on taxation and Senate seats so that this could be done.  The centralization of the federal government has been a Hamiltonian strain of thought from the time of the founding.  There is a strange belief that the national level of government is, somehow, by being at the national level, capable of 'guiding a nation' economically.  Yet the Constitution clearly placed hard and deep restraints on that which took a positive assent to repeal those limitations and 'progress' to an era where failures at the federal level could now endanger the entire Nation.

Thanks, guys!

Theodore Roosevelt at least had the honesty to assess his views against the real world of how they could go forward and realized that there were severe problems with them and actually governing a Nation.  He had started out looking for an international institution to be some sort of court between Nations and a permanent body, but realized that this was a nightmare to deal with as any organization like that would be so prone to abuse as to put common citizens in danger.  But the first ideas to make such a body did not start at the League of Nations and Woodrow Wilson, he merely revived Theodore Roosevelt's ideas.  By then TR had sworn off the international concept and was against it, but that didn't stop Wilson...

Now to the guy who caused his party to have 20 million people walk out on it.  Who were those people?  Strangely enough they were ones who would stay with the Party as it had the good fortune to be in power to win two World Wars.  On the concept of 'you stay with them what brung ya' the Jacksonians swallowed their economic views and supported that party to clear majorities for 40 years in Congress.  To win wars, however, you must be prepared to fight them and when you start fighting them, as JFK and LBJ both asked the Nation to do, you fight until you WIN.  In 1972 George McGovern's pacifist attitudes broke party solidarity that had lasted since the end of WWII.  Those people also hated the ideas that were being put forth on economic issues, such as not having a color-blind government but one that seeks 'affirmative action'.  That is attempting to dictate TO society FROM government... the exact REVERSE of what the order of things is supposed to be under the Constitution.

The Jacksonians walked when their dance partner went squishy, started feeling them up and realized that the party had no gentlemen left in it, only abusers.  They also noted that the Republican voted into office, Richard Nixon, carried out much of the program of the Progressive/Left and abandoned the war, went to China and opened up detente with the USSR.  These did not speak to being 'strong on defense'.  Nor did helping Pakistan because of 'Cold War realities' when India was a huge democracy and Pakistan was a place that wavered between dictatorship or corrupt democracy and liked China.

Then came the wage and price freeze, which is a horrific thing to have the federal government mandate and just where the hell did it get THAT power to dictate to ALL contracts and obligations by ALL citizens made on a PRIVATE basis, anyways?

Oh, yeah, 'Progressive' ideas.

Now, most people think that because Jacksonians are all hepped up on warfare, that they don't think much about the economy or other such things and should, really, just be ignored.  Let the 'adults' who are over-educated, under-experienced and far too easily corrupted do the 'real world' job of figuring out that stuff while all you little pissants just get dictated to by your betters.

The Government of the United States have no constitutional power to purchase lands within the States except "for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings," and even for these objects only "by the consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be." By making themselves stockholders in the bank and granting to the corporation the power to purchase lands for other purposes they assume a power not granted in the Constitution and grant to others what they do not themselves possess. It is not necessary to the receiving, safe-keeping, or transmission of the funds of the Government that the bank should possess this power, and it is not proper that Congress should thus enlarge the powers delegated to them in the Constitution.

Yes, by this view Fannie and Freddie are UNCONSTITUTIONAL as they invest power in government not granted to it.  That so totally mixes up things it is ridiculous.  Republicans have bought into the idea that this is GOOD for the Nation, to the point of now proposing things that are arbitrary and not powers granted by the people to the federal government.

Want an example?

See above, Sen. Mitch McConnell and 'loans' to the States.

Strangely enough President Andrew Jackson did represent a strong economic view of the Nation that was, perhaps, stronger than the MILITARY views he held.  There is such a thing as Jacksonian Economics, but if you love governments and governmental power, you will not like it.  At The Avalon Project is the Bank Veto Message of 10 JUL 1832, which is President Jackson's economic viewpoint on what the powers and limitations of the federal government are under that old-fashioned, TR detested 'fetishist' view of the United States.  When given the US had a large institution supported by the federal government that was highly corrupt and needed more than a bit of minor tweaking.  Any similarities between it and Freddie and Fannie are intentional because the exact, same routes of corruption THEN were used in the last thirty years with the two FM institutions.  You do have to realize that the huge investments by Russia and China into the FMs constitutes a similar stakeholding by European Nations in the National Bank of that era, and that helps set the stage for a very good parallel between the institutions, although circumstances do dictate differences in exact details.

The reason that Jacksonians voted for Reagan was because he was promising to confront the USSR.  He spoke the language of Jacksonian Economics, but did not deliver on them and, in fact, went strictly against them with the size and scope of government both increasing during his time in office, contrary to what he ran on.  While that was an important win, Jacksonians did not flock to the Republican Party as they were not convinced that it meant what it said.  So when President Reagan is trotted out as some icon for Republicans, we get a famous quote of 'where's the beef?' that went to one of his opponents now boomeranging back to the party, itself.

To find the first President that proposed 'privatization' of government organs, you need go no further than this section of President Jackson's bank veto message:

It is not conceivable how the present stockholders can have any claim to the special favor of the Government. The present corporation has enjoyed its monopoly during the period stipulated in the original contract. If we must have such a corporation, why should not the Government sell out the whole stock and thus secure to the people the full market value of the privileges granted? Why should not Congress create and sell twenty-eight millions of stock, incorporating the purchasers with all the powers and privileges secured in this act and putting the premium upon the sales into the Treasury?

But this act does not permit competition in the purchase of this monopoly. It seems to be predicated on the erroneous idea that the present stockholders have a prescriptive right not only to the favor but to the bounty of Government. It appears that more than a fourth part of the stock is held by foreigners and the residue is held by a few hundred of our own citizens, chiefly of the richest class. For their benefit does this act exclude the whole American people from competition in the purchase of this monopoly and dispose of it for many millions less than it is worth. This seems the less excusable because some of our citizens not now stockholders petitioned that the door of competition might be opened, and offered to take a charter on terms much more favorable to the Government and country.

And much further into the Veto:

Is there no danger to our liberty and independence in a bank that in its nature has so little to bind it to our country? The president of the bank has told us that most of the State banks exist by its forbearance. Should its influence become concentered, as it may under the operation of such an act as this, in the hands of a self-elected directory whose interests are identified with those of the foreign stockholders, will there not be cause to tremble for the purity of our elections in peace and for the independence of our country in war? Their power would be great whenever they might choose to exert it; but if this monopoly were regularly renewed every fifteen or twenty years on terms proposed by themselves, they might seldom in peace put forth their strength to influence elections or control the affairs of the nation. But if any private citizen or public functionary should interpose to curtail its powers or prevent a renewal of its privileges, it can not be doubted that he would be made to feel its influence.

Should the stock of the bank principally pass into the hands of the subjects of a foreign country, and we should unfortunately become involved in a war with that country, what would be our condition? Of the course which would be pursued by a bank almost wholly owned by the subjects of a foreign power, and managed by those whose interests, if not affections, would run in the same direction there can be no doubt. All its operations within would be in aid of the hostile fleets and armies without. Controlling our currency, receiving our public moneys, and holding thousands of our citizens in dependence, it would be more formidable and dangerous than the naval and military power of the enemy.

If we must have a bank with private stockholders, every consideration of sound policy and every impulse of American feeling admonishes that it should be purely American. Its stockholders should be composed exclusively of our own citizens, who at least ought to be friendly to our Government and willing to support it in times of difficulty and danger. So abundant is domestic capital that competition in subscribing for the stock of local banks has recently led almost to riots. To a bank exclusively of American stockholders, possessing the powers and privileges granted by this act, subscriptions for $200,000,000 could be readily obtained. Instead of sending abroad the stock of the bank in which the Government must deposit its funds and on which it must rely to sustain its credit in times of emergency, it would rather seem to be expedient to prohibit its sale to aliens under penalty of absolute forfeiture.

Yes, and we will pay Russia and China off because they bought so much ill-founded debt from us, now won't we?  About a quarter or so of all the debt controlled by those two in the FMs?

To those of you wanting to have a strong federal government, like Sen. McCain and his ill-advised, ill-thought out and poorly executed run for the Presidency based on his belief in Theodore Roosevelt and not much else and now has his own PAC to put these Progressive ideals out for further consumption, the problems that you GET from that centralizing of authority, power and monetary acumen has been clearly written in huge letters by the old Soviet Union.  Centralized power by the National government puts the citizenry at the MERCY of such government as it is the least representative of all forms of government.  By being 'Progressive' and seeking a wider input of such government into the Nation and the lives of the citizenry, you invest power where it is least well able to be held once you remove the controls on it by giving it those reigns.

Government, itself, is a necessary evil to be controlled, but only turns to evil itself when handed unrestrained power:

It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society-the farmers, mechanics, and laborers-who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing. In the act before me there seems to be a wide and unnecessary departure from these just principles.

Governing by just principles, taking the good with the bad and seeing where adjustments need to be made WITHOUT compromising the principles.  Seems to me we have lots of folks willing to compromise on principles for expedient ends.  The ends justify the means.

That is how both parties have been governing for some decades now.  Ends justifying means, until all they stand for is expediency.  There is no overwhelming difference between the two political parties today, at least on ideology, as when you compromise ideals for expediency, you lose legitimacy of actually holding to those ideals.  You don't mean them, and will do anything to make for an 'expedient' end to things.  That isn't so hot in warfare and it sucks in civil affairs.  It also starts to erode representative democracy until it turns into minority rule.  Because that expediency always seems to help the rich and powerful... the big banks, auto unions, large industrial concerns... and shaft the little guy.

This is the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt in the Republican Party.

Expedient power and 'flexible views' on what is given to government.

Conservatives?  What are those?

I think there are, what, twenty of them in all of Congress these days... give or take on alternating Sundays within the margin of measurement error.  The rest are either for more power for themselves or against more power for the 'other side' and really don't give a damn about their Oath of Office or their jobs.  'Scoop' Jackson put in long, long days, which probably killed him, but he out thought, out worked and generally outclassed the rest of the slackers in Congress.  This last Congress was on the three-day work week with four day weekend.

Republicans included.

And I always thought that an honest days work was a 'conservative value'... go figure.

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