“This is the largest tax bill in history ... a cruel hoax.” — Alf Landon, 1936 Republican Presidential nominee, on the new Social Security
“This program will invade every area of freedom...in this country.” — Ronald Reagan, 1961 early debate on Medicare
“Medicare is socialism.” — Republican Senator Carl Curtis (NB), 1965 on the new Medicare
By definition, the United States is a mixed economy. This means it combines elements of both capitalism and socialism in its business format. Note in the above quotes that bashing socialism as a “hoax” and a denial of freedom is nothing new. So much for “alternative facts.”
The GOP propaganda machine would have us believe that Cuba and Venezuela are the best and only examples of socialism in action. Hell holes like Cuba and Venezuela are failed states because they are autocratic, brutal, corrupt dictatorships that reward their party faithful at the expense of the people. Better examples of successful socialism would be the Nordic states of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. All have high standards of living, universal health care, long life expectancy, and low unemployment and poverty rates, all within a capitalistic framework.
Republicans can take pride in the fact that under the leadership of Abe Lincoln, the first GOP president, slavery was ended. They might not be as eager to recognize that the first president with a socialist agenda was also a Republican. How can that be, you ask? Read on.
Teddy Roosevelt burst onto the national political scene at the start of the 20th Century with an energy to help common people by controlling the monied interests within his own party. His popularity had soared as a volunteer officer Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War with the image of him braving enemy fire in his charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba to help win the war. He became the youngest president in history at 43 in 1901, and his Square Deal program contained socialist promises to control corporations, promote consumer protections, and conserve the environment.
How successful was he? His biggest opposition came from his own party and its big money donors. He did manage to get protections against tainted meat and the Pure Food and Drug Act. His concern for national health stemmed in part from his own asthma. His love of the outdoors was his way of fighting the illness. On his watch over 200 million acres came under federal protection against development, including Crater Lake (Oregon) and Mesa Verde (Colorado). He is known as “The Conservationist President.” Today’s GOP would label him a “tree hugger.”
Note to modern Progressives: Col. Roosevelt would applaud your efforts at universal health care and environmental protections. However, T.R. would decry your open borders policies. An ardent nationalist, he encouraged immigration for those who chose to Americanize, and wanted new arrivals to learn English in their new land. He would also oppose your plans to defund the police. A law-and-order Republican, he had been New York City police commissioner, and would walk the streets at night to ensure his cops were on patrol doing their jobs. He fought corruption within the NYPD so that the law protected everyone.
After leaving the Oval Office in 1909, he formed his own Progressive Party for another run at the White House in 1912. Its platform included universal health care, social security, a public health service, and a minimum wage. All but the first eventually became law under later mostly Democratic administrations, in particular the New Deal of his distant cousin FDR during The Great Depression of the 1930s.
“Socialism is a scare word Republicans have hurled at every advance the people have made ... Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.” — President Harry Truman, 1952
Give ‘em hell, Harry.
Ed Engler is a Sebring resident. Guest columns are the opinion of the writer, not necessarily that of the Highlands News-Sun.