“It is the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism- Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people.” – Ronald Reagan
I caught some sort of “True Hollywood Story” a while back about the sitcom Growing Pains. Toward the end of the show’s run, Growing Pains had become extremely popular, led by the growing teen idol Kirk Cameron. Then there came a twist. Cameron became a Christian, and wanted his character to have more of a morally upright message. This, of course, didn’t really sit well with the show’s writers or producers, who had Mike (Cameron’s character) heading off in his traditional self-centered, rebellious mode.
At some point, Alan Thicke, who played the father on the show, pulled Cameron aside and had a heart-to-heart with him about career choices. He said that if Kirk wanted to do something more morally upright, he was probably in the wrong place; that sitcoms and television/movies in general were moving in exactly the opposite direction.
It was actually quite heart-warming. Here was Thicke, a veteran actor, pulling aside a young star and helping him understand career choices and their implications – helping him to see that he wasn’t about to change Hollywood on his own, but there were other avenues for him to pursue his goals.
We could use some more Alan Thicke right now.
Jesse Jackson and “the good old days” …
“Civil Rights” activist Jesse Jackson recently penned a piece titled “Recapture the future LBJ saw for America.” I find most of it wrong-headed and misguided, but in fairness to the other side of the debate, the article would be worth a read.
The argument basically pines away for the heyday of redistributive socialism and “social justice” activism in America – Lyndon Baines Johnson and “the Great Society.” Jackson wants to recapture the good old days; recapture the feeling he and other activists had back then that these programs were actually going to work and we’d finally be free from economic inequality.
I suspect Mr. Jackson is indeed living in dreamland.
Furthermore, he is swimming against the current (and is a little confused about who the enemy is, for that matter).
Tough Economic Times …
In good economies, folks typically don’t care too much (or don’t make too much noise) about inefficiencies in the “welfare” system at the federal level. “So somebody got over on the system by a few bucks here and there – I’m still doing quite well.”
In tough economic times, things change. Folks get more and more concerned about whether they’ll be able to feed their own kids. Whether their concerns are founded or not, they will naturally look around at others receiving handouts and ask whether they are actually in need of assistance or not. I’m not attempting to pin a “right or wrong” attribute on this; I’m simply noting that when I’m having trouble paying the bills I sure as heck don’t want somebody who refuses to work siphoning my paycheck. I’m not alone either.
It’s not just the economic issues. Those are contributing factors to resistance against massive entitlement programs, but they aren’t the sole source. America and the world have seen where this is all heading. The European Union nations are right now in the grips of horrible infighting over budget shortfalls and how to get out of the hole. (They won’t get out, by the way. Enough votes are owned by groups who demand a bigger share of the pie to keep serious reforms at bay. Default is coming, and it will likely hurt.)
We understand that we’re not far behind. With 2012 projections of entitlement spending taking up over 73% of the entire federal revenue stream ($1.9 trillion in entitlements and $2.6 trillion in revenue) and growing, America has little political will to heap additional benefits in the face of the fiscal collapse.
“And how’s that working out for you” …
(Given Herman Cain’s rise in the polls, I thought it appropriate to steal his line.)
So you have a tough economy, budgets and the tide of history and public sentiment trending away from LBJ, and very little evidence that it would work anyway. Like it or not, the narrative of generational welfare is engrained in the psyche of the voting American. We look at places where “the system” has been given the fullest and most forthright effort – and we see nothing but decay and destruction. And somehow, we are to conclude that this time it will work, even though it has failed every other time? I don’t think so, Jesse.
Crazy like a fox …
I, of course, will gladly offer a counter-veiling theory that perhaps LBJ was savvy enough to get exactly what he wanted. The oppressors tried slavery, and it eventually collapsed under the yearning of the human spirit to be free. They tried segregation and Jim Crow, and found the same fate. What to do now? Well, if the story always ends the same – the yearning of the human spirit for freedom crushes the oppressive system – then we have to apply leverage in the right place. But how? How can we crush the human spirit?
I know, let’s make it dependent. Let’s give it just enough to keep it fed and docile.
How exactly would you come up with a more destructive program to the human spirit than the Great Society? We grow to greatness through the trial by fire, through the difficulties and challenges we face. The best bet to keep us down is to remove those challenges (and tell us that we’re victims and we don’t have a chance because the deck is stacked against us – so we’d better not even try).
LBJ you sly dog you. Not only have you kept the masses down, but you’ve kept them voting for you all these years … and you’ve even got Jesse Jackson shilling for you. I’m impressed sir.
And what about those Wall Street tycoons?
Jackson goes on in his article to make some rather odd statements. Try this one:
“For more than three decades, the U.S. has put faith in a market fundamentalism, lowering taxes on the top end, deregulating finance, touting the benefits of corporate defined trade, all in the belief that the money would trickle down. But the money isn’t circulating; it is congealing at the very top.”
When were those three decades? I recall decades of “too big to fail” and government bailouts for bad businesses. That is the very opposite of “market fundamentalism” – where risk and reward go hand in hand. Here risk is shared and reward is private. This isn’t freedom (and you know what it is if it’s not freedom, right?).
For that matter, Jesse, tell me where all these bailouts are coming from? Was it the Republicans who passed the TARP bailout for Wall Street bankers? NO! It was Democrats and your precious Obama. (Note, I ain’t no Republican shill, and have plenty of nasty things to say about George W. Bush and the Republican Congress of 2001-2006 – but TARP can be laid squarely at the feed of the Democrats.) And who is still pushing for ever greater bailouts and “liquidity” to prop up bankers in trouble? It is Obama and Geithner and Bernanke – these are your guys Jesse. Let’s see if you point some fingers down the left side of the isle over this … somehow I doubt it.
I understand …
I understand, Jesse, honestly I do. Back in the LBJ days you thought the policies that you supported were actually about to do some much-needed good in this country. The word on the street was revolution and you were a big player. It looked like the rout was on and you were headed toward the promised land. But something happened along the way.
The policies didn’t work (if they did, we wouldn’t still need them). The country moved on, perhaps even grew up some. Race relations actually improved before the economic situation did (that is, the younger generation doesn’t see it the same way that you did back in the 60s, they’ve grown up). Somehow the wheels came off and we ended up somewhere completely other than you had hoped, and you’re still scratching your head about it.
Unable to come up with an alternative hypothesis or explanation, you grasp at the standard model of “we just need to get back to where we were” – but there’s no going back, Jesse. The only way forward is forward, and forward doesn’t look anything like what LBJ had in mind … for better or worse.