Sorry for such the long delay in coming back to this topic of Glenn Beck’s book “Broke.” It has been a hectic couple of weeks and next two weeks looks to get busier by the day with moving and the start of the school year. I will try my best to stay on the Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday posting schedule. I wish I could make it a guarantee but as I stated before, lots of stuff going on.
Chapter #5: America’s Debt Progresses the Wrong Way
Woodrow Wilson is associated with a lot of changes that made to America in early decades of the twentieth century. He is the poster child for the Progressive movement and the effects of his policies can still be felt to this day. To understand how we got to where we are today we have to understand the core of the Progressive movement. Which is the focus on this chapter.
PROGRESSIVES AGAINST PROGRESS
Progressives, at least Woodrow Wilson and others regardless if they had a D or an R behind their name, were racists. Wilson views The Birth of a Nation, a movie about the Ku Klux Klan. He even gave it a ringing endorsement after screening it at the White House. This movie was the single “greatest pieces of membership propaganda.” It lead to the rise of popularity of the group. He fired black supervisors and replaced them with whites he gave white ambassadorships to countries that typically had black ambassadors like Haiti and Santo Domingo. He issued an executive order to segregate the executive departments, because before his actions the government was starting to desegregate. Wilson is not alone; Republican Progressive Theodore Roosevelt also thought blacks were inferior. The 1906 “Brownsville Incident” is the key action of his views. A group of black soldiers were suspects in a riot in Brownsville, Texas. Charges were not filled against the soldiers but it was recommended that they should be dishonorably discharged. Roosevelt waited until after the Presidential election and all those black votes went his way before he did anything. He discharged all of them, denied them back pay, canceled their pensions, and denied them the chance to reenlist. They were not pardoned until sixty-six years later by President Nixon but Roosevelt’s record stands to this day (Beck 49-50).
I’M BETTER THAN YOU
Who said this? “Remember that God ordained that I should be the next President of the United States. Neither you nor any other mortal or mortals could have prevented this?” If you said George W. Bush you would be wrong; it was Woodrow Wilson. He mixed this view of God’s will with a thirst for power claiming that he “could not imagine power as a thing a negative and not positive thing.” He saw government as the new god for our time and declared, “Government does now whatever experience permits or the times demand.” Does that sound like the limited and constitutional government our founders designed? He scoffed at the ideal of inalienable individual rights saying, “No doubt a lot of nonsense has been talked about the inalienable rights of the individual and a great deal that was mere vague sentiment and pleasing speculation has been put forward as fundamental principle.” These Progressive ideals viewed government radically different from our founders and the way it was originally designed. Wilson saw government as the means to engineer society to “redeem the masses.” Expanding government was a natural process using religion as the rational to solve social problems, called the Social Gospel, by expanding the tax base to punish the sin of greed and promising income equality. Education would be the greatest tool to spread their ideals. Wilson said, “Our problem is not merely to help the students to adjust to themselves to world live but to make them as unlike their fathers as we can.” His main problem though was the “rigid, narrow and cumbersome document” known as the Constitution. He put forth the argument that constitutions must evolve with the times that go along with the Darwinian principles, that the people must “abandon their blind devotion to the Constitution. He did this by claiming our Founding Fathers were short-sighted and could not possible see what future problems of the U.S. (Beck 51-53).
A HOSTILE TAKEOVER OF RELIGION
Progressives, like Wilson, tried to join the forces of government with the ideologists of Christ to “plan and effect a redeeming transformation” of society. This gave them the moral high ground where government would evangelize the Social Gospel through the tithes of taxation. This also gave them the cover to confiscate huge amounts of wealth on the wealthy which is clearly a sign of “sinful gain.” The Social Gospel contorted Jesus’s teachings to the individual into governmental responsibilities, even if Progressives did not believe that the Bible was literal. They only supported the Bible when it supported their view-point. One part of the Social Gospel, explained by Washington Gladden, is that socialism is applied Christianity using coercive governmental powers, instead of expecting individuals and congregations to live out their faith. Henry Veder (Socialism and the Ethics of Jesus) saw Christ as the leveler of both spiritual and material things. Walter Rauschenbsuch (The Theology of the Social Gospel) explained the Social Gospel as the “moral power in the propaganda of Socialism.” All human activity could fall under the guise of governmental improvement, from how to water your crops to a “new standard of manhood for American soldiers.” This regulation was all created to create a “middle ground between individualism and socialism because modern individuals has much about it that is hateful, too hateful to last” (Beck 53-55).
BUT PROGRESSIVISM WORKED… DIDN’T IT?
When Wilson took the oath of office the U.S. was fiscally strong with only 2.54% of GNP representing our debt. Between 1916 and 1919, federal expenditures rose 2,494% and the debt rose from $3.6 billion to $27.4 billion. World War I did play a part in this expansion but Wilson did not let any crisis go to waste making temporary spending and taxes permanent. When created, 98% of families were exempt from the income tax and the richest, incomes over $500,000, were taxed only at 7%. World War I changed all that lowering the threshold of who pays and raising the rate on the richest up to 77%. Because we were paying for our war with the tax hike, very few Americans objected. In 1920 the tax rates remained the same despite the fact that the war was over and no additional revenue was coming in due to the large tax burden (73%) on the rich. Revenue did not increase because the rich moved their income and sheltered their wealth In 1916, with the top tax rate at 15%, the Treasury Department report that their were 206 millionaires. In 1921, when the top tax rate was now 73%, found twenty-one millionaires. The same thing occurred at the lower rates of high income earners (Beck 55-58).
American returned to more traditional values about debt and limited government after Wilson’s disastrous policies. The debt went from 27 billion in 1919 to 16 billion in 1930, even though it was not unfashionable to pay off debt since many nations defaulted on their World War I debts. Andrew Mellon, former Secretary of the Treasury, wrote, “Since the war, two guiding principles have dominated the financial policy of the government. One is balancing the budget, and the other is the payment of public debt. Both are in line with the fundamental policy of the government since its beginning.” The problem we start to see is that these emergency measures and other programs are not as easily removed as created. Power taken from the individual and given to government, but worse the idea of the outdated Constitution produced the idea as living and subjective stuck around as well. While our history books may recognize the end of the Progressive Movement in the presidential election results of 1920, the effects are still felt today. To become relevant again, Progressives needed another major crisis (Beck 58-59).
That ends Chapter #5 of the book. The next posting, barring a major current event that needs critiquing, will focus on Chapter 6 with the Progressive activities of Hoover, Roosevelt and that wonderful yet drastically wrong economist Keynes.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Class dismissed!