Killing Medicare? Privatizing Social Security? Stripping Workers’ Rights? If it seems like progress made in 20th Century America is being Repealed, you’re right. The Last Word is now following it all in our new Web Series “Repealing the 20th Century, Reversing 100 Years of Progress.”
If you watched Monday's Republican Debate (which 99% percent of America did not) you probably noticed what everyone else noticed: Pawlenty's refusal to use "Obamnycare", Michele Bachmann's onstage Presidential announcement and Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain attempting to explain the difference between a "good Muslim" and a "bad Muslim". But did you notice the word used by most of the candidates repeatedly? Repeal.
Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum listed accomplishments of the Democratic House, Senate and White House that they would Repeal if they became President. (You have to assume they mean they would ask the Congress to Repeal these acts because "repeal" is not a power granted to the Executive branch). The list begins with "Obamacare", includes Repealing the Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", which was widely supported in polls among Republicans, Independents and Democrats but which Santorum Called an "experiment". Also on the repeal list, new regulations on corporate governance enacted after the financial crash of 2008 (the Sarbanes-Oxley bill has a two-part name for the Republican and the Democrat who were its cosponsors) and the repeal of the Consumer Protection Act (AKA Dodd-Frank) which would protect consumers from predatory financial practices. (Elizabeth Warren's nomination to run this bureau is stalled in the Senate).
But the Repeal of the health care legislation and other bills are just what you hear in campaign politics. There is actually a lot more on the repeal list. Michele Bachmann has talked about repealing the Clean Water Act, a lot of Tea Party Republicans want to eliminate the Department of Energy and Education, and Rick Santorum has outdone even himself when it comes to restricting a woman's right to abortion. He now says he supports criminalizing the act of performing abortions by doctors. All of this accomplished during the last 100 years, give or take.
In the 20th Century, the United States made progressive leaps for the benefit of the people. The past 100 years saw Constitutional amendments expanding the rights of Americans and programs that protect the most vulnerable in a social safety net and labor laws to protect workers from dangerous conditions in the workplace. Now many of those are under attack. Medicare for example was established in the 1965 "Social Security Act" and signed by President Lyndon Johnson to provide health insurance to the elderly and the poor but as Lawrence and other guests on "The Last Word" have said, would be dramatically changed if Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget were to pass.
Some of the repeal ideas seem to run contrary to each other. Candidate now Senator Rand Paul, Tea Party Republican of Kentucky, explained on Rachel Maddow's show why he believed that the "Civil Rights act of 1964" which "prohibited discrimination in public places" is government intrusion that restricts the personal liberty of the would be discriminator. Yet his party also controls the North Carolina Legislature which is pursuing a bill requiring that voters present a government issued ID card to vote. Some might argue that is actually more government intrusion but either way it takes a stab at the Voting Rights act of 1965 which outlawed practices like "polling tests" meant to prevent American Citizens, especially blacks, from Voting.
Speaker of the House John Boehner and Arizona's Senator Jon Kyl have said they would consider repeal of the 14th amendment because of its "birthright clause" which grants anyone born on U.S. Soil automatic citizenship. Ironically the 14th Amendment also includes the due process clause preventing governments from depriving people of "life, liberty, or property" which sounds like something the Tea Party would favor. (Ok, the 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868 but it's the basis of the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 Which banned racial segregation and found that separate is not equal.)
There are many more examples (Wisconsin?). That’s why "The Last Word" is starting a new Web Series called "Repealing the 20th Century - Reversing 100 Years of Progress". Whenever we see a story that appears to push back the clock, we'll post it. We will even try to highlight some anniversaries of key moments of progress in this spot as we watch the political rhetoric heat up on the slog to the 2012 Presidential Election.
We should also note that this trend was spotted by numerous other journalists including Washington Post Columnist Harold Meyerson in his piece from April 5th about the Rep. Paul Ryan budget proposal. So we're giving credit where it is due. Get ready for a steady stream of posts.