When I was in graduate school, one of the biggest problems confronting the United States was Third World debt. One of my graduate teachers was appointed to a panel to investigate the causes and try to develop some solutions to the problem. In the first meeting of leading economists and bankers, the question arose: “Why would banks hand out unsecured loans to countries that were on the economic margin?” One of the bankers answered: “Everyone knows countries don’t go bankrupt.” My teacher used this meeting to remind us that this is what happens when you stop teaching history to economists.
I could not help but think of this example after I read Jason Reese’s Commentary, “Counterpoint: A cure for inequality,” which appeared in Oklahoma Gazette July 30, 2008. Mr. Reese may be an attorney, but he clearly has not been taught history.
Mr. Reese compares John McCain and the modern Republican Party to the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Abe Lincoln ran as a Republican, which was a single-issue party at the time devoted exclusively to the abolition of slavery. The 1862 Homestead Act that Mr. Reese refers to as the first great achievement of the Republican Party passed by Congress during the Civil War to shape the U.S. West by populating it with northern farmers. The law’s supporters pursued a vision of taming the West by creating an agrarian base of northerners and by breaking the institution of slavery that was entrenched in the South.
Theodore Roosevelt was a Progressive. He proposed government regulation to balance industrial growth; he abhorred the concentration of wealth ” especially wealth achieved solely through inheritance. Roosevelt was a huge proponent of the inheritance and income tax as a way to alleviate the concentration of wealth through government action. Roosevelt was also a conservationist and set aside large tracts of land throughout the country to preserve the land and prevent unregulated industrial development.
I doubt the modern Republican Party would ever consider supporting the things Lincoln and Roosevelt proposed and advocated. I also doubt that any modern day Republican would consider their solutions to problems as forward thinking and “conservative.”
Finally, McCain has been tainted by corporate scandal. He was one of five United States senators comprising the so-called “Keating Five,” and his group reportedly received a large donation while promoting a cable company’s policy.
“Stephen Weiss, Norman
Weiss, who teaches government at Oklahoma City Community College, is a former fiscal analyst with the Oklahoma House of Representatives.