Did the GOP cut history class?

Published August 29, 2013

Editorial by Jim Jenkins, News and Observer, August 29, 2013.

The N&O’s popular Past Times column edited by Teresa Leonard is a sometimes-nostalgic, sometimes-serious look at stories about events of long ago, but often it connects in some way with the here and now. That’s never been more true than in this week’s column about the Works Progress Administration, a Depression-era program that among other things provided hot lunches to poor kids during the 1930s, when, absent the drastic actions of President Franklin Roosevelt, the country might well have had a revolution.

Here is what that 1939 story said, in small part: “These are hot school lunches for underprivileged children whose parents cannot afford to pay for their mid-day meal. ...it is the only hot food for the entire day. So many children have been protected from ‘studying on an empty stomach’ or staying away from school.” The story noted that the free lunches were served in the same rooms where children able to pay for their meals ate.

And many women and men got jobs through the WPA.

Roosevelt swamped President Herbert Hoover in the 1932 election, as the Depression was deepening. Hoover, a pro-business Republican, presided over a failed presidency and an economic catastrophe, but history shows that he wasn’t just sitting back and doing nothing for those in need. He just didn’t do enough.

On the same page with Past Times was a story of more modern times. It seems that Republicans in Congress are in the midst of a heated internal dispute as to how they should combat the Affordable Care Act which will require most Americans to have health insurance, and will try to ensure that the insurance they purchase is affordable (hence the name).

Some in the GOP want to figure a way to “defund” what they call snidely “Obamacare,” after the president they despise. In other words, just don’t appropriate the money to carry it out. This, despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has supported the constitutionality of the plan.

And then there’s Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas. Here’s a Republican with another strategy to end Obamacare: shutting down the government. The strategy is positively wacky, of course, as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich found out when he did it in 1995 and 1996, for a total of about 28 days.

Let’s just say it didn’t go over very well. And those who join the tea party in its hatred of Obama and think, what the heck, might consider that a full-fledged shutdown means no military pay, no Medicare, no Social Security. Yes, it would get the president’s attention. It also, as in ’95-’96, would get the attention of millions of Americans.

Now this brings us to our own North Carolina Republicans, from the fire-breathers who run the General Assembly to Gov. Pat McCrory and his “let them eat cookies” strategy.

They’re not exactly FDR, now are they? Instead of helping the unemployed still down and out from the Great Recession, they drastically cut unemployment benefits and passed on free continuation of unemployment money from the federal government. And they passed also on expansion of Medicaid to include more low-income people, another benefit the feds would have paid.

But by the time their embarrassing session ended, they’d done what they could to make things easier for businesses and the wealthy. Roosevelt in reverse. Beautiful!

OK, let’s go to school. Congressional Republicans have a laser focus on destroying a health care reform plan that would ensure better care for millions of people, including children who already are being helped from it, quite probably lower premiums for all, could contribute to bringing down costs and won’t increase the deficit. It would help tens of millions of people avoid bankruptcy and live better lives...do Social Security and Medicare ring a bell?

But Ted Cruz says, shut down the government and stop this nonsense.

And back here on Mother Red Earth, our North Carolina Republicans say, no expanded health care for low-income people and let’s cut unemployment for fathers and mothers who may need the money to keep their houses and feed their kids, but hey, Mr. Businessman, here’s another few million because your yacht looked like it could use a detailing.

Meanwhile, Gov. McCrory’s position is, “Would you like a croissant?”

So here’s some brief history: Franklin Roosevelt won four terms and his monument in Washington brings hundreds of thousands of people who survived the Depression thanks to him to tears. Social Security survives.

After the last shutdown in the mid-1990s, Newt Gingrich became a punch line and Bill Clinton left office with high approval numbers.

In North Carolina, Jim Hunt won four terms and remains wildly popular and he pushed the state into better days, much better, for public education and working people.

Better be a heckuva croissant, Gov. Pat.

August 29, 2013 at 9:01 am
TP Wohlford says:

So, to recap: The N-O quotes the N-O as its authoritative source. Not even a contemporary article (ie, one from the 1939 era), but one from its current employee ranks. So, yes, one hand makes a (debatable) historical assertion, and the other uses it to ram home a point. And it leads off with a statement about "history".

So, let's do history, shall we? I mean, it is always startling when the Dems want to do history in NC, because for most of its history, it has been a tragic one here. You know -- poverty, slavery, Jim Crow, tobacco road, and the rest. Shall we do history?

The Obama faction of the Dem Party, and its sycophants, have doubled down on this. Sadly, they lack the talent to fix this thing, any more than they had the talent to craft a good bill and gain bipartisan support. This President never got any meaningful legislation thru the Illinois Senate, and wasn't in the US Senate long enough to know where all of the bathrooms were, and so lacks the ability and respect to guide any legislation even through the Dem leadership in the Senate. Sadly, the Dems in the Senate lack talent as well -- Kennedy and Byrd are dead, Dodd is retired, Clinton and Biden left for the White House, and soon Lieberman and Baucus (and maybe more) will be on the beach in a retirement village.

So, yes, let's talk history. And before you leave the conversation, we'll ask about all of those great countries that tried something this big -- cause Americans spend as much in health care as the USSR had for total GDP. And we all know how that Soviet thing worked out, right?

August 29, 2013 at 10:47 am
dj anderson says:

Don't leave out the best history lesson. Considering the transfer of power to Republicans, and protests across the state, include the coup de tat of 1898 when white Democrats upset by Republican reconstruction rule joined with KKK to oust by violence & fire the black republican leadership and business leaders from Wilmington, NC. McCrory should remember that before walking out in the crowd to offer refreshments to be thrown in his face. Jim Jenkins probably missed that lesson, or censored it out.

August 30, 2013 at 9:01 am
TP Wohlford says:

He obviously missed that history session where Bill Clinton actually worked with the House, in one of the most hostile relationships between the POTUS and Congress since Reconstruction? And that when Newt shut the thing down, the BUDGET WAS BALANCED?