Republicans Are Coming With Knives to Gut FDR's New Deal

Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt shakes hands with a poor mine worker during his Presidential campaign trip to West Virginia on October 19, 1932.

(Photo: Bettmann/via Getty Images)

Republicans Are Coming With Knives to Gut FDR's New Deal

While the American people loved Roosevelt's democratic socialism—and still do—the morbidly rich have always opposed any programs that lift up average working people.

Sometimes a little socialism is a very good thing. But don’t tell Mike Pence or the billionaires who bankroll him and his GOP colleagues.

Or, for that matter, the 109 Democrats who were suckered into joining every single Republican in the House of Representatives to vote for a resolution saying that:

“Congress denounces socialism in all its forms, and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States of America.”

The resolution leads up to that conclusion by quoting President Thomas Jefferson wildly out of context. Here’s what the resolution says:

“Whereas the author of the Declaration of Independence, President Thomas Jefferson, wrote, ‘To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.’”

The Republican authors of the resolution, however, neglected to include the context or the next sentence from Jefferson’s May 18, 1816 letter to Joseph Milligan about their combined efforts to translate A Treatise on Political Economy by French economist Destutt de Tracy.

Milligan and Jefferson were discussing Tracy’s call for a national sales tax (like what the GOP proposed last week), which both men opposed. Which is why the next sentence got right to the heart of the matter:

“If the overgrown wealth of an individual be deemed dangerous to the State, the best corrective is the law of equal inheritance to all in equal degree; and the better, as this enforces a law of nature, while extra [sales] taxation violates it.”

Jefferson, in other words, was calling for an inheritance tax — rather than a sales tax — to fix “overgrown wealth” that was “dangerous to the state,” something the Republicans who drafted this resolution would certainly call socialism.

This entire bit of legislative theater, in fact, is preparation for the 2024 election and the GOP’s new plan to end “socialism” in America.

By socialism, of course, they don’t mean subsidies to the fossil fuel industry that made their billionaire donors rich.

They don’t mean the hundreds of billions we shovel at defense contractors every year for unnecessary boondoggles.

Nor do they mean farm supports dear to their rural voters.

They mean Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Mike Pence drew the battle lines last week around the same time House Republicans were forcing the vote on their anti-socialism screed:

“There are modest reforms in entitlements that can be done without disadvantaging anybody at the point of the need. I think the day could come when we could replace the New Deal with a Better Deal. Literally give younger Americans the ability to take a portion of their Social Security withholdings and put that into a private savings account.”

Republicans have been calling Social Security “socialism” ever since it was put into law on August 14, 1935. In part this is because arguably it is: it’s a form of social insurance.

But the larger reason is that the GOP has been funded by morbidly rich banksters ever since the early 1920s, and those banksters would give nearly anything to have Social Security’s trillions in their banks instead of invested in treasuries.

Social Security isn’t a savings account: it’s insurance against poverty in old age.

And like all insurance policies, some people make out better than others. People who live a long life may take more out of it than they put in; people who die young leave behind much of their working life’s contributions.

That’s how insurance is supposed to work. It’s how your life and health insurance policies work.

But the GOP wants Americans to think of Social Security as a simple savings account, so they can move Social Security’s trillions from government control into the hands of Wall Street.

And that’s just the beginning. Republicans in Congress are still 100% down with the platform on which David Koch ran for vice president back in 1980:

— “We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”
— “We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
“We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”
“We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”
“We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”
“We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service.”
“We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”
“We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
“As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”
“We support repeal of all law which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”
“We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”
“We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”
“We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”
“We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
“We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”
“We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”
“We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”
“We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called “self-protection” equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”
“We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
“We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”
“We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”
“We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”
“We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”
“We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
“We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
“We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”

The real target Republicans are gunning for, in other words, is — as Mike Pence admitted — the New Deal itself.

When FDR came into office in 1933 he began a fundamental transformation of American government from one rooted in Laissez-faire to one rooted in democratic socialism.

It was so successful that Roosevelt was elected President of the United States four times in a row, serving from 1933 to his death in office in 1945.

While the American people loved Roosevelt’s New Deal democratic socialism—and still do—the morbidly rich have always opposed any programs that lift up average working people.

— They don’t want workers empowered to challenge their bosses through unions.

— They don’t want their tax dollars to go to help “moochers” and “takers” who weren’t born wealthy.

— They don’t want wealth broadly distributed across America because it might mean they can’t hoard as much as they want.

Almost as fascinating as Pence and the GOP’s efforts to privatize Social Security and “end socialism” are the media’s response to them.

Two weeks ago the GOP put forward a 30 percent national sales tax (ironically, just like Tracy was proposing in 1816). Last week the former Vice President and unannounced candidate for the White House, Mike Pence, openly called for privatizing Social Security.

But there was no mention of either on any of the Sunday “politics” shows that I saw. Instead, the day was filled with Republicans bashing President Biden for his great economy and failing to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon over populated areas.

Will Republican extremism and hate for the New Deal—programs that have become absolutely essential to our even having a robust middle class—ever become grist for the media mill? Will they actually expose to the American people and discuss these GOP plans?

I’m not holding my breath.

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