The Weiner Component Vol.2 #7 – Part 4 – The Fed & the Inflationary Spiral

English: Former President Jimmy Carter and his...

English: Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, wave from the top of the aircraft steps as they depart Andrews Air Force Base at the conclusion of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration ceremony. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: President Ronald Reagan, the 40th pre...

English: President Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States of America, delivers his inaugural address from the specially built platform in front of the Capitol during Inauguration Day ceremony. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Chairperson of the Federal Reserve heads this bank. Currently Janet Yellen is the chairwoman. She has held this position since 2014 when she was appointed by President Barack Obama. Prior to that Ben Bernanke was chairman from 2006 to 2014. He was appointed by George W. Bush and completed his term under President Obama. Alan Greenspan was the prior Chairman. His term was the second longest in the history of the Federal Reserve going from 1987 to 2006, 19 years. He was preceded by Paul Volcker, who served from August 1979 to August 1987. He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter and left toward the end of the Reagan administration. Paul Volcker served as Chairman for two terms, from August 6, 1979 to August 11, 1987.

 

These are the most recent people to serve as chairpersons on the Federal Reserve. If we go back to the Presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, January 20, 1961 to November 22, 1963, the Fed Chairman was William M. Martin who had been appointed by Harry S Truman and served from April 2, 1951 to February 1, 1970.

 

The problem, when Kennedy became President, was that the country was in a recession cycle. By using fiscal policy President Kennedy was able to turn that economic phase into a recovery phase of the business cycle. At this time unemployment was slowly increasing and consumption was slowly decreasing. The economy needed an impetus. What the President proposed and Congress passed was a tax decrease. The result was that people had more money which they spent and the amount of Federal taxes collected actually increased. This move fairly quickly took the nation from recession to recovery.

 

Since that time, over fifty years ago, almost every Republican President has tried to follow that fiscal policy. In no case has it worked as announced. Instead from the time of President Ronald Reagan on it has allowed the National Debt to mushroom into the trillions of dollars. And during the last year of President George W. Bush’s presidency this tax reduction process led to the bursting of the Housing Bubble or the Great Recession in 2008. In the process of avoiding a Second Great Depression President Barack Obama was forced into excessive spending. It was the President and the Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, who enabled the country to squeak through the 2008 and 2009 Housing Crash or bubble bursting.

 

Currently President Donald J. Trump is proposing a massive tax cut for business and the wealthy. It has been suggested that this could bankrupt the U.S. Government. Whether his decrease in taxes and proposed increase in spending for the military comes about, if it does, then to what extent it will do so is still up for debate. Trump and some members of his Cabinet are claiming they can significantly lower taxes and increase production without adding to the National Debt. It should be an interesting experiment.

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President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had been President Kennedy’s Vice-President and succeeded him at his death in 1963, when he was reelected to office in 1965 massively accelerated the war in Viet Nam. He would have America, the strongest nation in existence, force North Viet Nam to accede to the wishes of the United States. And, at the same time, he would not lower the standard of living of any American. The country could both afford to fight a major war and care for its population as though it were still at peace; we would have both guns and butter. His only requirement was a small addition by everyone to their income taxes. This led to the beginnings of an inflationary spiral that would reach fifteen percent by the end of the 1970s. The inflation spiral would be broken by the Fed by taking drastic action in the very early 1980s.

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Paul Volcker was appointed was appointed Federal Reserve Chairman on August 6, 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. He began a process to end the inflationary spiral by making the borrowing of money so expensive that it would cause the percent of interest to rise to where it would cost too much to borrow. This, in turn, would cause the price of interest to drop toward zero.

 

If the inflation rate rises too high, like to 12 or 15 percent or more the way to reduce it is by raising the prime rate, the interest level the Fed charges banks, to a very high level. This forces the banks to raise their interest level to 20 percent or more. Money becomes too expensive to borrow.

 

Unfortunately many businesses have dormant periods during the year when they have to borrow money in order to meet their expenses. If the interest rate on loans is too high they cannot afford to borrow any money and consequently they go bankrupt. This causes an almost instant recession, with massive layoffs throughout the country. But it will end an inflationary spiral.

 

Early in this process President Jimmy Carter received innumerable complains from people around the country about what was happening to them and their businesses. He asked Volcker to back off and Volcker did so. The high inflation continued throughout President Carter’s term in office.

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Paul Volcker served two four year terms as Chairman of the Fed. He retired from that position on August 11, 1987, when Ronald Reagan was President of the United States. Reagan succeeded Carter in 1981 and remained in office for two terms, until 1988. He allowed Volcker to break the back of the inflationary spiral.

 

Under Reagan the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve Board led by Volcker were credited with curbing the rate of inflation and the expectations that inflation would continue. The United States rate of inflation peaked at 14.8 in March of 1980 and fell below 3 percent by 1989. The Fed Board raised the federal funds rate that had averaged 11.2 percent in 1979, to a peak of 20 percent in June of 1981. The prime rate also rose to 21.5 percent in 1981. All of this lead to the 1980-1982 recession, in which the unemployment rate rose to over 10 percent.

 

All of this elicited strong political attacks and wide spread protests. There were high interest rates on construction, farming, and the industrial sectors. U.S. Monetary Policy eased in 1982, leading to a resumption of economic growth.

 

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of this necessary readjustment of the economic base of the United States was the fact that President Ronald Reagan made a presentation on television one weekend in 1981 in which he held up the business section of the Sunday Times and stated that there were twenty full pages of job offers in the Times. If a person lost their job then they should go to where there was jobs available. President Reagan did nothing else. He could or should have set up some federal agency that could offer reliable job information. But he did not do so.

 

What followed was that sections of cities became deserted as people filled their cars with their belongings and followed rumors going from place to place looking for work. Mostly there were no jobs. Temporary agencies did a land-office business that year. I remember reading about an instance where a man with a wife and small child, having stopped for a red light, opened the passenger door, and pushed his wife and child out of the vehicle. When the light changed he drove on.

 

Cars moved from city to city that year, following rumors. While there had been some homeless before 1981 they became very visible from that year on; there were so many of them. The problem is still with us.

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What followed from 1981 on was the Fed’s tight money and the expansive fiscal program of the Reagan Administration: large tax cuts, and a major increase in military spending. While the middle class got some tax relief the tax cuts were essentially for the upper echelon of society who had their taxes reduced substantially. While the inflation rate stayed low, which it still is today, President Reagan’s spending produced large Federal budget deficits.

 

This combination of growing deficits and other economic imbalances led to the growing Federal debt and a substantial rise in Federal costs. Under Reagan’s spending the debt would reach over one trillion dollars for the first time.

 

Presumably Paul Volcker was fired or replaced in August 1987 after serving two four year terms in office because the Reagan Administration didn’t believe he was an adequate deregulator. Volcker was replaced on August 11, 1987, by Alan Greenspan.

The Weiner Component #169 – Part 2: The Presidencies & Political Parties in the United States

English: Partisan makeup of the Senate at the ...

English: Partisan makeup of the Senate at the beginning of the 107th United States Congress, January 3, 2001. Democratic Party – 50 Republican Party – 50 Tie broken by the Vice President of the United States (Al Gore to 2001-01-20, Dick Cheney thereafter) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

If you draw a horizontal line across a sheet of paper and put a mark in the center then the right side proceeding to the end of the line tends to be conservative getting more reactionary as you move farther toward the right end and the left side tends to be liberal, getting more radical as it moves to the left end.  Today the left side represents the Democratic Party and the right side is the Republican Party.

 

This model of right and left was initially created by the way the Chamber of Deputies placed themselves in the hall during the period of the French Revolution in late 18th Century.   The difference then was that the legislative body was divided into three groups, the right were the reactionaries who wanted to bring back the king and his form of government; the left were the radicals who wanted to get rid of the king and brought about the “Reign of Terror.”  They wanted a representative government, essentially led by a dictator.  The majority of the Chamber was called the Mountain.  It was the center which contained the majority of delegates.  They were the moderates.  France would eventually become a Representative Democracy.

 

Today in the United States legislature there is no center.  We have a right, the Republicans and a left side, the Democrats.  And between the two major groups, in the center, there is an empty space, which, in turn, makes it difficult for any type of compromise to be reached or even for any real communication to occur.  As far as the far right is concerned compromise is giving in to their position.

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In 1797, when the Constitution was written, there were no thoughts of political parties.  By 1789, when it took effect, Alexander Hamilton, the First Secretary of the Treasury, had organized the Federalist Party, which basically supported the tidewater mercantilist groups rather than inland yeoman farmers.  Thomas Jefferson, who supported the latter group at the very tail end of the 18th Century organized the Republican Party as a solution to the Federalists and ran as its first candidate for the presidency in the year 1800.  The Federalists, as an insult, rechristened it as the Democratic-Republican Party.  This first name has stuck through the years and is still used today.  The Presidential campaign in the year 1800 was a very raucous one with Jefferson being denounced, among other things, as an atheist.

 

Jefferson won the election and the Federalists were never again able to win a Presidential Election.  They ceased to exist as a political party after the War of 1812.  In that war with England they had refused to support the government against Great Britain.

 

President Thomas Jefferson, following his philosophy of leading a country of small yeoman farmers, in 1803 bought the Louisiana Territory from France for $11,250,000, adding 828,000 square miles to the new United States and doubling its size.  He calculated that he had added enough land to allow it to freely grow with small farms for at least one hundred years.

 

The Federalist position had been favoring a strong central government, close ties with Great Britain, a centralized banking system and close links between the government and men of wealth.

 

What followed after the War of 1812 was the Era of Good Feelings which ended in 1824 when John Quincy Adams was appointed to the Presidency by the House of Representatives after an election in which none of the four regional candidates achieved enough of a majority to win the election.

 

In 1828 the Democratic-Republican Party split into Jacksonian Democrats and the Whig Party.  The Jacksonian Democratic Party became the modern Democratic Party.  They supported the primacy of the President over the other branches of government.  The Whig Party advocated the primacy of Congress over the executive branch.  In the 1850s the Whig Party declined.  Its leaders had died out and it split over the issue of slavery.  The Democratic Party also split into two section, Northern and Southern, anti-slave and pro-slave.

 

In the Election of 1860 the remnants of the Whig Party and remnants of other third parties like the Abolitionists and other dissatisfied groups coalesced into the new Republican Party while the Democrats split into two separate political parties, one Northern and Western and one Southern.  The Northern Democrats ran Stephen A. Douglas while the Southern Democrats put forth John C. Breckenridge.

 

Douglas and Breckenridge had over 50% of the vote together but neither one had as much as Lincoln.  Lincoln won the election with under 50% of the popular vote.  No one Southern State had his name on their ballot.  It was as though two totally separate elections had occurred.  In point of fact one can easily say that the Civil War actually began with this election.

 

At the end of the Civil War Radical Republicans dominated both Houses of Congress.  The President of the United States was a former Southern Democrat, Andrew Johnson.  He had been a senator from Tennessee who remained in Washington and refused to join in the Secession from the Union.  Johnson ran with Lincoln during his second term as the Vice-presidential candidate under the slogan of the National Unity Ticket.

 

Lincoln was assassinated early during his second term and Andrew Johnson became president from 1864 to 1867.  The Radical Republicans had a super majority in both Houses of Congress; consequently they were able to do whatever they wanted.  Johnson was unsuccessfully impeached toward the end of his term.  In 1868, the Republican, former General Ulysses S. Grant, became the 18th President of the United States.

 

In the election of 1876 the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes ran against the Democrat, Samuel J. Tilden.  The Republicans desperately wanted to retain the presidency.  Tilden had the greater number of popular votes.  Several states ended up electing two sets of electors, both Democratic and Republican.  The crisis was not resolved until the night before the new President was to take office.  A back-door deal was made by which the Republicans got the presidency and the Southern States had the Northern armies of occupation removed and became independent states again, ending all the remnants of the Civil War.  The United States reemerged as a two party nation.  At this time the Blacks systematically lost their rights as freedmen, although they kept that title.

 

The Republican Party adopted many of the economic policies of the Whigs: national banks, railroad expansion, and high tariffs.  They were the businessman’s political party.  Their anti-slave policy and the Civil War had brought the Black population, the freedmen, into their party and kept them dominant in Congress until this time.  The Southern States returned to the Democratic Party which maintained its traditional values.  The Republicans also attracted shop owners, skilled craftsmen, clerks, and professionals who were attracted to the party’s modernization policies.  These political coalitions lasted almost to the end of the 19th Century.

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The Civil War expedited economic change in America.  From its end through the 1920s there was a rush of new immigration into the United States, mainly from Eastern Europe and Ireland.  The Industrial Revolution in all forms of rapid economic growth took hold of the country at this time generating a rapid settlement of the entire continental United States.  The late 19th Century was the period of the Gilded Age, rapid industrial growth, the confluence of money into the hands of a few brought about the rise of the “robber barons,” monopoly and oligopoly; phenomenal affluence for a small number and sweat-shops and twelve to fifteen hour shifts for large groups of children, women, and men in factories.  The country went from a rural nation to an urban one during this period.

 

Small towns became cities virtually overnight with almost no understanding or regulations about supplying clean water to large populations and housing or sewerage or food regulation laws.  The government performed no social services.  Political machines developed by both political parties in the urban areas.  Epidemics became common, particularly in warmer weather.  Death tolls, particularly in slum areas were inordinately high, especially among infants and young children.

 

Among this environment, within the urban areas, individual states, and the Federal Government the Progressive Movement developed and grew.  It would continue until the United States got involved in the Great War (World War I).  Both major political parties would at different times lead this movement, which, to a large extent, would be fed by magazine articles and books demonstrating the horrific conditions that existed in the factories, slums, and cities.

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All the presidents from Lincoln’s death until Teddy Roosevelt’s accession were decent men but weak presidents.  They and Cabinet members were continually hounded by jobseekers and political machine operators looking to collect on campaign promises.

 

The major issues of this period were the protective tariff, currency reform, and civil service reform.  President James A. Garfield was shot by a dissatisfied job seeker.  Even with this civil service reform came slowly over the course of the late 19th Century.

 

Tariff and currency reform lasted throughout this period and led to the Progressive Movement.  Business interests supported protective tariffs and tight or hard money (gold).  They lobbied and spent freely to achieve these goals, which the Republicans tended to support.  The Democrats largely backed a loose money policy, using both gold and silver.

 

From 1876 through 1900, Congress was known for being rowdy and inefficient and the Presidents as more or less capable of doing their jobs but not much more.  The two major political parties tended to be similar in their outlook with the exception that the Republicans favored business and the Democrats vied slightly toward farmers.  And the government was considered highly corrupt.

 

With one exception, and that was Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate, who was twice elected to a four year term in 1884 and in 1892, all the other presidents had been Republicans.  All of them, from both political parties had served in the Civil War.

 

In addition, among the farmers, at this time, the Granger Movement gradually developed and it in turn become part of the Populist Movement, which pushed for Agrarian Reform in the United States.  The Populist Movement and urban conditions and corruption throughout the country gave birth to the Progressive Reform Movement which existed on the both the state levels and on the national level.

 

The early Progressive Movement rose on a grass root level.  It was supported by the farmers who wanted a loose money policy.  This would allow them to pay back their debts with less expensive currency.  The businessmen and bankers preferred a tight money policy.  They wanted the debts paid back with more expensive money than they had initially spent or loaned out.  Into this mix came magazine and book writers, the muckrakers, who tended to expose the corruption that existed on all levels of society.  Also at this time the giant industrial cities came into existence with no initial rules or regulations on how they had to be governed or function, in areas like hygiene, sanitation, and city government and social services to the newly arrived immigrants.

 

All this gradually ended with the accession of Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency after the assassination of William McKinley by an anarchist in 1901.  Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, would be the first of the Progressive Presidents.  He would be followed by William Howard Taft, another Republican.  The third Progressive President would be Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat.  This period would end with the First World War

 

During this period corruption was exposed in numerous aspects of the nation and a certain amount of regulation was promulgated throughout the various levels of the society: local, state, and national.  The Senate up to 1913 had been appointed by the different state legislatures and had become, usually by bribery, largely an extension of large corporations like Standard Oil’s attorneys.  It thereafter, through the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, was directly elected by the people within the individual states.  Oregon introduced in 1902 the initiative and the referendum process, which, in turn, was copied by numerous other states.  The recall election was also introduced whereby an elected official could be unelected from his office.  In addition Women Suffrage (the vote) came about at this period.  The tide of reforms ended with the World War.

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At the end of the war Woodrow Wilson went to Europe to develop the Treaty of Versailles.  He brought the treaty to Washington where it was rejected by the Republicans in the Senate.  There was a struggle to pass the Treaty, and, during that time, President Wilson suffered a heart attack from which he never totally recovered.

 

The Treaty could have been modified to satisfy the Republicans but Wilson refused to compromise.  The United States never signed it.  Instead they eventually signed a separate treaty with Germany.  The major item in the Treaty was the establishment of a League of Nations, which the United States never joined.

 

At the end of his term the invalid, Woodrow Wilson, was replaced by the Republican, Warren Harding, who died in office after a number of corruption scandals emerged.  He was replaced by his Vice President, Calvin Coolidge, who later ran on his own and won.  He, in turn, was replaced by Herbert Hoover.  These three Republican presidents fully believed Adam Smith’s theory that the market-place would make all the proper economic decisions for how the country should be run.

 

The motivating force according to Adam Smith was the “invisible hand,” the profit motive.  This brought the country in 1929 to the Great Depression.  Neither Hoover nor his staff knew how to really deal with this situation.  The United States and numerous other industrial nations went through periods of unbelievable misery with the governments trying to function in periods of massive unemployment and chaos.

 

In 1933, four years later, the new President, the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, working on almost an experimental basis saved capitalism and the country by adopting socialistic principles.  He called his policy “The New Deal,” a term taken from poker.  The Federal Government assumed responsibility for those who could not care for the mselves.  They created jobs and projects like Hoover Dam, which was originally called Boulder Dam, throughout the United States and he brought about social security.  It was a time of rapid experimentation, anything that worked and solved problems was utilized.

 

But even with all this many of the aspects of the Great Depression remained.  The country was better off but many still suffered.  What ended the last remnants of the Great Depression was World War II.  The spending required to fight and win the war and the army the U. S. raised ended the last remnants of the massive economic turndown.  In point of fact, the country entered the war in December of 1941 with the majority of the population being in the lower class and ended the war in 1945 with the majority of the population belonging to the middle class.  The economy had changed considerably.

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During the Second World War both political parties concentrated on fighting the war.  Roosevelt died during the last year of the fighting and was replaced by his Vice President, the Democrat: Harry S. Truman.

 

Truman in 1945, after the war ended, sponsored, what he called, the Fair Deal, as a continuation of the prewar New Deal.  The Republicans derided Truman and his program as a poor man’s version Roosevelt’s politics.  In 1948 they ran Thomas E. Dewey against him.  They also passed the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, which limited presidential tenure to two terms in office.  While the Amendment did not affect Truman; it would come into being with the next president; still it gave him a strong hint.  Franklin D. Roosevelt had died in office during his fourth term in office.

 

In 1948 the Republicans were positive that they would win the election.  At that time, before television, victory celebrations were held on radio.  On the night of the election there was a victory celebration for Dewey.  The Chicago Tribune headline the next morning was “Dewey Wins.”  But when the votes were counted Harry S. Truman had won and was still President of the United States.  All the polls had predicted Dewey as the winner; they all ate crow that year.

 

For the next four years there were a lot of frustrated Republicans in both Houses of Congress; but Congress still worked.  The fear after the war was that with the massive return of the military to civilian life the country would go into a deep recession with massive unemployment as it did directly after World War I.  But with intense rationing, the continual sale of war bonds, and unlimited employment during the war there was lots of money available.  All the automobile factories had been producing only for the war effort for the last four years; they now converted to civilian production, everyone wanted a new car.  A new industry, television came into being.  Other positive things happened.  There was no recession.  The returning veterans found jobs, started their own small business, returned to school: finishing high school and colleges.  The country smoothly went back to peacetime.  In fact, veterans received a government allowance if they went back to school.

 

Unfortunately, even with the new Organization, The United Nations, to which all the allied nations now belonged, peace did not come.  On June 25, 1950 until July 27, 1953 the United States and other United Nation countries were involved in the Korean War, which ended at the 38th Parallel, where it had begun.  This was the line splitting Korea into two parts: Communist in the North and non-communist in the South.  It would seem that almost every succeeding president from Truman on would have their own specific war.

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Truman was followed in the presidency in 1953 by Dwight David Eisenhower, the general who had led the war in Europe.  Eisenhower, initially had never voted in a presidential election.  He did not know which political party he belonged to.  Finally he decided he was a Republican and ran as their presidential candidate.

 

Eisenhower ended the Korean War by threatening to use atomic weapons.  It ended in a draw, which still continues to this day.

 

As a replacement for Truman the Democrats came up with Adlia Stevenson, the governor of Illinois.  Stevenson ran against Eisenhower twice and lost both times.  Eisenhower considered himself a middle-of-the-road Republican, that is, a moderate or liberal Republican.  The two parties functioned well together during his eight years in office.

 

In 1960 Richard M. Nixon, Eisenhower’s Vice President, ran against the Democrat, John F. Kennedy, who was a member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts.  Kennedy won that election by less than one per cent of the vote.  The two parties were able to function together and more or less pass all the necessary legislation.  /there were problems with his civil rights reform attempts.  In Viet Nam There was action, but not a major crisis.  It was during Kennedy’s presidency that the Bay of Pigs debacle occurred and later the Cuban Missile Crisis came about.  The Soviet Union had installed atomic missiles in Cuba.  Kennedy, short of war, got Russia to remove them.  His frustration came about in being limited in passing civil rights legislation.

 

Kennedy, while getting ready to run for a second term in 1963, was in a motorcade in downtown Dallas, Texas, when he was shot by an assassin.  His Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson became the next President of the United States.  President Johnson was reelected in 1964.  He ran against the arch-conservative Barry Goldwater and overwhelmingly defeated him.  Johnson attempted to force the war in Viet Nam toward an American victory by massively increasing U.S. forces there.  He was not successful.  In the United States he declared War on Poverty.  Again he was not successful.  As an essentially defeated man Johnson announced that he would not run for the presidency in 1968.

 

Where Johnson was eminently successful was in pushing through Congress both his and John F. Kennedy’s plan for civil rights reform in the nation.  Segregation was essentially legally ended throughout the South and in other parts of the country.  The statement that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence was expanded to include Blacks and Women.  It was a major achievement.

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In the 1968 Election the Republican Richard M. Nixon ran against the Democratic Vice President, Hubert Humphrey.  A third party candidate, former Alabama Governor, George Wallace, ran representing the American Independent Party, which supported separation of the races in public education.  Nixon won with 43.4% of the vote; Humphrey got 42.7%, and Wallace received 13.5%.

 

The election year was tumultuous, being marked by the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy.  The Democratic Convention had open warfare between Viet Nam protestors and the Chicago police.  Nixon won the popular vote by .07 percentage points and the Electoral College vote by 301 to 191 for Humphrey.

 

Besides economic problems Nixon faced a massive protest throughout his presidency over the Viet Nam War.  He presumably had a secret plan to end the war.  This came down to a return of American prisoners of war and withdrawing with honor.  That was making a defeat in war not look like a defeat.

 

Negotiations were begun.  The initial problem was the shape of the Negotiating Table.  There were people from North Viet Nam, from South Viet Nam, and from the United States, and there was also the National Liberation Front, who were from South Viet Nam but favored the North.  The issue was resolved by using a round table with two smaller ones nearby.

 

Nixon’s strategy was to bring increasing pressure on Communist North Viet Nam by increasing the war so they would be willing to compromise.  He expanded the war to Cambodia and bombing along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  Supplies were being brought into North Viet Nam into the South over this route.  There was both warfare and peace negotiations that would be going on during Nixon’s term as President.

 

In 1972 Nixon ran for a second term as the Republican candidate.  The Democratic candidate was the highly liberal senator from South Dakota, George McGovern.  The Republicans were so sure he could not win that they contributed money secretly to his campaign wanting to make sure he was the Democratic candidate.

 

McGovern ran on an Anti-War Campaign against the incumbent, Richard Nixon.  McGovern was perceived by many voters as a left-wing extremist.  Nixon won in a landslide, gaining 60.7% of the popular vote.  He received 18 million more votes than McGovern, carrying 49 states.

 

Unfortunately, during the election, because of some paranoid tendencies of Nixon, a group of his employees called the plumbers  burgled Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. several times in order to find out what the Democrats were doing and planning.  The final time they did this they were caught and arrested.

 

The question became: What did Nixon know?  And when did he know it?  It took two years for this to unravel.  And then the answer was that he knew about the burglary from the very beginning.  Nixon resigned from the presidency two years after being elected for a second term.  He resigned the day before a Bill of Impeachment was to be voted upon in the House of Representatives.

 

Interestingly his vice president, Spiro Agnew, had resigned earlier.  The government had an 80 page inditement against him for extortion, going back to when he was governor of Maryland.  Because of the Watergate controversy the Justice Department allowed him to plead, no contest, and resign from the vice-presidency.

 

The irony was that Nixon chose a new Vice-President, Senator Gerald Ford, who assumed the Presidency in 1974.  President Ford later issued a Proclamation on September 8, 1974 pardoning Richard Nixon from any crimes he may have committed.

 

President Gerald Ford ended the Viet Nam War.  This was the first war that the United States lost.  Today Viet Nam trades with the United States and is a relatively inexpensive tourist attraction.  It cost a lot less to visit Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) than to go to a city in Hawaii.

 

In 1978 Republican President Gerald Ford ran against the Democratic contender, James Earl (Jimmy) Carter.  Jimmy Carter won by a margin of 57 Electoral votes.  He had a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress during both congressional terms.  On his second day in office President Carter pardoned all evaders of the Viet Nam War.  He created the Departments of Energy and Education.  He brought about the Camp David Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

The country suffered from Stagflation at this time, a combination of both high inflation and high unemployment.  Carter could not bring himself to allow the Draconian program that would solve this problem.  The next President, Ronald Reagan would do this and bring about a large homeless problem throughout the United States which still exists today.

 

President Carter signed the Panama Canal Treaties, giving the canal to Panama.  It was during his term in office that the Iranian Revolution occurred and the American Embassy personnel were held as captives by the new government of Iran.  They were returned to the U.S. shortly after the next president took office.  Carter was defeated in the 1980 Election by Ronald Reagan.

 

Ronald Reagan was elected to the presidency on January 20, 1981 and served two terms through January 20, 1989.  He was a Republican and a conservative, bringing about changes that the conservatives had wanted for years.  He was also the oldest man elected to the presidency.

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Forgetting the post-Civil-War Period when the Radical Republicans, wanting to punish the South and controlled Congress from 1865 to 1878 when Rutherford Hayes stole the presidency from the Democrat, Samuel Tilden.  At that time the Republicans had a super majority in both Houses of Congress and could and did pass any law they put forth without the President’s signature.

 

Outside of this relatively short period in the nation’s history the two major political parties essentially got along and, more or less, cooperated with one another in passing the necessary laws for the nation.  The point has been made in an earlier blog that Democratic President Jimmy Carter was more conservative that Gerald Ford’s Republican Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller.  On the political line mentioned at the beginning of this blog Rockefeller would be placed left of center and Carter would go right of center.

 

This was true of many Congressmen.  There have historically been many conservative Democrats and moderate or liberal Republicans.  There was no separate void between them in terms of political positions.  There was always a slight difference in basic philosophy but there was always open communication and the possibility of compromise.

 

This has been a fact of United States history.  There was generally cooperation between both political parties.  The Conference Committee, which met after a bill was passed in slightly different versions in the two Houses of Congress, has been able to continually come up with a compromise bill for both Houses of Congress to successfully vote upon.

 

This system has existed until Barack Obama became President of the United States.  What has occurred from that time on has essentially been the development of the Tea Party, an extreme right arm of the Republican Party that is largely uneducated in the function of government and modern economics.  In the House of Representatives they are the Freedom Coalition.  In point of fact their aim seems to be to do away with the Federal Government

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The Weiner Component 113 – Cuba & The United States

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shortly before Christmas 2014 President Barak Obama reestablished a relationship with Cuba. This comes 50+ years after we severed contact with them in 1960. The Congressional Republicans and some Democrats seem to be adamantly opposed to this move. The President says he will ease economic and travel restrictions with Cuba and work with Congress to end the trade embargo.

The island of Cuba is 760 miles long and varies in width from 25 to 125 miles and has a population smaller than that of the city of Los Angeles. It was conquered by Spain in 1511. With the exception of the year 1762, when it was captured by the British, it had been a Spanish possession. From the end of the Spanish American War in 1898, Cuba became a protectorate of the United States, actually a colony in everything but name. For one reason or another the U.S. sent troops in numerous times until 1933 when it finally granted the country full independence during a popular insurrection which took total control of the government in the name of the people of the country.

Thereafter there were elections of presidents. Fulgencio Batista seized power in 1952 in an almost bloodless coup. Compared to other South and Central American countries Cuba had a high standard of living but this was not so when it compared itself to the United States. The rural areas had problems. There were large income disparities due to the extensive privileges that Cuba’s union workers had. These privileges were mainly at the cost of the unemployed and the peasants, causing economic stagnation.

Fidel Castro and his brother Raul led an attack upon the Moncada barracks near Santiago de Cuba in July 1953. The attack failed and the Castro brothers were taken prisoner and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. They were released in 1955 when a general amnesty was given to many political prisoners. They went in exile in Mexico. There with help they organized the 26th of July Movement with the intent of overthrowing Batista. Castro began a guerilla campaign against the Batista government. Eventually a sort of stalemate was reached; neither side was able to destroy the other. In addition there were numerous other revolutionary groups vying for power. The United States imposed trade restrictions on the Batista administration and attempted to get Batista to leave the country. On January 9, 1959 Batista fled the country and Castro took over. He then moved to consolidate his power by imprisoning and executing opponents and dissident former opponents. As the revolution became more radical, continuing its persecution of those who did not agree with its philosophy, hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled to the United States forming a large exile community opposed to the Castro government.

The Castro government had considerable opposition from militant groups within Cuba and from the United States which had close economic ties with Cuba. By the end of 1960 all opposition newspapers had been closed down and all radio stations were under government control. Until 1965 militant anti-Castro groups funded by exiles and by the U.S. CIA were totally subdued. On October 3, 1965 Cuba officially became a Communist country. In 1976 a national referendum ratified a new constitution which made the Communist Party the major organization governing Cuba with Fidel Castro as the First Secretary

Six months after Castro took control of Cuba the Eisenhower administration began to work toward his ouster from leadership of the revolution. The U.S. began to support elements in the country opposed to Castro. Relations between the two countries deteriorated rapidly. The Eisenhower administration promoted a boycott of Cuba by oil companies. Cuba responded by nationalizing the refineries in August of 1960. The Cuban government expropriated U.S. owned properties and distributed the land to small farmers. On January 3, 1960 the U.S. severed diplomatic relations and ordered a trade embargo. The Kennedy administration extended this ban and forbad U.S. citizens to travel to or conduct business with Cuba.

About four months later, under the Kennedy administration, the CIA conducted a plan that had been developed during the Eisenhower period known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba. The object of this operation was to overthrow the Communist regime and establish a democratic government that would be friends with the United States. It was carried out by a CIA sponsored paramilitary group of over 1,400 Cuban exiles. Arriving by boat from Guatemala on April 15, 1961 the small army landed on Cuban territory. By April 20th they surrendered and were sent back to the U.S.

Apparently President Kennedy had been convinced by the CIA leadership that the bulk of the Cubans would flock to support these invaders. Kennedy publically assumed full responsibility for this failure. He had refused to send in military reinforcements during the operation. The result of the invasion was to build popular support in Cuba for the Castro government.

After this the CIA began Operation Mongoose, a campaign arming militant groups, sabotage of the Cuban infrastructure, and plots to assassinate Castro. This set the stage for the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The Chairman of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, saw Castro and Cuba as a little brother. He secretly installed atomic missiles there. These sites were discovered by U2 reconnaissance photos. Khrushchev’s comment in Russia was that Kennedy, like the Russian peasant who had to take his smelly cow into his house to live with his family during the winter, would get used to the smell. He would do this with the missile sites rather than risk an atomic war.

President Kennedy called for a quarantine of ships being allowed to go to Cuba. Finally the Russians agreed to remove the missiles in exchange for an agreement that the U.S. would not invade Cuba. There was also a secret agreement that the U.S. would remove its remove its missile sites in Turkey six months after the agreement was signed.

Neither Kennedy nor Khrushchev were willing to go to an atomic war. The agreement seemed to give Kennedy a political win and probably helped significantly in Khrushchev’s removal from office the following year. But Kennedy had also given orders that if the Soviet Union did not back down that he would openly add the removal of the Turkish missile sites to the agreement, giving Khrushchev the political win.

Essentially the United States has kept hands-off Cuba since that time with the trade embargo persisting. Cuba has gotten involved in other areas of the world aiding revolutionary groups in Africa, Central America, and Asia. There have been periods of emigration from that country, mostly by the upper and middle classes to the United States and elsewhere. It’s estimated that between 1959 and 1993 1.2 million Cubans left the island for the United States and other places. This is approximately ten percent of the total population of that country.

By 1982, Cuba possessed one of the largest military forces in Latin America but she still has a problem feeding her population, particularly since the fall of the Soviet Union.

In December of 2014, after a highly publicized exchange of political prisoners between the United States and Cuba President Barak Obama announced plans to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba after over fifty years of separation. Under the guidance of the Pope, secret negotiations had been going on for about a year. The U.S. President stated that his country would establish an embassy in Cuba and improve economic opportunities between the two countries.

The embargo was put into effect by Congressional action. It will take a law to bring about trade between the nations.  Ending it will take an act by Congress.

Is it about time to begin open relations with Cuba again? Fifty-five years have passed since the embargo was instituted. The generation of Cubans who first came to the United States have grown old and died. Some of their children who came with them may still remember but they are in their sixties or older. Do we still have animosity toward them? Do we still resent the fact that they refuse to be within the American sphere of influence? Do we still hate and fear communist nations so that we will have nothing to do with them?

And if that is so then why are we trading with China which still has a communist government? For that matter why have we even attempted to negotiate with North Korea? They have a communist dictatorial government.

It strikes me odd that Bain Capital and Mitt Romney can set up and move American factories to Communist China to avoid paying U.S. taxes and acquiring cheap labor but we have an embargo with Cuba. It would be much easier for them to do this with Cuba and their profits would be greater because Cuba is closer to the U.S. and they would have the same tax and cheap labor benefits they have with communist China.

The issue of the embargo is nonsense. If the 2015 Republican Congress refuses to deal realistically with this problem they are just giving in to their emotional fears and prejudices. It’s time for a little reality now that we are in the 21st Century.

Fidel Castro embracing Soviet Premier Nikita K...

Fidel Castro embracing Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a r...

Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a result of the Cuban Revolution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John F. Kennedy

The Weiner Component #99 – Stealing the Vote

During most of the 19th Century the United States was a Caucasian country with a Black slave minority and a very small Black free population. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution on January 31st 1865 freed the slaves and the U.S. suddenly had a mixed population with the Whites still in the majority but with all male adults legally able to vote. This continued until 1876 when the Northern armies withdrew their military forces from the Southern states that had rebelled against the Union and brought about the Civil War. From this point in time on the Southern Whites regained control of their states by a series of legal and illegal acts. Two popular ones were lynchings and the pole tax. The first instilled fear in all Blacks and the second, a requirement to pay a small tax in order to vote, was retroactive, the tax kept increasing with every election. In order to vote a man had to pay for every election that he had missed. Systematically Southern blacks tended to lose the right to vote. In the Northern ghettos this was done in other ways such as literacy tests.

In 1965 the Voting Rights Bill was finally passed after numerous earlier attempts had failed. This bill finally gave everyone the right to vote, both male and female, did away with the pole tax and literacy tests. This did not mean that everyone voted, one still had to register and many people didn’t bother or it was made very difficult for certain groups. The legislation was passed at that time as a sort of memorial to the late President John F. Kennedy who also had it on his agenda before his assassination. Versions of this bill had been attempted since the Administration of Eisenhower and had always died or been watered down with amendments to make them meaningless, mostly by Southern Democrats. It was passed in 1965 by votes of both Democrats and Republicans. The Southern Democrats adamantly had opposed it.

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Initially the country had been populated by immigrants from Western Europe with indentured servants who had to serve for a period of time: five to seven or ten years before becoming free. These were mostly Western Europeans and some Blacks. Eventually the Western European disappeared as indentured servants and the Blacks became slaves, who served for life.

The influx of immigrants throughout the 19th Century came from Western Europe. By the early 20th Century a larger and larger percentage came from Southern and Eastern Europe. From the 1920s through the end of World War II immigration was based up a quota system, with unlimited numbers able to come from Western Europe and small quotas from Southern and Eastern Europe. Chinese and Japanese had been needed for labor but were not allowed citizenship. Their children, however, were born in this country and were automatically citizens.

Throughout this period the WASPs: White, Anglo, Saxon, Protestants made up the bulk of the American population. They largely controlled most of the levels of government, particularly the upper level of the Federal Government. In fact, the first and only non-Protestant, a Catholic, elected to the presidency was John F. Kennedy.

The civil rights movement of the 1960s led to the replacement of the ethnic quotas with per country limits. From that point the number of first-generation immigrants had quadrupled. The numbers went from 38 million in 1970 to approximately 38 million in 2007. Nearly 14 million entered the country from 2000 to 2010. In point of fact according to the Census Bureau’s population clock, counting births, deaths, and immigration, an additional individual enters the U.S. every 11 seconds.

Most of the immigrants entering the United States since 1965 have been from Latin America and Asia changing the overall makeup of the citizenry. Initially, as we’ve seen, the majority of the population was Caucasian, white. With this new influx these statistics have changed. The Caucasian population is no longer the majority. It is now one of the minorities. No one race or ethnic group today represents 50% or more of the population. And this is very troublesome to the former majority. Many of them now feel themselves threatened by the rest of the population.

The current majority on the Supreme Court consist of five conservative male Caucasians. Their recent decisions on voting rights and the level of expenditures on political campaigns and issues have tended to strengthen their group within the society.

The Republican or conservative political party within the nation appears now to be the party of the White male minority. They are spending far more money on elections of both candidates and issues than the Democratic Party can afford and they are far more aggressive. Also they refuse to accept responsibility for anything and they blame everything, including, it seems, Ebola, upon the Democrats.

The Republican Party is actually the minority party within the United States. They have since 2011 controlled the Congress by controlling the House of Representatives. They have extended the 2008 Recession, which they engendered, blaming it on the Democrats. They have made the current Congress the least popular in the entire history of the United States. In essence they are a minority attempting the position of the majority and refusing to compromise for the good of the country on virtually any issue.

Eventually in two or six or ten or more years they will change or be voted out of existence; but in this time period a goodly percentage of the population will undergo all sort of economic and other miseries. The irony of this situation is that many of the people undergoing these negative conditions belong to their group.

With the 2014 Midterm Election coming up they are and have been engaged in a myriad of ways to reduce the Democratic vote. The Republican Secretary of State in Kansas is claiming that 22,000 new voters did not properly register to vote. In Georgia 50,000 new registration applications somehow got lost. The Republican Secretary of State, after being sued, seems to have located them and is insisting that they were never lost. However the court case is continuing and will be heard on Friday October 31st, trick or treat day. In both these states the poling is essentially tied for the leading state positions.

In Texas the cost of getting the proper identification to register to vote was defined by a Federal judge as the equivalent of a pole tax and declared unconstitutional. However the Supreme Court, at practically the last minute, overturned this voter ID decision. The Court has denied emergency requests from the Obama Administration and other groups who said that this law harmed voting rights. On Saturday, October 18th, just two weeks before the Midterm Election the Supreme Court by a 6 to 3 vote declared the law constitutional. It is estimated that this law will prevent up to 5% of the state’s registered voters, or about 600,000 people from casting a vote. The majority of the disenfranchised will be Blacks and Hispanics who generally tend to vote for the Democratic Party.

In Florida and some other Republican controlled states thousands of people have been arbitrarily removed from the voting list as being dead or having moved without any documentation that this is true. Registration has been made very difficult in these Republican dominated states. College students in some of these voting districts now can only vote in their parent’s place of residence. This will limit those who are away at college and generally tend to vote Democratic. Virtually anything they could think up the Republicans have attempted to use to limit the vote

This is all the attempt of a minority trying to control the majority and bend them to their will. It certainly is not how a democracy is supposed to function. How much longer will the country tolerate it? There is no excuse for any group trying to steal the vote.