The Weiner Component #173 – A Short History of Political Parties

The Republican Party came into existence with the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States in 1860.  It was a combination of different political groups that didn’t agree with the Democratic Party, which was the major political party that existed throughout the entire United States. The other political parties were all reginal.  It should be noted that in this election the Republicans were not on the ballet of any one Southern state.  The election in the Southern States dealt only with the Northern and Southern Democratic Parties.

 

With the exception of the issue of slavery the Republican Party supported business and its growth.  In fact largely so did that of the Democrats with a slight emphasis on agriculture.  This period was the era of business growth in the country.  The Industrial Revolution had begun in Great Britain at the turn of the 19th Century; it spread to Europe by the 1830s; and thereafter moved to the United States where it began slowly speeding-up during the Civil War and then growing even more rapidly in the post war period.

 

Politically the Republicans would stay in power for most of the balance of the 19th Century.  With the death of Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, the Vice-President, would become President.  He was a former Southerner and Democrat who had been elected during Lincoln’s second term when the Republicans had run under the National Union Ticket.  During his presidency the Congress was almost totally Radical Republican and did what they wanted even to the point of unsuccessfully impeaching Johnson.

 

Johnson served out his term, 1865-1869, and was followed by the Republican Union General, Ulysses S. Grant who served two terms, from March 4, 1869 – March 4 1877.  In 1876 the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes stole the Presidential Election from the Democrat Samuel J. Tilden.  Tilden won the popular vote but there were two sets of electoral votes from several states and the Republicans were the ones who prevailed.

 

In 1880 the Republican James A. Garfield was elected President.  He served 200 days in that office and was shot by a dissatisfied office seeker.  His Vice- President, Chester A. Arthur, then became President.  In 1884 the Democrat Grover Cleveland won and four years later in 1888 he lost to the Republican, Benjamin Harrison.  In that election Cleveland won the popular vote but Harrison won the Electoral College vote.  But in 1892 the Democrat Grover Cleveland won his second term.  In 1896 the Republican William McKinley was elected to the presidency. 

 

It was during this post-Civil-War period that the United States began turning into an industrial giant.  And it was during this time that the country underwent the rise of a new class, the plutocrats.  These were essentially the “robber barons” who owned most of the new industries that arose.  They had largely bribed their way through the State and Federal legislatures.  It was a time of intense corruption in all levels of government.  Shortly after this period that the people would get the right to directly elect senators through their votes and the Progressive Movement would take off in an attempt to return the country to its people.

 

As we’ve seen the Republicans, more or less, stayed in power during this time.  But the nation was going through intense growing pains.  It didn’t matter which political party was in charge the country was changing on almost a daily basis and it was impossible to keep up with everything that was going on.  These Presidents did their best; but, I suspect, no one totally understood or could have done what was really necessary with the speed of change.  In many respects the corrupt political machines, both Democratic and Republican, that existed then in the cities served the poor in return for their votes.  There were no government or other services.

                  ************************************

In 1900 the Republican William McKinley was elected to a second term.  His new Vice-President, Theodore Roosevelt, was put into that position to get him out of New York.  Jokingly it was stated that “Teddy,” the former governor of New York, “had taken the veil;” he could no longer bother anyone in government.  At that time the most nonfunctional job in Washington was that of Vice-President.  In the musical satire “Of Thee I Sing,” there is a scene with the Vice-President taking a tour of the White House so he could see what it looked like since he’d never been their otherwise.

 

On September 6, 1901, less than a year after he had begun his second term, William McKinley was shot by an anarchist.  Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States.  To the Republican leadership it was “that damn cowboy in the White House.”

 

From the 1890s on until shortly after America’s entrance into World War I the United States went through the Progressive Movement.  It was a time of reform on all levels of society.  Its goals were to eliminate city political machines and their bosses, to bring direct democracy to the people, and to regulate monopolies and corporations through anti-trust laws.  Theodore Roosevelt became known to his admiring public as the Trust-Busting President.

 

The Progressive Movement brought about prohibition, women suffrage, the direct election of senators, and the Federal Reserve Act.  The three presidents who were directly involved with this movement were the Republicans, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. 

 

Roosevelt was President from 1901 to 1908; then he choose Taft to replace him from 1909 to 1912.  In 1912 Roosevelt dissatisfied with Taft decided to run again for the office.  The Republican Party supported Taft.  Roosevelt ran as a third party candidate in the Bull Moose Party.  In this Presidential Contest Roosevelt came in second, Taft was third, and the winner with a little over 40% of the vote was the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson.

 

The Progressive Movement, with these three presidents, ended shortly after the Great War (World War I), with woman suffrage and prohibition, the 18th and 19th Amendments to the Constitution in 1919.

 

At the end of the war the Senate had a Republican majority which refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I.  The Republican, Warren Harding, was elected President in 1920.  He signed a separate peace treaty with Germany.  The following two administrations that of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were also Republican.  The Secretary of the Treasury for all three administrations was Andrew Mellon, the millionaire industrialist and banker.

            *******************************

In 1776, Adam Smith, a professor at the University of Edinburgh published a book based upon his lectures entitled, “An Enquiry of the Wealth of nations,” that defined the functions of capitalism.  The work and its theories are still the basis of modern capitalism.  The study was a vigorous attack upon an earlier economic system called mercantilism which defines national wealth as gold and the amount of gold a nation possessed as its wealth.  Smith defined national wealth as the amount of goods and services a nation produced in a set amount of time, a fiscal year.  The motivating force that caused the economy to work was, according to Smith, the invisible hand, the profit motive.

 

The Republicans not only accepted this idea they have been utilizing it ever since.  The only problem is that the unregulated profit motive has continually led to economic disaster.

 

From 1920 to 1929, under three Republican presidents, allowing the market system, the profit motive, to freely function, brought about the country’s collapse into the Great Depression.  Hoover and his Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, the multi-millionaire industrialist and banker, didn’t know what to do.  For over three years of economic decline they kept talking about “prosperity being around the corner.”  They expected the Market to balance itself and prosperity to return.  It didn’t happen.  Conditions went from bad to worse and continued to stay there.  The industrial world foundered in misery.  Some countries like Italy, Germany, and Japan ended up in dictatorships.

               *********************************

As in had happened in the 1920s, under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, the Federal Government did away with all banking regulations.  The Free Market would determine which way the economy would go.  The motivating force for the Free Market was Adam Smith’s “invisible hand;” this was the profit motive.  In 2008 the Housing Market crashed and the major banking houses were on the point of bankruptcy after about 30 years of constant growth.

 

In the 1920s the Stock Market became crazier and crazier.  On Black Tuesday, October 23, 1929 the Stock Market, after a decade of intense growth, collapsed. 

 

The collapse continued.  By 1932 the Gross National Product had dropped 15%, unemployment was down 25%, and farm prices were down 80%.  In many cases it cost the farmer more to raise the crop than the amount for which it could be sold.  The Hoover administration and the Secretary of the Treasury’s constant response was that prosperity was just around the corner.  Hoover did make some attempts to deal with the situation but they were totally inadequate.  Neither he nor Andrew Mellon, the Secretary of the Treasury, were capable of dealing with this situation, the country and its people floundered.

 

What happened, happened on a world basis.  All the industrial nations were affected by the Great Depression.  It was far worse outside of the United States.  In some countries unemployment was far lower than 25% and the level of misery was far greater than in the United States.

 

The various governments, including that of the United States, put high tariff walls around themselves in order to protect what jobs still existed.  This, in turn, made many prices far higher than they should have been.  Living standards hit an all-time low, with many people dying of malnutrition.  People wandered over the country looking for work.  We had the age of the hobo.  Many, and that included those in the government, did not understand what was happening.

 

In 1932, four years after the Great Depression began, the former Democratic governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), ran for the Presidency of the United States.  The Republicans ran Hoover for a second term.

 

 During this period many of the veterans of the First World War descended upon Washington, D.C.  They had been promised a bonus in the future for serving in the war.  This was the Bonus March.  They demanded it at that time.  The veterans set up a massive camp at the outskirts of the city.  The Federal Government felt it was in no position to pay the bonus early.  President Hoover ordered the commanding general, Douglas MacArthur, to break up the camp but to not harm any of the veterans.  Two men were killed.  This move absolutely destroyed most Republican support that may have still existed in the country.  Roosevelt was overwhelmingly elected President of the United States. He received 57% of the popular vote and carried all but six of the forty-eight states.

                **************************************

As President Roosevelt offered the country a New Deal.  The term came from poker.  His program consisted of the 3Rs: Relief, Recovery, & Reform.  Relief for the unemployed and the poor, Recovery of the economy to normal levels, and Reform of the financial system to prevent future depressions. 

 

Money at that time was gold and silver.  The Federal Government would pay for this by collecting all the gold coins in circulation, melting them down into bricks of golds, storing the gold in depositories like Fort Knox, and then issuing paper money.  In 1932 a gold coin that weighed an ounce was a twenty dollar gold piece.  The Federal Government bought all the gold mined in the United States at $16 an ounce.  In 1933, after the gold was collected and replaced with paper money its value was legally increased to $32 an ounce.  The Roosevelt administration doubled the money supply.  This would pay for the New Deal.

 

They issued paper money, called Federal Reserve Notes which were then theoretically backed by the gold bricks stored in the government depositories.  No one ever checked to see that the amount of Federal Reserve Notes (paper money) matched the amount of gold in the underground depositories.  The Federal Government could print and issue money as needed, which it did during the New Deal and later during World War II.  In essence the country went off the gold standard in 1933.

 

FDR changed the function of government.  Up to that point, historically, it had run the nation and the people were responsible for themselves.  From 1933 on the Federal Government officially assumed responsibility for the people where they could no longer care for themselves.  Actually the change had been begun during the Progressive Movement, but it was under FDR made into official government policy. 

 

In addition the Federal Government passed laws to regulate industry.  The basic concept was to have a level paying-field for all participants.  It also encouraged unionization of labor.

 

These, in essence, became the major issues between the Democratic and Republican Parties with the Republicans slowly giving in to the Democrats.  After the death of Roosevelt President Harry S. Truman would continue this policy with his Fair Deal.  The next President Dwight David Eisenhower would be a middle-of-the-road Republican building, among other things, a national highway system.

 

Eisenhower was followed by the Democrat, John F. Kennedy, who would serve as President from January 1961 to November 22, 1963 when he was assassinated.  Kennedy was succeeded by his Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson who was elected in his own right in 1964.  These two presidents were responsible for bringing the Federal Government into the Civil Rights Movement, which, in turn, legally enabled Blacks to vote throughout the South and integrated society making all the nation’s citizens equal.  It also turned the South into Republican voting states.

 

Johnson was followed by, Richard M. Nixon, who was also a moderate Republican.  During the middle of his second term he was forced to resign over the Watergate Scandal and was replaced by his Vice-President Gerald Ford.  Ford officially ended the Viet Nam War.  He was replaced by the Democrat, Jimmy Carter.

 

After one term Carter was succeeded in 1981 by the Republican, Ronald Reagan, who would serve for two terms and leave a definite imprint on American politics.  President Reagan implemented sweeping political and economic changes, bringing supply side economics (Reagonomics), lowering taxes in order to spur growth while actually increasing government spending.  He brought about government deregulation of industry and banking and reduced government spending in social programs for the poor and needy.  He massively increased military spending, starting an arms race with the Soviet Union and raised the deficit to over one trillion dollars for the first time.

 

Reagan brought into government the conservative Republican prospective that had first been demonstrated when ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.  Reagan’s supply side economics was a large tax cut for the wealthy and small tax cuts for everyone else.  The theory being that the rich would invest the new monies into new economic expansion and all sorts of new jobs would be created.  Thus the monies would trickle down to all parts of society.  It never happened. The money was actually invested in old productivity, like the stock market, and produced no new employment.  However to Republicans this was the Conservative Revolution. 

 

Reagan’s military spending brought the National deficit up to over a trillion dollars for the first time.  It also began an arms race with the Soviet Union that would bankrupt them.

 

Reagan was followed by his Vice-President, George H. W. Bush, who had to deal with a Democratic Congress, and ended fighting an unnecessary war against Iraq, Operation Desert Storm, which more than doubled the national deficit.

 

Bush, after one term, was followed by the Democratic President Bill Clinton, who served two terms, from 1993-2001.  Clinton as President reversed or ignored the Reagan economic changes.  During his third year in office, 1994, the House of Representatives acquired for the first time in 40 years a Republican majority.  From 1998 to 2000, the last three years of the Clinton presidency the United States government had a budget surplus and was able to reduce the deficit.

 

Clinton was followed into office by the Republican George W. Bush, who won the electoral vote but not the popular vote.  Like Clinton he served two terms.  He was initially elected in a controversial election, receiving less votes than the Democratic candidate, Al Gore.

 

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City occurred eight months in his first term as President.  George W. Bush’s response to this was to declare War on Terror and send a military force to Afghanistan in 2001 to take control away from the terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda.  He was successful in doing this but he was not successful in setting up a Democratic government that could maintain control of the country.  After 15 years in Afghanistan we are still there.  Bush also later decided, for personal reasons, to set up a Democracy in Iraq.  Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq, had tried to have his father assassinated.  We are also still in Iraq.  

 

Following Republican policy Bush lowered taxes for the well-to-do and somewhat for the middle class while he massively fought two wars and destabilized the Middle East.  Under Bush the National Debt rose from six trillion dollars to ten trillion dollars.

 

During his presidency he signed into law the Patriot Act, a Partial Abortion Ban Act, and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefits for seniors.  In 2008, his last year as President, the Housing Market crashed and Bush and his Treasury Secretary loaned billions to some banking houses to keep them from going bankrupt. 

 

His presidency has been ranked among the worst by historians in the entire history of the United States.

                    **************************************

In the Election of 2008 the Democrats took both the presidency and both Houses of Congress.  In 2008 the country was on the brink of a Depression that would have made the Great Depression of 1929, which lasted for a little over a decade, look like a weekend affair in comparison.  The new President, Barack Obama, through massive government spending was able to turn it into what has been called The Great Recession.  And, as of early December 2016, unemployment fell to the level it had been at prior to 2007, 4 ½%.

 

During his first two years in office President Obama with the cooperation of a Democratic controlled Congress was able to avoid a massive depression.  He also passed the Affordable Health Care Bill.  From 2011 on he had to deal with a Republican dominated House of Representatives and thereafter was able to gradually continue his economic reform through the use of creative Monetary Policy with the Federal Reserve.  The House forced through some legislation which actually exacerbated what then became called The Great Recession.

 

Barack Obama has been President for two terms.  He will end his tenure on January 20, 2017, when Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States.  What the new President-Elect will or will not do is unknown, outside of the fact that he is erratic in his behavior.  His current appointments to his staff and cabinet would indicate that he is moving far to the right.  The appointments indicate also that he is doing the opposite of what he initially proposed, bringing Wall Street and the military into his Cabinet. 

 

As of January 20th the three main parts of the Federal Government will all be Republican dominated, the Presidency and both Houses of Congress.  The Republicans in Congress have been talking about doing away with Obamacare (Affordable Health Care) but if they do that 20 million people would lose their health coverage and numerous millions more would have their young adult children removed from their policies.  In addition those individuals with a prior condition, who the insurance companies were forced to accept, would be dropped from their insurance policies.  The effect of these changes would no doubt cause the Republicans to lose control of both Houses of Congress in 2018. 

 

As I understand the current issue the Republican dominated Congress will do away with Obamacare immediately but the plan will not go into action for three years, not until after the next Congressional Election in 2018.  The Republicans in Congress feel that they can come up with a better replacement over that period of time.

 

Unfortunately the current universal medical plan is an expanded Republican Plan that was developed by a Republican Think-Tank and was first successfully used in Massachusetts when Mitt Romney was governor.  The only alternate plan, which would successfully lower costs, would be a single payer plan run by the government covering everybody in the United States.  In fact it could be successfully financed by an increase in income taxes and no premiums being paid by anyone.    This plan would be unacceptable to the Republicans.  The only basic one that they could in principle support would be Affordable Health Care, which was the Republican plan.  They have opposed it for the last seven years.  2019 should be an interesting year. 

 

And also there is what Donald Trump has promised and will do or try to do.  It is interesting to note that the current Republican dominated Congress does not really trust Donald Trump.  They have only partially funded the Federal Government for a second time this year.  It will have to be funded again in four months during Trump’s presidency.  This action can be used to force him to cooperate with them.

                   *************************************.

What should emerge from this article is that the political parties were close together around the 19th Century.  The Democrats emphasized the rural or agricultural areas and the Republicans the urban or business cities.  Other than that the two parties tended to, more or less, cooperate.  The Progressive or Reform Movements that came about from the 1880s to 1920 was a function of men from both political parties.

 

From 1921 on, with the assentation of President Warren Harding we have the modern Republican Party.  Presumably because of scandal Harding died in office and was replaced by his Vice-President, Calvin Coolidge, who was then reelected to serve another term.  It was under these two men that modern Republican principles were developed and continued under the next President, Herbert Hoover.  The forms of government regulation that had been brought about by the Progressive Movement were done away with.  The Free Market was allowed to function unhindered.  This brought about the Great Depression of 1929.

 

Four years later, in 1933, the Democrat FDR became President.  He brought about the New Deal, experimenting with all forms of socialism to put the country back on its feet.  He kept was worked and discarded what didn’t.

 

FDR changed the function of government, making it responsible for the welfare of its people.  This was a new concept excepted in the 20th Century by virtually all the industrial nations.  This concept was actually carried on by both political parties in the United States until the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  Will it continue?  There are many who feel strong doubts.  We are at an interesting or frightening point in our history.

 

Trump’s election seems to indicate a return to the policies of the 1920s.  Could we be facing the possibility of a return to the Depression of 1929 or to the Housing Debacle of 2008, to the potential of a far greater depression than that of 1929?  It is a distinct possibility considering Republican control of the Presidency and the Congress.  And, of course, there are Trump’s attitudes and his appointment to important government jobs.  Republicans seem to have a short historic memory!

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.

*********************************

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.

****************************

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.

*******************************

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.

*************************************

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.

***********************************

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.

***************************************

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.

**********************************

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.

*****************************************

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

[b1]

The Weiner Component #147 Part 1 – Development of Money & Its Uses

Various Federal Reserve Notes, c.1995. Only th...

Various Federal Reserve Notes, c.1995. Only the designs of the $1 and $2 (the latter not pictured) are still in print. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Embed from Getty Images

Probably the most misunderstood entity that exists today is money, currency, what it is and all the ways it works in the existing societies.  The problem with money is its history, what it was and is, and how the concept is generally understood by most people today.

 

Originally money was an object of value like gold, silver, or some other precious entity.  Presumably, in places like early Phoenicia, well over two thousand years ago, goods were traded for precious metals.  This was done with scales; gold or silver would have a fixed value and an equal value of goods would be traded for a set amount of the precious metal.  Eventually someone or a group of someones came up with the idea of stamping a set weight on the gold and coins came into existence.  They were gradually refined, as time went on, with stamped pictures of the rulers profile and with these specific coins with set amounts of money came into existence.  From this, over the centuries, with occasional breaks in the sequence, the concept and use of money, set amounts of gold or silver, developed.  It was until the end of the first third of the 20th Century an exchange of value for value, the goods and services for the coins (money).  Money was as good as gold because it was gold.

 

The problem that developed over time was that the amount of gold and silver available for currency was dependent upon mining discoveries or exploitations of different parts of the world.  For example in the 16th Century Spain gutted the New World of its gold supply causing a 90 year period of inflation in Europe that lasted through most of the fifteen hundreds.  By the 17th Century there was again a shortage of the gold supply in Europe and not enough money (gold coins) available to supply all the monetary needs for economic growth on the Continent.  Consequently the value of gold rose and periods of deflation occurred, the value of the gold coins increased.

 

The problem here was that there were two totally different processes which were supposed to balance each other but never did.  Precious metals had to be discovered and mined at the same rate that business between and within nations expanded.  This never happened.  Added to this were economic systems like mercantilism, which hoarded gold by creating royal monopolies within European nations.  Economically much was not understood then.  And the amount of gold was never enough to cover all the needs for monetary growth.

 

The use of paper came into existence largely during the Renaissance with letters of credit, which allowed simple transfers of large amounts of currency.  This would eventually become paper money and checks.  Paper money was initially issued by banks and could, presumably, always be exchanged for gold or silver.  Of course if everyone decided to exchange their paper money for gold at the same time there would be a run on the bank and it would go bankrupt since generally they issued a lot more paper than they had gold.

 

Paper money was also issued by governments during times of crises when gold was in short supply, like the United States government did during the Revolutionary War or the Northern and Southern Governments during the American Civil War.  They did not have adequate gold or silver supplies to pay the cost of the wars.  Since the South lost the Civil War its money became worthless while the Northern greenbacks were eventually redeemed for gold coins.

****************************

Up until 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt had assumed office as President, money was mostly gold and silver.  Other metals like nickel and copper were used for smaller coins.  The paper one and five dollar bills could be redeemed for silver; they were silver certificates.  The larger denominations were presumably redeemable for gold; they were Federal Reserve Notes.

 

Actually after 1933, the use of large bills being exchanged for gold ceased.  In the U.S. the Roosevelt administration collected all gold coins, melted them down into gold bars, issued paper gold certificates that were held by the Federal Government, and issued paper money starting with the ten dollar bill and going up.  These were Federal Reserve Notes which the banks distributed then and thereafter.  They were used in place of the gold coins.

 

The gold standard was essentially a fiction.  In 1933 the money supplied was doubled as the value of gold was legally doubled, going from $16 an ounce to $36 an ounce.  This essentially paid for Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Similar actions would also be done in other industrial nations.  The problem that existed was that there still was not enough money in circulation to meet the actual needs of most nations.  There would not be enough money available until World War II when it tended to be freely printed by the various governments.  During the war, since most production was going toward the war effort, there was more money available than the goods and services that could be purchased.  People worked double shifts in the factories and earned lots of currency, far more than they could spend.  At the end of the war there would be a large buying splurge that would create jobs for a good percentage of the returning veterans.

 

In 1969, under President Richard M. Nixon, the last limited amount of stored gold behind the dollar would be removed and the Federal Government would sell a large percentage of its gold supply.  It would cease to legally buy all gold mined within the country.  Gold would within a relatively short period of time, several years, go from $36 an ounce to $800 an ounce.  It would later go to well over $1,000 an ounce and eventually rise to $1,800 an ounce.  At this time one of the agencies in Texas would buy gold and set up its own depository.  Later, gold would drop down to around $1,100 an ounce, where, with continued slight oscillations in price, it would remain in 2016.

 

This entire process has been going on for the last 46 years.  The value of gold is determined by the economic laws of supply and demand.  The value of gold, silver, platinum, titanium, and other precious metals are determined by the amount of supply and the demand for that supply.

 

In 1969 the silver would also be removed from new coins and all money would become tokens, generally copper sandwiches, having almost no value within themselves.  All money became a valueless instrument for the exchange of goods and services, having no real innate value in itself except that of the word of the nation issuing it.

 

Today money of one country has to be exchanged for that of another when one visits Europe or Asia or, for that matter anyplace else that isn’t part of one’s country.  With very few exception it has no relevance in another country but it does have an exchange value in the banks of other countries, where generally, for a small fee, it can be exchanged for the currency of that particular nation.

 

Money is no longer as good as gold, there is no longer any gold behind it.  The metal has become too expensive and its supply is too limited to be used for a base for currency.

 

This in a nutshell is a short simplified history of money and its uses.

****************************

Now, in terms of the modern world what is money and what are it uses?  Today money serves a myriad of purposes.  While it is no longer an object of intrinsic value it still serves as an object of inherent value.  It is, first of all, a form of score-card which demonstrates ones’ standing in the overall society, like Donald J. Trump the billionaire.  Mainly it allows the traditional exchange of goods and services within the society and between nations.  But in addition to this money also functions within the nation in relatively new ways.

 

According to most economists there are various forms of economics.  For our purposes the two more important ones are Microeconomics (small) and Macroeconomics (large).  Everything that has so far been considered falls into the area of Microeconomics (small economics).  In essence an individual has so much wealth (gold) or earnings that comprises what he/she possesses and earns.  That can be spent to satisfy needs and wants or saved for a future time of need or desire.  Some of it can be used as a commodity and invested in income gaining property or stocks and bonds or anything that will pay an income.

 

Virtually every individual or family unit fits into this category.  So also do government entities like municipalities and individual states.  Their incomes would be comprised of taxes and fines.  If any of these people or entities need more money than they are taking in or have then they can borrow.  For individuals and families there are banks and credit unit loans or credit cards.  For municipalities and states there are short and long term bond issues.  These eventually must be paid off with interest.  This is usually tax free for state and local governments and ridiculously high for credit cards.

 

Of course the object with individuals and families is to live within their incomes.  There are big-ticket purchases like automobiles and homes that generally do require long term payments or occasional emergencies like a large auto repair bill or a sick child.  With cities and states the taxes are supposed to be high enough to cover their expenses.  But they also have long term expenditures like roads and bridges which are inordinately expensive and must also be paid off over the long term.

 

The problem that comes up with individuals and families is when too many short-term expenses are charged to credit-cards, much more than can possibly be paid off in a billing cycle.  Then the recipients are paying 18 or more percent interest on these loans and life becomes an uncomfortable struggle to survive.  Particularly since the standard of living for many people will continually exceed their incomes.  This is not unusual with many families.

 

With municipalities and states the same pattern can occur.  The entities income does not match their expenditures.  This can be caused by a large number of reasons besides irresponsibility on the part of the city fathers.  Industry can move out of the area drastically reducing the tax base or other changes that drastically affect the tax base such as a natural disaster or a recession or depression.

*******************************

All this, prior to 1933, would also include the individual nations.  They would also be funded by their incomes in taxes and fines.  But from that point on, by changing from money being precious metals to printed paper, the situation became different for all the industrial nations that had switched to paper money.  And in the United States, particularly since 1969, all printed money is just that, official paper with numbers stamped upon it which in itself has no real value; it has become merely a means of trading goods and services for goods and services.

 

Federal or Central Governments still follow the age old practice of Microeconomics, collecting taxes and issuing fines for different forms of misbehavior.  But, more importantly, now in addition they also practice Macroeconomics, wherein they attempt to control the amount of money continually present within the nation.  They tend to try to keep inflation low and economic growth at a steady pace of about 3 to 4%.  Countries like modern China prefer a growth rate of 8% which they are no longer able to maintain.

****************************

Economics is concerned chiefly with the description and analysis of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.  What we have mainly looked at so far has been Microeconomics, dealing with individuals, families, local and state governments.  Macroeconomics deals with the National or Federal Government and applies these principles to the entire economy of the nation.  Its ultimate purpose is to use this knowledge to positively regulate the economy of the entire state in order to avoid economic downturns and keep the nation at its level of highest efficiency.

 

Consequently Macroeconomics (Big Economics) is now, in addition to collecting, controlling revenue, and attempting to maintain a regular level of growth a regulatory device, attempting to even out the overall incomes of the majority of the population.  Income taxes are graduated, that is, the more the individual earns the higher is his/her tax rate.  This is truer in European and Asian nations than in the United States where the graduated income tax rate is currently toped-off at $400,000 and the percentage of income paid at that amount stops rising regardless of how high the income is beyond that amount.

 

It would seem that the bulk of the Congressional Legislators, particularly the Republican legislators, have no real knowledge of modern economics and are still functioning with only an awareness of Microeconomics.  Some of the far-right, Tea Party, legislators have publically stated that they totally understand economics because they have raised families.  Consequently their reaction to economic downturns is to use a “common sense” approach which, in turn, worsens conditions.

 

It would seem that in the United States the one occupation that requires no knowledge of economics or government is that of a Republican Congressman.  Since taking over the House of Representatives in 2011 they have just passed one bill in 2015 that applied Fiscal Policy; and that was a continuation of a law that expired which added a small tax to the purchase of gasoline that has been used for road maintenance.  Every other bill dealing directly or indirectly with employment actually decreased it, adding to the level of unemployment within the nation.  One can safely say they have been penny wise and dollar stupid.  They have favored government economizing over growing employment.  And even here they have not been consistent, going on mad spending splurges like the 1.145 Trillion Dollar Funding Bill of 2015.

***********************

Basically the Central Governments issues paper money as it is needed by their particular society.  The National Debt is itself partly a fiction since the Government owns the majority of its own National Debt and will use it at times to adjust conditions within the nation.  The amount of money in circulation within the society is supposed to be the full amount needed for the nation to operate at its highest level of efficiency.

 

The Agency, in the United States, that does this is the Federal Reserve.  It continually monitors the entire economy throughout the fifty states and territories belonging to the nation.  On a constant basis it is supposed to continually fine tune the overall economy.  The Federal Reserve has twelve districts that cover the entire nation.  To a certain extent its powers are limited.  It can make adjustments to the economy but the changes or corrections it makes generally are slow in coming about.  Even though its’ Board of Directors meet once a month and carefully considers what is happening in the overall economy it can miss or misconstrue important economic changes within the society.

****************************

The Democrats, the political party begun by Thomas Jefferson in the late 18th Century which still persists, during the Great Depression of 1929 took control of the Federal Government in 1933.  They tended to totally dedicate themselves to helping the public pull out of the Great Depression.  They dedicated or rededicated themselves to helping the ‘forgotten men” survive in what had become almost overnight an alien world.  They became responsible for the welfare of all their citizens, creating what Franklin D. Roosevelt called a “New Deal” for everyone, caring for those who could no longer properly care for themselves.

 

Freedom to the Democrats meant freedom from want and need.  President Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care (Obamacare) meant an extension of these rights.  To the Republicans, on the other hand, freedom means government withdrawal from the public lives, giving them, among other things, the right to starve, freeze, and die.

 

In solving societal problems the Federal Government in 2009 and 2010, with the Democrats controlling both Houses of Congress and the Presidency, saved the banks and the United States auto industry by extending them massive loans and the Public by enacting Affordable Health Care.

 

According to Mitt Romney, speaking for the Republicans during his 2012 Presidential Campaign, he would have done neither of these.  It should be noted that the Affordable Health Care Law was modeled after a similar law which Romney had signed into law during his one term as governor of Massachusetts.

 

The probability would have been in 2009, if Republican actions were taken by the Republican candidate, John McCain that the United States and the industrial world would have fallen into a depression far greater than that of 1929.

*******************************

What we are dealing with here is Macroeconomics (Big Economics).  The application of vast amounts of money to parts of the economy to avoid an economic disaster that would affect everybody in the U.S. society.  President Obama did this upon assuming office over a two year period.  At the end of that time two important events occurred: first, for various reasons during the Midterm Election of 2010 the Republicans achieved a majority in the House of Representatives and second, 2010 was a census year in which the seats in the House of Representatives were reapportioned to adjust for the increase in the national population.  In those states which the Republicans controlled they gerrymandered the new voting districts to their advantage whereby they were able to get enough seats in the House to maintain control of that body.  In fact they were able to get and keep their majority in the House even though more votes were cast for Democrats throughout the United States in the next Midterm Election.

 

What followed from 2011 on was that no fiscal policy bills were passed.  In fact what the Republicans did in Congress was to shrink the size of the Federal Government when possible and actually increase the unemployment problem by decreasing funding for both federal and state governments.  The chairman of the Federal Reserve at this time was Ben S. Bernanke.  After unsuccessfully requesting that Congress pass Fiscal Policy laws numerous times he came up with Creative Monetary (Money) Policy.

 

Both Bernanke and Obama were able to work through the Great Recession and point the country toward recovery by the use of massive blocks of spending, adding large amounts of currency to the National Cash Flow.  What was being dealt with here is called Macroeconomic (Big Economics), the Federal Government controlling the economics of the nation and freely spending money in order to avert disaster.

 

The question arises: How much currency can the Federal Government print and distribute without destroying the economy?  That’s an interesting question?  Remember the money itself has no inherent value.  Theoretically any amount can be printed and issued.  But if it is done endlessly growing inflation will occur and the value of the currency will systematically decrease until it becomes valueless.

 

The limitation in terms of the amount issued would be determined then by the rate of inflation.  Once inflation reaches some single digit point, say 5 or 6%, then the limit would be reached.  But this limit was never reached.  Inflation stayed at 2 to 3%.  In 2009 President Obama added well over a trillion dollars through bank and auto loans, plus other forms of expenditure and the inflation rate stayed at its original level.  Later in the Presidency the FED for a period of well over two years added 85 billion dollars a month to the Nation Cash Flow, $45 billion buying up pieces of mortgage paper and adding $40 billion directly to the National Cash Flow. The FED added well over a trillion dollars.   Again there was no change to the inflation rate.

 

Interestingly, with all this cash being added the indication was that the country had a phenomenal need for additional money to circulate so that economic growth could occur.  Congress should have been the agency applying most of these funds.  If they had the monies could have been more focused on upgrading the dated infrastructure of the United States.  Instead over half the funds resolved the Housing Dilemma created by the deregulated banks from the 1980s on.

 

It should be noted that the money spent on mortgage paper, unlike the bank and auto loans which were repaid with interest, was never directly recovered.  The mortgages in all 50 states had been fractionalized into well over a hundred parts each and applied to many different Hedge Funds.  The record-keeping that the banks had set up to expedite the financing and refinancing was unbelievably sloppy.

 

In essence no one owned a fair percentage of those houses because it was almost impossible to put enough pieces of mortgage paper together to make up over 50% of the ownership in these properties.  Consequently how could anyone foreclose on any of these homes?  The spread sheet or sheets that the government would need to determine when it owned enough of any property would probably cost more to generate than the properties were worth.  In any event the Federal Government was more interested in solving the Housing Problem than in collecting on its debt.

 

In addition all those people would no longer be deducting their interest payments on their income taxes.  And a percentage of the home owners suddenly had more disposable income which they spent on short term activities like more eating out, infusing the additional currency into the National Cash Flow which, in turn, increased productivity and employment in the nation.  The government would indirectly get a good part of this money back in increased taxes across the nation.  Here the Federal Government was spending vast amounts of money, which Congress refused to do, upgrading the entire nation.

 

 

 

 

The Weiner Component #81 – The Concept of National Wealth

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933. Lietuvių: Fra...

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933. Lietuvių: Franklinas Delanas Ruzveltas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The question of wealth is confusing. To an individual it appears to be the amount of money he or she possesses; but to a nation it would be the goods and services they produce in a given period of time, usually a fiscal year measured in terms of dollars and cents. This is the Gross Domestic product, the GDP. Which is the actual wealth? The productivity or the money?

Looking at a small area of United States’ history should answer this question.

On Tuesday, Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929 the New York Stock Market collapsed. Over a period of time the value of the Market dropped from 89 billion dollars to 18 billion dollars. (This was when a one ounce gold coin was a $20 gold piece and was officially worth $16.) That event was concurrent with downturns in all the other industrial nations. The rest of the U.S. economy would follow the stock market with massive unemployment, part time employment, and underemployment. Unemployment would drop to 25% of the working population. The President, Herbert Hoover, and his Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon, believed that the Market Mechanism would eventually bring the Market back to where it had been before the crash. It did not.

From October 1929 until the end of 1932 the country sank into deeper and deeper depression. The President and his Secretary of the Treasury kept stating that “Prosperity was just around the corner.” That corner was never reached.

John Maynard Keynes, an English economist, developed the theory of Keynesian Economics. Government, during times of recession and depression must spend more than they collect in taxes. During times of prosperity it can pay off its debt. Some of this was attempted on a small scale by President Hoover.

In 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President of the United States. He began, what he called, The New Deal; a process of massive spending that it was hoped would bring about recovery.

Roosevelt funded this in a very interesting way. Money at that time was gold and silver coins. All the gold coins in the country, with the exception of a small number held as souvenirs, were collected, melted down into gold bars, and stored in depositories like Fort Knox. Gold certificates, equaling the value of the gold coins, were issued to the Federal Reserve. The value of the gold was then by Act of Congress doubled from $16 an ounce to $32 an ounce. The ounce of gold had traditionally been the $20 gold piece. Each one was replaced by two $20 dollar paper bills marked Federal Reserve Notes. In one simple act the money supply of the United States had been doubled.

We were actually off the gold standard but the fiction of its continued existence remained. The money was as good as the gold that stood behind it. Roosevelt could now easily fund the early New Deal. All it took was a simple act of Congress and the money supply was doubled.

As the New Deal progressed, from 1933 to 1940 shortly after World War II broke out, Congress authorized spending by the Roosevelt Administration far beyond the amount of taxes that were collected or the extent of the money supply. The government followed the principles of Keynesian economics. This did not get the country out of the depression. In order to do that the money supply would have had to have been more than quadrupled. But it did allow recovery to begin. It took World War II for complete recovery to occur.

From the outbreak of W.W.II in 1939 to the end of 1941 when the U.S. became directly involved in the war the country could not meet the demands of Europe and Asia for goods. The depression ended; there was full employment. The Allied nations shipped their gold (money) to the U.S. to pay for their purchases of goods (food and assorted war materials) until they ran out of money, then purchases were made on credit until that became too large. At this point the Roosevelt Administration evolved the concept of Lend Lease, which was a fiction. From this point on the United States gave the necessary war materials to the Allied Powers.

World War II was a very expensive enterprise. How great was the cost to the United States? The best we can do is an approximate answer to this question. According to the Oxford Companion to WWII the cost to the U.S. was $306 billion. President Truman in an address to a joint session of Congress stated that the U.S. contributed $341 billion to World War II. This did not include the $50 billion given out in Lend Lease.

During WWII the United States became the “Arsenal of Democracy,” supplying all the allied nations with food and the materials of war. Within the country all efforts were aimed at fighting and winning the war. Practically all manufacturing was for the war effort. Farmers could not produce enough food. Many people set up “victory gardens,” growing vegetables on their lawns, while those in apartments used window boxes. Virtually everyone on the home front was involved in the war effort. Children collected scrap metal and old newspapers that could be reconstituted and used again. Housewives saved their used grease from cooking and turned it in to their butchers. It was used in the production of munitions.

With everyone on the home front employed, men, high school students after school, and women, and many people working double shifts money was readily available but there was little upon which to spend it. People could not freely spend money; most items were rationed or not produced; everything was focused upon the war effort.

The government, presumably to raise money for the military effort, sold war bonds. They could be bought in numerous denominations. The smallest was a $25 bond which cost $18.75 and was redeemable after ten years. School children bought 50 cent war stamps that they collected in books, until they saved $18.75, then turned them in for war bonds. All the resources in the country was focused upon the war effort.

Where did all this money come from? What was its effect upon the economy of the United States? Obviously Congress passed bills and the President signed them. And the money was created. Also all this currency that the country created was spent upon goods and services in the U.S. It was all this spending that took the country out of the depression and into a new level of economic prosperity. During the war people had money, many for the first time in their lives, but could not spend it.

In 1944 the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act (G.I. Bill) was passed by Congress and signed by the president. It was a law that provided a range of benefits for returning WWII veterans: low cost mortgages, low interest loans to start a business, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend college, high school, or vocational training, as well as up to one year of unemployment compensation. It was available to every veteran who had been on active duty during World War II for at least 90 days and had not been dishonorably discharged. Combat was not required.

By 1956 about 2.2 million veterans had used these benefits to attend colleges and universities. An additional 6.6 million had taken some kind of training program. This does not count the number who started small businesses with low government interest loans or who bought a house with a low interest VA loan.

In April 1948 Congress passed the European Recovery Program, generally called the Marshall Plan. In this bill the United States gave economic support to help rebuild European economies after the end of WWII in order to prevent the spread of communism. During the four years that the plan was operational the U.S. donated $13 billion in economic and technical assistance to help the recovery of the European nations.

If we consider the inflation factor in terms of the value of gold, then an ounce of gold was worth $32; today an ounce of gold is worth in the area of $1,300. If you divide $32 into $1,300 you get an idea of the level of inflation since 1948.

How was all this paid for? The answer is by an acts of Congress. The government legislated the funds into being. What then is the real wealth of the United States? The goods and services it produces.

What happened to all this debt that Congress generated? How did the U.S. pay for the depression, WWII, the GI Bill, and the Marshall Plan? Of course the answer is obvious. Congress approved the expenditures and the government printed and issued the money.

Before we consider the National Debt there are some other factors to consider. First the population of the U.S. in 1930, several months before the census was taken, was 122,775,046. By 1940 it had gone up approximately by ten million people; and by 1940 by another eighteen million. By 1960, the year of the next census the population was 179,323,175 Americans, an increase of over twenty-five million. While the executive in each introduction to the official census has apologized for the sloppy enumeration, this number of individuals was actually counted.

With the constantly increasing population the economy needs an ever growing amount of money in the National Cash Flow. In no year, from the beginning of the Great Depression on, did the economy increase by less than one million people, generally the number was larger. If money had not been added to the economy there would have been mad inflation and total economic collapse.

What the Federal Government did was to add by acts of fiat multi-billions of dollars to the national economy. The initial cost of the New Deal was covered by doubling the money supply and creating the fiction of gold being behind every dollar. Later paper money was simply created for the latter part of the New Deal, Lend Lease and W.W.II, the G.I. Bill and the Marshall Plan. There was never any real gold behind the dollar. In fact, there was never enough gold in existence to make up an adequate gold supply for money.

What was the advantage of using this token money? It allowed full productivity to occur within the United States and the industrial world. World War II, forgetting for the moment its horrors, put everyone back to work. The G.I. Bill made this country into a middle-class nation by educating millions of people with college and providing for them to start their lives on a more secure level than their parents had lived. The Marshall Plan, in addition to allowing European nations to recover from the devastation of war, was also a six plus billion dollar checkbook of funds to be spent in the U.S. creating an endless number of well-paying jobs.

 

The wealth all this paper money produced was the production of goods and services that allowed America and a good part of the world to emerge after the Second Great War.