By Manifesto Joe
Republicans either have a great sense of sick humor, or they think everybody else has amnesia, or they are brainwashed stoolheads -- or some of the above, or all of the above.
Some of us were paying attention to matters political and economic over the past 30-plus years. Deregulation was mainly a Republican idea, in all facets of the economy. The mantras were all very familiar: If you hamstring business to where it can't operate, everybody suffers; the free market is self-regulating anyway; competition will make the pie bigger for everyone. ...
There were Democrats, dating back to Jimmy Carter, who fell for all this and become accomplices. I can't blame them too much -- I'm all for leaving the market to do anything it can do better than the public sector, and that encompasses many things.
But recent evidence seems quite clear that finance and oil drilling are not strong suits for unfettered private sectors.
New Deal-era banking regulations (the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933) were rolled back by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. Yes, President Bill Clinton did sign that bill -- he now acknowledges that to have been a mistake. Please note that the three legislators whose names were attached to the latter act -- led by the former Senate solon of kleptocracy, Phil Gramm of Texas -- were all Republicans.
Listening to Republicans talk now reminds me somewhat of the 1970s, when you could actually hear some of them blame the Vietnam War on the Democratic Party. Remember Bob Dole's remark during his vice presidential debate with Walter Mondale in 1976, in which he talked about "Democrat wars"? I remember Barry Goldwater saying something to that effect as well.
Blaming Vietnam on Democrats is, historically, quite a stretch. Yes, they were in office during the 1965-68 escalation, and it was Cold War Democrats who crafted Vietnam policy. But was this against the opposition of Republicans?
Hardly. The main problem Republicans seemed to have with the Vietnam War was that, according to them, the U.S. wasn't fighting to win. They favored MORE aggressiveness, MORE escalation and MORE involvement, not less. With the lonely exceptions of Mark Hatfield in the Senate and Pete McClosky in the House, there were few high-profile Republican critics of the war -- only critics of its conduct. In 1964, Republican presidential candidate Goldwater even suggested that the use of "low-yield" nuclear weapons should be seriously considered. By 1968, it was the Democratic Party, not the Republicans, who were split up the middle over the war.
And, please recall that it was two Democratic senators, Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, who cast the only two votes in Congress against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964. Neither man saw his political career survive the decade.
Yes, Wall Street and the Gulf of Mexico are both a long way from Vietnam. But what is recalled is the Republican propensity to rewrite history for their own political purposes. To hear some of these people tell it, Barack Obama, with his 16 months in office, is largely responsible for the Gulf spill, for the Wall Street/subprime mortgage crackup, and for the Tate-LaBianca murders. And whatever he didn't do, Clinton and Carter did.
Let's see: Who was in office in 2005, when we saw BP's first big disaster, the explosion of the oil refinery at Texas City, Texas? Who didn't follow up with any advocacy of more stringent safety regulations of the oil industry, even after negligence on BP's part in the 2005 blast was so evident?
And, let's see: Who was in office when possible criminal prosecution of BP over a 2006 Alaska pipeline rupture was killed?
And, let's see again: Who was in office most of the time that the federal Minerals Management Service was supposed to be inspecting that Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf at least monthly, and failing to do it?
No, Republicans are not the exclusive owners of modern deregulation. But they were certainly the primary "architects" of it. And their anti-government rhetoric became a self-fulfilling prophesy: When you keep saying that government is the problem, that it can't do anything right, and then you put people of that philosophy in charge of what little regulation there is ... don't be surprised by the meltdowns. And, please don't blame it on those who sometimes just went along, in some cases reluctantly.
I'm reminded once more of something the late Molly Ivins wrote. It was something to the effect that when you deregulate something, you will often find out why it was regulated in the first place.
Republicans, enough revisionist history, please. At this time in history, we need to get busy cleaning up the messes. Obama seems willing to try, if you will let him. But so far, that hasn't seemed to be your inclination.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In
Postscript: Please note that although this post is dated Saturday, May 15, it was not actually posted until Thursday, May 20. This discrepancy is the result of the saving of an earlier draft, and I don't think it will be worthwhile to go to the trouble of altering it.