American politics is a shell game, the new three card monte. The answer to straight questions is never where it appears. For example, when it comes to investments, a recent Times article reported Indiana’s governor saying businesses prefer states with right to work laws. I live in a right-to-work state. It ranks 47th in family income, and has 30 of 45 counties with persistent poverty for more than 20 percent of its population for more than 30 years. It ranked third or fourth in unemployment during the recent recession. Right-to-work laws didn’t bring jobs or income.
Other important American ideas are being moved around. Democracy was the idea that each purpose participated in and had a stake in the common good. Today the meaning stands on its head; democracy is the idea that the public welfare is to remove the common elements of our strength like social security and place them in private hands, increasing the risks for eligible workers while adding profits to companies who manage the accounts.
This shift of public functions to private companies for profit is an income transfer and a redistribution of wealth to the private sector from the public treasuries. The pea is being moved.
Yet not one Republican senator has called for a reduction of private contracts. It is especially telling that BP retains $10+ billion in contracts, mainly with Defense, even after the Gulf disaster of the Deepwater Horizon blow out. Yet the unions our forebearers built are under attack.
Mantras, the phrases that express our social outlook and cherished beliefs, are shifted like peas in the game. Republican candidates for party chair are asked how many guns they own, as if gun ownership was an attribute of political leadership and vision. Daily the cry goes out that our $15 trillion economy with record corporate profits for the last two quarters, is teetering on the brink. Daily the cry is raised about illegal immigrants drug dealers crossing our borders—who when they reach the US apparently work for less than minimum wage!
But when gloom sets in, I remember SC’s Ellison Durant “Cotton Ed” Smith and the16 Democrat and 8 Republican US senators voted against women having the right to vote. The South Carolina legislature voted overwhelmingly against it in 1919. States opposed federal intervention that imposed constitutional guarantees.
Cotton Ed walked off the 1936 convention floor during the invocation when a black minister began to pray. In a 1924 speech in the Senate well, Smith supported a bill to “shut the door,” on immigration. He claimed he didn’t “want to tangle the skein of America’s progress,” or “the genius of our government.” The country made advances and achieved much since his time, a reason not to despair. But many achievements are left to be made and sustained.
We can debate stands on anchor babies and headless bodies, and whether they think tax cuts will create jobs, despite the fact that they haven’t and didn’t, but for the first time since the 96th Congress, fewer women will be serving in the House.
Speaking at a rally sponsored by the 2010 SC CEO Roundtable, SC’s Jim DeMint harkened back to the days of Cotton Ed, when government routinely protected the right to discriminate, declaring his opposition to persons with intra-gender sexual preferences from teaching in schools.
The 1923 Supreme Court made headlines when it accepted as legal canon “the Adamite theory of creation.” In U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind, the court reasoned that a person born in India did not fit the statutory definiton for “white persons.” By that standard, SC’s new governor’s parents could not have become naturalized US citizens, as they are today.
But Chicago’s Lucy Parsons, born enslaved in Texas in 1853, of African, Native American and Mexican heritage, married to a ex-Confederate in 1871, a stalwart of the labor movement, voiced the achievement principle for our current times: “never be deceived that the rich will let you vote away their wealth” and “governments never lead, they follow progress.” (Which explains much about Barack.)
In the time of Cotton Ed, my 96 year old uncle tells me SC field workers received 35 cents a hundred pounds for picking cotton by hand. Today, work farms will result when the worker protections, rights, and safety nets have been dismantled.
Lastly, achievement is tied to awareness. When I was a kid visiting New York, I say the monte played on the streets of Harlem. A few people beat it, but I soon came to realize the pea was hidden for an ulterior motive every time.