Saturday, September 06, 2014

Ronald Reagan: "When You're Younger, You Have Fiery Ideas"


Yesterday afternoon, the Washington Post's Greg Sargent pointed out that statewide Republican candidates-- even in the South-- are moving ever so slightly back towards the mainstream and away from the kind of crackpot right-wing extremism that has degraded the GOP brand so baldy in recent years. Arkansas teabagger Tom Cotton is suddenly saying he'll vote for the minimum wage increase in his state-- which isn't what the Koch brothers have been paying him to say. And four of them are ducking questions about Medcaid expansion (i.e., Obamacare) in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and even North Carolina. "Their position," wrote Sargent, "in a nutshell, is: Obummercare is evil and it must be destroyed immediately, but I really don’t want you to think I would ever kick people off the Medicaid expansion!"

Personhood fanatic Cory Gardner (R-CO) and anti-Choice radical Thom Tillis (R-NC) are both yammering unpersuasively about their love for the pill. Can anyone be falling for these ploys? These political neanderthals all have clear records.

Thursday night, while my car was going through an automated car wash, California Governor Jerry Brown was debating a Chamber of Commerce Republican, Wall Street shill Neel Kashkari. Roland thought we should bet on how many times Kashkari-- who was born in 1973, halfway through Reagan's own time as governor-- mentioned Reagan's name while we were in the car wash. Right now both of us are reading-- and loving-- Rick Perlstein's new book, The Invisible Bridge and each us us has crossed over from the Nixon part to the even more engrossing Reagan part. In fact, Perlstein's is the most profound picture of Reagan any historian has drawn so far.

Usually when right-wing politicians try to lionize Reagan, they're talking about the Reagan before he was completely senile and just when he was a bought out corporate whore, first to the big Hollywood studio elites and later to that fount of American fascism, General Electric. When he was in his late 40s he had completed his transmogrification from a dim-bulb liberal to a dim-bulb Republican. His excuse as that "when you're younger, you have fiery ideas." He still had some fiery ideas well into 60s, ideas that helped define the far right of American politics back then-- and, embarrassingly, to this day. Perlstein describes a very rare little bump in the road between Reagan and one of his liege lords when he was tramping back and forth across America, on behalf of GE, babbling the nonsense he had read, and not fully absorbed, from the right-wing propagandists at Readers Digest:
Sometimes Reagan pointed to the Tennessee Valley Authority as the most glaring example available to those seeking to rescue a nation giving up its freedom on the installment plan, just as he'd learned from one of Lem Boulware's favorite books, Economics In One Lesson. But the TVA bought its turbines for its massive damns from GE. In his first memoir Reagan describes an awkward conversation with GE's CEO Ralph Cordiner, filled with long pauses, that concluded with Reagan asking, "Mr. Cordiner, what would you say I I said I could make my speech just as effectively without mentioning the TVA?" He replied, "Well, it would make my job easier." Reagan dropped TVA from the speech.
And these days, you never hear rightists yammering about the TVA anymore, although it was once one of their top bêtes noires. It's not like he needed it though. There was a whole world of crackpot, outside of the mainstream demagoguery for him to woo his audiences, "preaching," as Perlstein explained, "genial hellfire about the nine years America had left before it was all slave or all free, about federal aid to education as a 'tool of tyranny,' and about welfare recipients as 'a faceless mass waiting for a handout.' He also volunteered his services to the American Medical Association's Boulware-style lobbying campaign against President Kennedy's plan for government health insurance for the elderly [yes, what would soon become, against dogged Republican Party opposition, Medicare]. For what the AMA's strategist labeled 'Operation Coffee Cup,' Reagan recorded a speech on an LP to be played at housewife's gatherings [below]. In it, he proclaimed 'Medicare' as but an opening wedge for a government takeover of 'every area of freedom as we have known in this country.' First the federal government would assign where doctors would be allowed to live. Then-- who knows? 'We are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was like in America when men were free."

Yesterday when I woke up I found a tweet from New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter that led to a Concord Monitor article by Jake Wagner, chairman of the New Hampshire Federation of College Republicans, presumably the ex-chairman now, about why he's voting for Democrats in November. It had been, he wrote, his mission to recruit millennials into the fold of the Republican Party and motivating them to get involved. "[I]f these same students and recent graduates desire to have their voices heard and their interests fought for, they would be well-advised to vote Democrat this November."
After many months of reflection, I have come to realize that the Republican Party has failed to see the big picture on issues that matter most to my generation, particularly in regards to the crushing student loan debt that burdens our lives. The dire consequences of this crisis are felt far more personally than most issues today, and as such, I am compelled to advocate for leaders and policies that will address this problem head-on.

As a recent undergraduate student in New Hampshire, I know firsthand just how difficult it is to succeed as a young American, especially when it is estimated that a whopping 74 percent of New Hampshire students-- myself included-- leave college with an average student loan debt of $33,000-- the second-highest average in the nation.

As a result, we are putting major life decisions on hold, and struggle every day to have faith in the dreams that led us to pursue higher education in the first place. Even for those of us who have found work, our ability to contribute to the economy is crippled, and for many of us, the financial stability of our own families is at risk.

This kind of oppression must not be tolerated. Millennials and middle-class families deserve immediate and effective solutions to this crisis.

The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, is a prime example of how leaders from the Democratic Party are leading the way on this issue. If passed, the bill would allow students and families to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates, ultimately saving them thousands of dollars along the way.

Refinancing homes and cars has long been a successful way for middle-class families to improve their economic conditions and alleviate the financial difficulties they face. Granting recent graduates this chance would likewise give young Americans the opportunity they need to thrive.

In fact, more than 125,000 students in New Hampshire alone would be affected by this legislation. With more money in their pockets and more control over their lives, this positive change would help ignite our state’s economy.

Unfortunately for us, however, Republicans in the U.S. Senate recently blocked the Bank on Students bill. Their approach to this issue is one that simply fails to address the immediate and pressing nature of this crisis.

In the past, GOP leaders have advocated for the government to play a lesser role, if any, in regards to higher education, often pointing instead to the problematic rising cost of tuition.

To be sure, the high cost of college has indeed helped to produce the staggering student loan debt we see today.

But when it comes to actually combatting this trend in New Hampshire, Democratic leadership is once again leading the way.

Gov. Maggie Hassan and our Democratic representatives in Concord restored funding to New Hampshire’s higher education system, resulting in the first in-state tuition freeze in 25 years.

In addition, low-income students are now receiving scholarships to attend college.

Just recently, the Community College System of New Hampshire announced that tuition rates at all seven of their colleges would be lowered for this coming school year.

…[M]illennials are in fact optimistic and upbeat about their future. Therefore, we owe it to ourselves to support leaders who are dedicated to solving the problems that restrain our true and full potential.

As students begin another school year, it is my hope that young voters across New Hampshire will judge candidates not just for the ads they run or the words they say, but for the actions each candidate has taken to positively and directly impact their lives.

Once they do, they’ll find that supporting Democrats this November is by far the right choice to make.

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