Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Real Deal

Democrats stand accused of lacking vision. Not just by Republicans, either. Moderate stances are berated by the far left as selling out, and extreme left stances looked at skeptically as unattainable by the middle. While hanging on to this bucking bronco is a challenge, Dems revel in the significant change brought about when they stayed on the horse together.

We count things like the civil rights movement, the race for the moon, and The New Deal, complete with its progressive policies such as Social Security, laws to protect labor and the GI Bill in our win column. Big stuff. Changed the face of America. The basis for progressive American equality.

Hardly. Until we understand what went wrong, we haven’t got the true chance to be the party for positive change. Here’s why.

Between 1945 and 1955, the federal government transferred more than $100 billion to support retirement programs and fashion opportunities for job skills, education, homeownership and small-business formation. Together, these domestic programs dramatically reshaped the country's social structure by creating a modern, well-schooled, homeowning middle class. At no other time in American history had so much money and so many resources been targeted at the generation completing its education, entering the workforce and forming families.

But most blacks were left out of all this. Southern members of Congress used occupational exclusions and took advantage of American federalism to ensure that national policies would not disturb their region's racial order. Farmworkers and maids, the jobs held by most blacks in the South, were denied Social Security pensions and access to labor unions. Benefits for veterans were administered locally. The GI Bill adapted to "the southern way of life" by accommodating itself to segregation in higher education, to the job ceilings that local officials imposed on returning black soldiers and to a general unwillingness to offer loans to blacks even when such loans were insured by the federal government. Of the 3,229 GI Bill-guaranteed loans for homes, businesses and farms made in 1947 in Mississippi, for example, only two were offered to black veterans.
-- Ira Katznelson

Two, for God’s sake. This is not a case of the naughty south erecting borders for racism. These were federal level programs, kids. The inherent issue here is that compromise, to get these programs in place, required racism to be accepted by every member who voted to enact them. The results were devastating to African Americans. These programs legislated astonishing growth and education for whites in this country and cemented the economic racial divide. Our country gained immense power and influence in the global arena. We weren’t setting the bar. We WERE the bar. Well, some of us were.

Do we really think we don’t need 30 percent of our brainpower?

The New Deal screwed America by reducing our growth ability. It limited us to only some of our brains and talents. It fostered a festering unrest that costs billions in everything from lost potential to poverty costs. I want you to conceptualize what YOUR neighborhood would be like today if The New Deal had been set up for every American. Think about abandoned stereotypes, think about actually UNITED states, think about the staggering potential in every area. Think about less poverty, less crime, less despair.

Now think about New Orleans.

We’re big on blaming Bush for being an insensitive and inept leader. He is. That said, Katrina’s shame belongs to the entire nation. We all own a piece of this despair.

This is where Dems need to stand. All of us. We need to create A Real Deal. We need to be candid and without guile. We need to rescind racism from the language of our legislation. We need to open our American mouths, start talking about and stop buying into racial scare tactics and stereotypes. We need to hold the vision of an America firing on all cylinders as the ONLY reason we are running. No more half-assed reaching out to Black America. No more half-baked promises for change. We need every damned brain in this country. We do NOT need outsourced people untrained and earning below their potential. We do NOT need drop out and pregnancy rates through the roof in schools located in impoverished neighborhoods. We do NOT need skewed rents to consolidate neighborhoods by race. We can NOT accept dehumanizing people based on skin color.

The Real Deal is unfettered opportunity. Dems, willingly embracing this as a number one priority and running candidates capable of bringing it to fruition, will be unstoppable. We all saw, as they drowned and struggled and cursed -- the folly of The New Deal, three generations in. Understand this; none of this is going away. We need to deal with it, together, now.

It’s time to get REAL.