Ivan W. Parkins
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About Ivan W. Parkins:
Dr. Parkins is a retired professor of Political Science from Central Michigan University. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. Dr. Parkins served as a naval officer during WWII aboard the battleship Alabama. He is a recent widower with three daughters, 3 grand children and 2 great grand children. Dr. Parkins has written extensively, having authored 3 books and a newspaper opinion column for many years.
On the Inside
In This Issue:
-Representatives and Budgets
-Obama Land (Some points along the way to…)
OUR ROAD TO OBAMA-LAND
SOME HIGH/LOW POINTS ALONG THE WAY
By Ivan W. Parkins
What raucous health care debates and related news have disclosed recently is that our House of Representatives is grossly dysfunctional. I believed that I saw that coming half a century ago. Then, I, at least, had respect for Speaker Rayburn.
There have now been some positive changes in the House, but mostly they have been overwhelmed by other changes in our political system. The seizure of authority by the Supreme Court in 1962, did produce greater justice in districting. But the big changes were the continuing growth of business in Washington and of our population, separating Representatives more and more from their constituents. Along with that separation came the increased role of the mass media as our main link between individual citizens and their Representatives.
Prior to 1956, all newly elected Presidents, if they had won by majorities of the popular vote, had also won majorities in both Houses of Congress. That, no doubt, was due largely to partisan influences, e.g. presidential coattails and straight-ticket voting. Since 1956, George Bush in 2004 has been the only Republican President to win a Congress of his own party along with his popular majority. And Bush’s congressional majority was a very thin one. All Democrat winners of the Presidency by popular majorities continued to get Democrat Congresses as well. Carter, who had won the office by a majority slimmer than Bush’s, had gotten huge majorities in both Houses of Congress. To this situation the media responded with much abuse—of Bush!
We were having a huge expansion of the media, especially with television in nearly all our homes. And there was an equally huge expansion of professional communicators, journalists, lawyers, professors, entertainers, artists, etc. Never before had these people been so central to our society and economy. They wanted more political influence, and their positions enabled them to take it, without even asking.
An early clue to the situation was fallout from President Kennedy’s assassination. President Johnson appointed a commission of our most prestigious political and legal leaders, under the chairmanship of Chief Justice Warren, to investigate the crime. That Commission did an extensive and sound job, but found only one simple and well supported explanation. Various people attempted to exploit small oversights and ambiguities of the Commission into more ominous solutions, with very little supporting evidence. The media gave wide notice to many of these alternatives. For them, it was news, readership, and money. Even now, opinion polls show that most Americans distrust the Warren Commissions’ report. Where would the most crucial political and legal judgments finally rest in decades to come?
The Presidents, Johnson and Nixon, who followed Kennedy pursued with vigor the Vietnam War to which Kennedy, following the containment strategy of the Cold War, had largely committed us. Both won, by record margins, re-elections to the top office. But, Johnson was discouraged from seeking an additional term and Nixon was forced to resign. The ultimate authority in America seemed to rest elsewhere.
Anti-Vietnam movements were rocking college campuses, encouraged by good press coverage. Meanwhile, the press was featuring every weakness and casualty that our war effort suffered, but belittling the enemy brutalities and losses, both of which greatly exceeded our own. The antiwar movement, centered in the growing communications professions, assured our defeat in a war that, even our former enemies have admitted, we were winning on the battlefields.
In the post Nixon-Vietnam era, President Ford began with wide popular support, but with a heavily Democrat Congress. He soon lost media and public support when he pardoned ex-President Nixon. More thoughtful judgments, many of them coming later, were that the pardon enabled us to move on with less division and bitterness.
Meanwhile, the Democrat Congress ran wild; seizing more power over budgeting, imposing severe limits on police and intelligence agencies, requiring that banks reduce their strict lending practices, and generally allying themselves with the “mainstream media.” From 1954 to 1994 the House of Representative had a 40 year, unbroken, period of medium to very large Democrat majorities. The fact that several Republican Presidents in that period labored under a special disadvantage got little attention when comparing their achievements with those of Democrat Presidents.
We are now involved in a critical political conflict that might have occurred earlier had it not been from the substantial popular victories, 1980-1992, of Presidents Reagan and Bush. Meanwhile, neither Democrat President Carter nor President Clinton produced much basic political change. And, the House of Representatives even shifted to a slim Republican majority under Newt Gingrich’s leadership. That shift foreshadowed what was to come.
The overwhelmingly “liberal” and Democrat mainstream media of the anti-Vietnam to Gulf War days were encountering new and substantial competition. Cable news, Fox News, a more broadly focused WALL STREET JOURNAL, and talk radio were supplying some potent alternatives to THE NEW YORK TIMES, CBS and its sisters, several news magazines, and other major elements of the old media “mainstream.”
Now, President Obama’s dilemma is that he got most of his education, formal and otherwise, from some of the most “progressive” elements of America’s Democrat indoctrination system. Bush bashing is rapidly losing its salience. And Obama is not really closely tuned to “down home” America. He is headed into what closely resembles a “perfect storm” in three parts.
1. The choice of health care as his first big issue was a mistake. It affects nearly everyone personally, and cancels much of the voter apathy that had become an important part of our politics. Furthermore, even successful changes are most likely to produce confusion before benefits for most of those who do benefit.
2. The old “mainstream media,” that have provided much of his support, are largely addicted to President baiting, it has been part of their bread and butter. The newer information suppliers are likely to cover small “liberal” mistakes unlike mainstreaming back-paging of a few tens of millions of innocent deaths from an errant environmental project, as occurred with the DDT ban. Prior to DDT, mosquito borne malaria had infected millions of people annually, especially in Africa. The chemical's discoverer received a Noble prize for the great reduction in human deaths that it facilitated. But, neither science nor legal process was sufficient to prevent a ban being rammed through the Environmental Protection Agency once aggressive environmentalists, fearing unproven danger to birds, concentrated on it. That ban has now been lifted, but its cost in human lives far exceeded Hitler's holocaust.
3. The House of Representatives, having long flourished on voter apathy and festered on odiferous patronage, is not a strong leg on which to base support for an inherently controversial program.
Whether our First Black President will prove able to advance life in America is now very much in question. It may become more appropriate if he is remembered not as Black, but as the too aberrant and ambitious paladin of another subculture, the verbal elite.
THE DEMOCRAT’S ADVANTAGE—NOW
By Ivan W. Parkins
Are you aware that Nancy Pelosi’s Democrat majority in the House, now, is more than twice as large as any Republican majority that a Republican President has had since President Hoover won in 1928? It is also just about average size for the advantage enjoyed by Democrats most of the time since 1928. And, every previous Democrat President has had support of at least one House majority larger than Pelosi’s.
PARTISANSHIP AND BUDGETS
By Ivan W. Parkins
If you doubt that, for about 80% of the time that even our oldest citizens remember, Democrats have dominated the House of Representatives, or that their majorities in the House have been, on average about 4 times larger than Republican majorities of that period, please check some of the many available records.
So, how does a President, when he is faced with a large opposition party majority in the House, accomplish the things that he believes he must do? He accepts compromises, and that with modern day Democrats usually means spending, and taxes, for things that the Republican President opposes at least in the present budget year. That has been the fate of every recent Republican President throughout much, or all, of his administration.
One of the first things that Congress did after forcing President Nixon out was to vote itself a larger role in the process of budgeting—and taxation.
President Ford, advised by his medical experts that a very dangerous flu season was coming, approved expenditures and legal protections to assure adequate flu vaccine. In order to get that, he had to approve a bill that also included a larger expenditure for job training which he had recently vetoed.
President G.H.W. Bush, trying to counter Saddam Hussein’s seizure of Kuwait, was faced with Democrat resistance, not only to war, but to enacting the annual budget without substantial increases of social spending and taxes. Bush gave up his “no new taxes” pledge, won the Gulf War, and lost his chance to be reelected.
Representation of at least, some people, arose from medieval traditions, especially England’s. Kings, in need of more money looked for ways to raise taxes with less public resistance. They granted, to at least some of their more prosperous subjects, a voice in taxation issues.
Our Constitution goes considerably farther. It provides for a House of Representatives first among the several branches. And it further requires that “All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; . . .” The Constitution also provides, and practice has enlarged, roles of the other branches. But, in evaluating how our political parties have managed finances in recent times, it is important to take notice of which party has held majorities in the House and how large those majorities were over what periods of time. Most people will, I believe find, as I have recently, that partisan advantages of Democrats in the makeup of the House of Representatives have been even larger than I had noticed.
The last House majority of Republicans as large as 100 votes was the one that greeted Herbert Hoover following his election in 1928. FDR’s first five House majorities were: 194, 219, 246, 93, and 105. The next best Republican majority in the House was the one of the 80th Congress, 57 votes. It was lambasted and ended by Truman in the elections of 1948. Eisenhower entered office with a House Republican majority of 10 votes; he was the last Republican President to hold any House majority until 2000. In his last two years Eisenhower faced a Democrat majority of 130 in the House. But let’s get beyond the Great Depression, New Deal, and World War II, and the period of their aftermaths
About half a century ago President Kennedy entered office, along with a House of Representatives in which the Democrats had an 89 vote majority. That majority was just about the average of those the Democrats have enjoyed for 38 of the following 50 years. In that period Democrats had six House majorities of 100 or more. Meanwhile, during the Clinton and Bush Administrations there were 12 years of Republican majorities in the House, but they averaged only about 20 votes. The net result, if we make a combination of years and sizes of majorities, is to give Democrats in the House an advantage of about fourteen to one over Republicans in shaping the nation’s budgets during the past half century.
Shouldn’t the above conditions count in assessing the comparative spending habits of Democrat and Republican Administrations? All of the above is very much a matter of public record. Too little of it has been given much notice by our “old mainstream