Be Prepared…To Kill Trees

February 19, 2009

I was alerted to this item from Working Assets/CREDO Mobile recently (though apparently the news story is a couple of weeks old), but I thought it was particularly worthy of mention.

You see, it turns out that the Boy Scouts, under the radar of our dear corporate media cousins, have been selling off forest land like crazy…

Five newspapers carried out an investigation that found dozens of examples in the past 20 years of Scout councils logging and selling land donated by people who wanted it to be preserved in its natural state and used for camping and similar activities. Some Scout properties that have been clear-cut contained vulnerable watersheds and wildlife.

“In public, they say they want to teach kids about saving the environment,” said Jane Childers, a Scouting volunteer
in Washington State. “But in reality, it’s all about the money.”

Eugene Grant, board president of the Cascade Pacific Council in Portland, Ore., defended the sales, noting that the Boy Scouts’ ban on homosexuals and atheists has cost the organization donations and members.

“The Boy Scouts had to suffer the consequences for sticking by their moral values,” Grant said.

That’s one of the most disgusting copouts I’ve ever heard.

It’s not about honoring “moral values.” It’s about obeying the law. And discrimination happens to be against the law!

And to read about the travails of the local chapter of the Boy Scouts in this regard, to the point where they now have to pay market price for the premium digs they rent near Logan Square and the Philadelphia Art Museum, click here (by the way, when we last left this story, the Scouts had filed a federal suit against the city last December, as noted here – I guess, when all you have left to grasp at are straws…).

Finally, this story tells us that “Tweety” himself is going to attend a Boy Scout fundraiser tonight in Johnstown/Somerset PA. I wonder if he’ll be impolite enough to broach the subject of how many more trees will be sold off to buy time for the Scouts to thumb their collective noses at the law of the land (with Matthews’ career in politics vanishing almost as fast as the timber).

Update: I would call this a signal to the Scouts that it’s time to enter the 21st century, as they say.

A Timely Recovery Lesson

February 19, 2009

I don’t have much to add to this great McClatchy commentary by Steven Conn of the History News Service, so here it is…

Since the economic crisis we’re now in is being compared to the Great Depression, the solutions being offered are being routinely compared to the New Deal. Republicans in particular have been quick to pronounce the New Deal a failure as a way of justifying their opposition to the new stimulus package and any other federal response to our new Great Depression.

Congressman Steve Austria, R-Ohio, is so angry at the New Deal that he told an audience recently that Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal actually caused the Great Depression: quite an achievement given that the Great Depression was already three years deep by the time FDR was elected.

Whatever you think of the Obama administration’s proposals, to declare the New Deal a failure gets the history fundamentally wrong. The legacy that FDR created proved remarkably successful and remarkably enduring.

The New Deal operated at three levels: first, the programs established by the New Deal worked immediately to bring economic relief; second, the long-term changes the New Deal made to the structure of our economy brought the cycles of the economy under better control; and, finally, the New Deal re-shaped the social contract between our citizens and our government.

We usually associate the New Deal with the programs it created to put people to work, such as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Republicans hated these programs. They denounced the WPA as “We Putter Around.” The new Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, recently parroted this accusation when he tried to explain that the government never creates jobs, just work.

But the New Deal did provide jobs to hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans, and while they “puttered” those workers managed to build tens of thousands of bridges, paved countless miles of roads, and planted 3 billion trees.

It’s certainly true that those programs by themselves did not end the Great Depression, though they did ease the crisis for the families who gained an income because of the New Deal. So while these short-term programs operated, the New Deal created a set of long-term structural changes to the economy whose impact lasted well beyond the Great Depression.

A few examples: Our bank deposits are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the integrity of stock market transactions is guaranteed, or is supposed to be, by the Securities and Exchange Commission, both created as part of the New Deal. Most important, with the passage of Social Security in 1935 future generations of American workers could look forward to a more secure old age.

Few would argue that these New Deal initiatives have been anything but successful in the roughly 75 years since their creation. Former President George W. Bush wanted to privatize Social Security and do away with FDIC. Notice that Republicans aren’t talking about that any more.

Finally, the New Deal altered the relationship between government and the economy. After World War II, Republicans and Democrats agreed that the government should take a more active role in regulating the economy, that it should use economic policy to promote the greatest good for the greatest number, and that it was obligated to provide a social safety net. They might quibble over the details, but there was a broad consensus around these points.

The result of that consensus was the greatest expansion of the middle class the country has ever experienced. The growth of the economy from the 1940s through the 1960s was widely shared. Conversely, when the economy did go into recession during those decades, the supporting frameworks set up by the New Deal helped keep those downturns relatively short.

In the early 1980s, under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, conservative Republicans set about dismantling this system. Regulations were gutted or not enforced, the social safety net was largely unraveled, and government tax policy shifted money from the middle class to the wealthiest. Since 1980 the result has been a nasty recession in the early 1990s, caused by the failure to regulate the savings and loan industry, and two devastating downturns, one in the early 1980s and the one we’re in right now.

More than that, during the 30 years in which we’ve moved away from the New Deal, the middle class has stagnated. As wealth and assets have shifted to the top 10 percent, the middle class has survived largely on credit cards and home equity loans. Now millions have no way to pay that piper.

The system the New Deal initiated kept us from experiencing a second Great Depression for nearly half a century. We are in our current mess in large measure because we dismantled that system. Republicans would have us be afraid of a new New Deal. But based on the track record of the original, a new New Deal is just what we need.

And just to provide “balance,” allow me to present the wingnuttia viewpoint from Repug U.S. House rep Paul Ryan from Wisconsin (who, according to this, racked up about $50,000 on trips paid for by conservative policy groups, received a 0 rating from the Children’s Defense Fund Action Council, voted to eliminate the so-called “Paris Hilton tax,” and didn’t even bother to complete the 2004 National Political Awareness Test; so much for Ryan’s notion of transparency).

Update: This should be the last word on the stimulus, but I’m sure it won’t be.

Update 2/27/09: That Paul Ryan can sure “wow ’em,” can’t he?

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