Wednesday, January 02, 2013

frances coralie perkins

There's a story that Abe Lincoln, when he met Harriet Beecher Stowe, opened their conversation with "So you're the little lady who started this war." It's probably just a story -- what academics call "apocryphal" -- but it does convey a truth: that Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery propaganda novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was a key element in forcing the showdown between north and south, for it convinced many that the two halves of the country were incompatible, and their disagreements irreconcilable.

I've began to feel the same way about America's present-day conflict, between a politically radical and very active cohort of one-percenters who are determined to dismantle the modern American welfare state, and the rest of us who have profoundly benefitted from it.

How profoundly? That would be hard to measure unless we lose it. As the old song says, "You don't miss your water till the well runs dry."

Probably not one American in a hundred has heard of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor, and the first woman to hold a cabinet position. Yet she plays very large in American politics today, since all the loud and obnoxious flapdoodle about debts and deficits we're constantly bombarded with by Republicans is motivated by one thing only -- the obsession of a clique among our rulers who are determined to dismantle her life's work -- the New Deal.

I learned all this today when I visited Jon Schwarz's Tiny Revolution site, reading guest author Aaron Datesman's "Coralie and Me," then followed up with further research which supported Datesman's thesis that Frances C. Perkins, more than any other individual responsible for the New Deal, is indeed the "little lady" behind our coming civil war.

Her Wikipedia biography tells us that this close friend of Roosevelt's was the source of the New Deal's ground-breaking programs, "including the Civilian Conservation Corps, (and) the Public Works Administration...With The Social Security Act she established unemployment benefits, pensions for the many uncovered elderly Americans, and welfare for the poorest Americans."

Think about that for a moment. Among other things, Frances Perkins is the person most responsible for the fact that the present depression (the so-called "Great Recession") has not caused nearly as much suffering and deprivation as the depression of 1930-40. Were it not for unemployment benefits and Social Security, it surely would have.

But now there are powerful people among us determined to do away with these protections. How determined are they? Events of the past few days, with the Keystone Kops of the Republican clown car threatening to take the country over Niagara Falls if they didn't get their way re: the phony deficit flap shows they're very determined indeed.

This is coming to a head because a gaggle of selfish, petty, and mean-spirited industrialists in this country have been, ever since these programs were first put into place, obsessed with deep sixing them, on the grounds that some of their tax money paid out through these programs ends up in the hands of people less worthy, deserving, and fragrant than themselves.

Which is no doubt true. Welfare cheats, Social Security chiselers (using SSI) and lazy bums no doubt benefit from transfer payments through the modern welfare state, not just here, but throughout the civilized world. It's the price we pay for having a system that makes it possible for real people, most of whom have never stolen a dime of Richard Melon Scaife's billions, to be able to live in this world.

So suck it up, David and Charles and Sheldon, because without those things, you wouldn't be in the one percent. What I mean is that without them, you wouldn't have a country to be the one percent of.

Right now we need a Lincoln to lead us, but instead we've got the modern incarnation of Millard Fillmore. Get ready for more of the same as what we just went through then, when the debt-ceiling limit comes up again a couple months down the road. Only somebody needs to let Barack know that this time we're taking a few trophies, with or without him.


Joe said...

Dave, thanks for mentioning her because I didn't know that.

Dave B, a.k.a. catboxer said...

You know, I had heard of her, but had no idea of the significance of her role until yesterday.

Live and learn, I guess.