Among the many Republican presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower anticipated the current self-reinforcing aggregation of wealth and power to corporations and the already-wealthy.
In 1864, in a letter to William F. Elkins, Lincoln wrote:
“As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working on the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.”
The current ‘war on terror’ is a far cry from the Civil War, but the efforts of the wealthy to direct even more wealth and power into their own hands is as transparent at the politicians’ willingness to do their bidding.
And, as I mentioned in an earlier post [Back to the Future], President Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial-Congressional complex, although he deleted the word Congressional in his final draft. The 1950s, when Eisenhower was president, saw the growth of the middle class and was, for a large percentage of the population, a time of widespread prosperity. But that prosperity didn’t arise from trickle-down economics, low tax rates, or weakening the unions: corporate taxes were actually much higher than they are now, taxpayers in the highest income brackets had marginal tax rates over double the highest current rate, and unions were powerful and growing.
General Eisenhower, who served as the supreme commander for Allied forces in WWII, emphasized the need to move away from weapons, fear, and hostility towards disarmament and trust. As early as 1953, his first year in office, he warned that
‘Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.’
Today, we see expanded military budgets and reduced funding for education & human services, all while granting more tax breaks to corporations and to the super-rich. We also see concerted efforts to eliminate or restrict collective bargaining, one of the few effective limits on corporate exploitation and wrongdoing.
Blaming the budget crisis on expenses that actually benefit people rather than the tax breaks and bloated military spending is a calculated effort to mislead and deceive the people, and to accelerate the transfer of wealth to the super-rich and balance the budget on the backs of the poor.
It’s sad that today’s Republicans—and most of the Democrats, too—don’t seem to be embarrassed or ashamed of their actions.