Op-Ed

Progressive politics built safety net, created jobs

Roger Guffey
Roger Guffey

During the last few elections, the right wing has bombarded us with tirades, half-truths and lies about the evils of liberals.

In particular, these character assassinations have targeted President Barack Obama as the anti-Christ with a viciousness seldom seen in politics. But none of these critics have taken the time to research the history of liberalism and its contributions to society which have benefited people enormously, so let’s examine that liberal legacy.

Rather than pursuing a strict chronological course, I think a functional approach would be more instructive. I will not belabor Obama’s record other than to say that the Affordable Health Care Act has given health insurance to nearly 12 million Americans and a half million Kentuckians.

Yes, there are still problems with the full implementation of the program, but nearly everyone I know has benefited greatly from the ACA.

What amazes me is that so many older people are so totally ignorant of the fact that liberals are responsible for Social Security started by Franklin Roosevelt and Medicare and the food stamp program started by Lyndon Johnson. Undoubtedly, before those programs were initiated many older people’s lives were cut short by poverty and lack of medical care.

A comparison of the age structure of American population since 1900 has shown a distinct increase in the percentage of people living longer and better lives.

But the contributions of liberals date back at least as far as Theodore Roosevelt. Though he was a Republican, many of his policies would be characterized as liberal or progressive today. Even he recognized the need for better health care for Americans, and yet it took over a hundred years for a liberal president to develop one.

But Teddy Roosevelt also worked to regulate financial markets and break up monopolies that had a history of controlling the economy to suit their purposes. He started the national park system, worked for conservation of wilderness areas, increased the Interstate Commerce Commission to force the “robber barons” to set railroad rates, expanded the powers of the Sherman Anti-trust Act, and proposed the Square Deal that furthered consumer protection.

Many of the policies credited to Woodrow Wilson had their roots in Roosevelt’s programs.

Teddy’s cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, oversaw America’s recovery from the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era by enacting sweeping reforms to help the common citizen.

In addition to Social Security, FDR started the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to stabilize the banking system; organized the Civilian Conservation Corps to put people to work improving infrastructure, including building the Hoover Dam; began the Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate Wall Street; successfully lobbied for the minimum wage; created the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Rural Electrification Program; began the Works Progress Administration to build schools and other buildings; developed the National Labor Relations Board to protect the right to unionize; and created the G.I. Bill to aid returning veterans’ re-integration into society after their military service. He also oversaw the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb and guided the nation for the majority of World War II.

The beneficial contributions of liberals are far ranging. They have pushed through laws that protected our environment, water supplies, food supplies, topsoil and medicine. The right to private access to contraception was protected by a lawsuit sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union.

President Johnson also gave us Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Liberals have long worked to protect citizens from illegal surveillance and overreach of governmental agencies that would encroach on our personal lives and freedoms. Contrary to the outcry about the “war on Christianity” and the “war on Christmas,” liberals have always supported individuals’ rights to worship as they please while preventing anyone from forcing their beliefs on others.

So if you feel you must criticize and demonize liberals, at least have the decency to not talk with your mouth full.

Roger Guffey of Lexington is a retired math teacher.

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