While it was started in the late 19th century, progressivism (or liberalism) is a movement that is alive and strong in today's world, and grips members of both political parties. It has gripped many of us like an insidious parasite intent on taking over our minds, and by a slow, gradual process, it has caused America to evolve into a country -- a people -- that would not be recognizable by the founding fathers.
So, you may be asking, what is this movement? What is progressivism?
Progressivism: Accoridng to Wikipedia, "Progressivism is a political and social term for ideologies and movements favoring or advocating changes or reform, usually in an egalitarian direction for economic policies (public management) and liberal direction for social policies. Progressivism is often viewed in opposition to conservative ideologies."
I think that definition needs further analysis.
The belief of progressives was that man was capable of improving the lot of all in society, and that government must play a stronger goal in solving social problems and creating economic equality among the masses.
Glenn Beck, on his program on Fox on Monday, February, 8, 2010, provided a great way of describing progressivism. Basically, he describes it this way:
Marxism: This is an attempt by a group of people, or movement, to create changes to government through revolution. They force governments out fast, and make changes fast. They want to give us socialism, or communism, or libertalism fast.
Progressive: This is an attempt by a group of people, or movement, to create changes to government through evolution. They know people won't accept a rapid change, so they do it gradually, through baby steps. They plant seeds, and slowly watch them grow, flourish. They want to give us socialism, or communism, or liberalism slowly, almost to the point we barely notice the fabric is changing. To get their progressive programs passed, they make them look good, and then they change them "slowly." And, the enemy of progressivism is the Constitution and Conservativism. They see the constitution as obsolete. The goal is to "gradually" turn America into a socialistic, or ideal nation where there are no poor, no evil, and no conscience.
They want to change the American mindset, change the political mindset, increase taxes, increase the welfare state, inculcate their values in our children that progressivism is good and all those who oppose it are evil. They generally support a progressive tax system, where the more money you make the more taxes you pay. They support high taxes for the rich, and no taxes for the working poor, even though this goes against the Constitution of "treating all men equal." They do this because they believe governments should change as times change.
They support government programs, regardless of the cost, to improve the general welfare of the poor and the working community. They tend to be anti-large corporations, and pro-union, and they support universal healthcare systems. They are concerned about environmentalism, and believe in regulations to force companies to comply with global warming standards.
They believe in reforming government, including the Constitution, to create a more ideal world, or at least a more ideal United States, one that adjusts to the changing society.
Another interesting thing to note about progressives, is that in their attempt at creating a more efficient (ideal) system, they often believe elite individuals, such as Senators or the President, know better what the people need than the people themselves. And therefore, they believe in a central government as opposed to local government, which is the antethesis of what the Constitution and conservatism represent.
Thus, if progressives get their way, it will mean the end of the U.S. Constitution.
As Glenn Beck said, you may not notice the change right away. It's like a beach that is slowly eroding. One day you go to the beach and say, "Gee, look how much is no longer there." Look how many freedoms we no longer have because of progressives.
They got abortion made legal the marxist way. They tried to get the healthcare bill passed the marxist fashion, all in one 2,000 page bill. They have wanted universal healthcare for years. We may not get there immediately, but by passing a program here, and passing a program there, we will eventually get what we want. By changing a child's opinion here, and doing the same there, we will slowly convince people progressivism is a good thing.
They have slowly taken over the schools. While it was unconstitutional (per the 10th ammendment), progressives had the fed take over our schools by telling us it was for the better good. They sold us on social security telling us it was for the better good. They sold us on the war on poverty telling us it was for the better good. And, to pay for these programs, they have to increase progressive taxes. They convince us to vote for them even though we will see our taxes increased, because doing so is for the betterment of society.
Yet progressivism wasn't always so radical.
According to digitalhistory.uh.edu, "By the beginning of the twentieth century, muckraking journalists were calling attention to the exploitation of child labor, corruption in city governments, the horror of lynching, and the ruthless business practices employed by businessmen like John D. Rockefeller." According to u-s-history.com, Muckrakers also drew attention to the horrors of urban slums, dangerous factory conditions, and other ills.
The movement later called to improve harsh conditions at home and at work. They wanted to improve working conditions, to end child labor, and better conditions for women. Authors like Upton Sinclair made Americans aware of the poor conditions inside meat factories, and a call was made for regulations in the food industry. This ultimately lead to regulation of the meat packing and drug industry, and increased regulations for industry to improve conditions for workers.
Progressives supported the eight-hour work day, improved safety and health conditions in factories, workman's compensation laws, minimum wage laws, and unionization. They also championed for prohibition, as alcohol inhibits the path to an ideal world. This lead to lawmakers deciding they knew what was best for Americans, and the ultimate signing into law the 18th ammendment which banned the sale of alcohol.
They also gave the public, "more direct control over government through direct primaries to nominate candidates for public office, (and) direct election of Senators (via the 17th ammendment).
While some of these these causes were noble and necessary, the movement would eventually "evolve" to represent more radical changes, such as creating a more social, liberal and ideal society.
It seemed to peak with the presidencies of democrat Woodrow Wilson as industrial conditions changed much of the landscape of America. The "progressives" believed programs needed to be instituted to help Americans adjust to a changing times. They also believed that the Constitution was a stagnant document, and should be changed to represent changes in society.
Seeds were planted by Woodrow Wilson and many other republicans and democrats to follow, and today those seeds are still growing, if not flourishing already.
The Constitution was signed into law in 1788 in an attempt to limit the powers of government, and to protect the power of the people. The founders saw how easy it was for governments to take away the freedoms we are all born with, and they wanted to prevent governments from doing that in the U.S., and therefore they created the Bill of Rights.
Yet, since there are only seven things the Constitution allows federal lawmakers to rule upon, this great document stands in their way. To obtain the euphoria they seek, the world that is ideal where there are no poor, no rich, no impoverished, no global warnings, no conscience, they seek to either ignore or change the Constitution.
A perfect example of this was when Woodrow Wilson decided to create an income tax to pay for progressive programs. This was unconstitutional, so they convinced the people to support the 16th amendment by telling them the maximum tax would be 1%. Hence, the progressive income tax was created.
Yet, as soon as an income tax was made legal, progressives increased the top marginal tax to 73% so the rich would be paying for programs they created to the "benefit of society." The economy sputtered in to a recession because the rich stopped buying goods, stopped investing and stopped creating new jobs.
Thus, there was a trickle down effect, where the middle class and the poor were left without jobs. The number of people unemployed increased, and the lot of middle class America worsened. While the progressives didn't like this, they saw it as a short term good in the process of making the "gradual" change to a more perfect America.
Warren G. Harding became president and lowered the top marginal income tax from 73 % (or maybe it was 75) to 25%, and the result was that tax revenues tripled. He promised, "We will not lift up the poor by dragging down the rich."
Harding died of an apparent heart attack, and Calvin Coolidge became president. He did his part in continuing what Harding had started, limiting the scope and power of the government to create an environment for the economy to thrive. He cut regulations, he continued to cut taxes, and he was to the 1920s what Ronale Reagan would later become to the 1980s and the conservative movement.
The economy soared. The automobile and movie market were started in the late 19th century, but it wasn't until the 1920s that these markets soared, and the reason was because of the easy market environment. Car sales skyrocketed by almost 121%, sales and products associated with car sales skyrocketed (rubber, metal, glass, etc.), and with it the economy soared. Telephone sales skyrocketed, and so too did products and sales of telephone products. Anybody who wanted a job had one. The world was great -- it was ideal.
As a result of all this "real progress" the per capita income in America increased 37%. The average income of all Americans grew 37%. The rich got richer, the middle class got richer, and the poor got richer. Despite what progressive taught, in the 10 years following the tax cut income to the Federal government tripled, and the national dept decreased from about $24 billion to $18 billion. Stated a better way, the economy during the "Roaring 20s" grew like it never has before or since.
The roaring 20s were possible because the government -- Calvin Coolidge and company -- did not punish the rich or tell them how to invest their money. The government did not tax the rich to give that money to the poor for the betterment of the people. No. Yet, at the same time, people donated to charities at record levels, and the poor benefited like never before.
The poor for the first time were able to watch baseball games in person, and they could listen to it on the radio for the first time ever. Common folks could watch movies on the big screen for the first time ever. Common folks could afford to invest in the stock market, and the stock market boomed as a result. The market boomed because as a result of common sense policies by the Federal government. Everyone benefited from the bottom up.
You see, Coolidge preached personal accoundability and responsibility. He created a market where anyone who had in incentive to improve their lot in life did.
Ah, but the progressives hated this. They saw the Roaring 20s as a decade of greed. They saw it as a time when the rich were getting richer at the expense of the poor. Since they believe you cannot achieve an "ideal" world in this environment, they sought to obtain power so that the upper class could pay there fair share in creating programs that would benefit society as a whole.
So, Herbert Hoover became the first progressive republican President in 1926. He regulated banks, increased the marginal tax codes, and, as a result, the economy tanked. With regulations so high, banks started failing. Businesses struggled.
And, inevitably, the stock market crashed.
For the benefit of the progressive cause, when progressivism is taught in public schools, and here on the internet as you can see by the links below, progressivism is taught as a movement that lasted from 1880 to 1920, and then it ended.
Yet, the wise among us know the progressive movement lives on. It lived through FDR, it lived through lyndon Baines Johnson, it lived through Jimmy Carter, and now it is thriving through Obama.
(To be continued)
For further reading: