Not too long ago, my wife and I attended a TV football party in south Tulsa. With a lopsided score, the conversation turned to a livelier subject — politics. The crowd was, of course, top-heavy with Republicans. With each point expressed their faces became more flushed, eyes bulging a little more and veins popping in their foreheads as they railed against the liberal programs.
Finally a lone, liberal voice asked: “Will you people name me one bill your party ever passed to help the working man of this country?” The question created much din and clamor, and someone sputtered, “Well, what have the Democrats done?”
The liberal responded with a few programs and was interrupted by howling and disdain. He noted that he had not promised they would like the programs and he asked to complete his statement — a difficult task to ask of Republicans.
He spoke of Social Security; Medicare-Medicaid; Peace Corps; unemployment insurance; welfare (for the poor and corporate); civil rights; student grant and loan programs; safety laws (OSHA); environmental laws; prevailing wage laws; right to collective bargaining (which brought about paid medical insurance, paid vacations, pensions, etc.); workers’ compensation; Marshall Plan; flood-disaster insurance; School Lunch Program; women’s rights.
He spoke of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established a minimum wage, instituted child labor laws, and set up time-and-a-half pay for over a 40-hour week.
He mentioned FHA-HUD with its public housing, urban renewal and 44 million residential homes (before WWII almost 70 percent of our nation were renters; by the 1970s this had been reversed).
And farm-conservation subsidies — USDA programs, Farmers Home Administration (the bankers didn’t want to make rural loans), small flood-control lakes (more than 3,000 in Oklahoma alone), rural water districts, rural electricity (REA).
The GI Bill was passed, which the Republicans at the time bitterly opposed. They were salivating over millions of returning veterans to hire as cheap labor. More than 8 million have used college benefits, creating millions of entrepreneurs; most of us had never dreamed of college. For the unemployed GI, there was $20 a week for 52 weeks to help get started (a lot of money in those days). The Veterans Administration provided more than 2 million home loans.
For the bankers at the football party, it was pointed out that the liberals saved their industry with the creation of FDIC and FSLIC, insuring their deposits, and saved Wall Street with the establishment of the Securities Exchange Commission.
The oil men came on bended knees to FDR at a time when East Texas oil was 4 cents a barrel and begged him to save their industry. He did; prorationing overturned the rule of capture and the days of flush production were over. Prorating has served this great industry (and nation) well.
And the list went on and on, but of course this group didn’t let him get halfway through. He noted they were weary, inattentive, so again he challenged them to offer up any Republican legislation examples.
“I’m sure your party has authored one or two comparable bills from time to time, but I can’t think of any, and apparently you can’t either. What it boils down to is this: the liberals dragged you into the 20th century scratching and screaming with your heels in the mud, fighting anything that’s progressive, everything that’s made this country great. You Republicans have never understood that the spending power of blue-collar workers, obtained through Democrats and unions, is what really made this country great. You really believe “The Good Life” was obtained from your own endeavors. You cloak your greed in religion and patriotism, railing against any form of tax, never comprehending that these programs have benefited all of us and our country.”
Well, I almost didn’t make it out of the house. My wife and I didn’t even get to see the end of the football game.
If Reps. Steve Largent or J.C. Watts had been there, perhaps politics would never have come up, only the game plan … pity.
Clint C. Gold is former mayor of Moore, OK and a retired savings and loan executive.