Milt Hankins: Regressive politicians are stuck in the past
The catch phrase for liberal Democrats has become "Progressives." Politically speaking, the term is not new, however.
It was first applied to three successive reform presidents at the turn of the last century: Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft and Woodrow Wilson. These three presidents were responsible for a number of exceptional accomplishments for our country. Among other worthy goals, the Progressive Movement promoted farm relief, lower taxes for lower wages, and purification of government through direct democracy by eliminating corruption and undercutting political machines. They also promoted and supported scientific methods in public education, medicine, the finance and insurance agencies, industry and transportation.
Progressivism even crept into theology and religion with the preaching of the social gospel by notables like Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick. Walter Rauschenbusch lead the way, espousing the social gospel in his influential work, "The Theology for the Social Gospel." Fosdick, et al., believed that Christians are called "to improve social conditions, fight poverty, oppression, corruption, and other social ills." While the social gospel as a movement did not flourish, it continued to inspire people such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. throughout the 20th century.
According to the dictionary, to be progressive is to be "broad-minded and enlightened." A Progressive is one who looks forward to and plans for the future. Researching the Progressive Movement, it was only natural to identify its opposite. It is "regressive," and the definition reads: "behavior that is not responsible or controlled or is like that of a child; supporting old methods and ideas that existed in the past; reverting, backsliding." How interesting and informative!
It's not difficult to see why the Congressional Progressive Caucus is almost continuously in opposition to regressive Republicans. Activists among Progressives have always been in the vanguard of reform, finding that old-fashioned ways mean waste and inefficiency. While touting smaller and more efficient government, for example, Regressives are notable for just the opposite. Under President Reagan, for example, the national debt tripled! I've reached the conclusion that if today's right-wing conservative Republicans refer to folks like me as "Progressives," we can appropriately identify them as "Regressives."
Today, Congressional Regressives want to revive the old, supply-side, "voodoo" economics of the Reagan years. Believing the economy fares better at home when the United States is involved in war abroad, they want to go back to the Bush years. They want a large, unnecessary military. They want to expunge subsidies and entitlements, even those earned by hard work, such as Social Security, Medicare and, now, affordable healthcare.
Almost unbelievably, they're unwilling to discuss raising the necessary taxes to support jobs or job-training programs, improvements to our national infrastructure, valuable food programs for our underprivileged families or adequate, low-cost healthcare for most Americans.
Spending their time (and money) getting re-elected, Regressives support the plush political positions they've held for more terms than most of us can remember. They already have the things they deny their constituents. Most of them see only as far as their next obstruction!
Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.
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