I'm currently reading a biography on William Jennings Bryan: A Godly Hero. I'm struck by how much I like him and the policies he espouses. Well, until we start talking about "free silver" and how much he injects religion into politics. But listen to this passage:
"In big cities, the private charities ran short of bread and clothing, and sympathetic local and state officials could muster more creativity than cash. Detroit's mayor, Hazen Pingree, a Republican reformer, invited the hungary to grow potatoes on vacant city land. By late fall, thousands of immigrant workers were sleeping under bridges and in city parks.
Others tramped along highways and railroad tracks and listened to speakers such as Jacob Coxey, a wealthy Ohioan with a social conscience, who vowed to lead them on a march to Washington, "petitions with boots on", to demand federal jobs and an eight-hour day."
Forget that is sounds a lot like today. Many will think it was the Great Depression, but it was actually the Panic of 1893. You see, before FDR implemented a lot of financial reforms, we had "panics" on a regular basis. After FDR, we had a relatively quiet (economically speaking) period for some 60 years. And we remember who undid those reforms, right class? Well Reagan undid a lot of them but the straw that broke the camel's back (in my opinion) was the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act. And while it was a Republican Bill, the guy that signed it was a Democrat -- Bill Clinton. (If you're interested in all that, you need to be interested in Robert Rubin.)
The more things change the more they stay the same. In the 1896 election (McKinley vs. Bryan), John D. Rockefeller gave the Republican party $250,000 from Standard Oil profits. According to my handy-dandy inflation calculator, that would be $6,790,596.24 in today's dollars. That's 3 times what the Koch brothers donated to beat President Obama in 2012. Well, that's 3 times of what we know about. If you add up what we don't know about, the Koch brothers may have spent 10 times what Rockefeller spent.
Do you understand why people obsess about the Citizens United decision now? Fortunes are being spent to buy votes. And with that much money buying, you can bet somebody is selling.
But let me end this with a twist. With all the coverage on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Rachel Maddow had an interesting, little-known story. Before the march, when Bull Connor was locking up black people in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. King and company were running out of cash to post bail for that many people. Enter a Rockefeller, this time by the name of Nelson. He dropped $100,000 in cash on MLK's lawyer to pay the bail. You don't want me to spoil the whole story. Watch it when you have time.
August 30, 2013