Thu, Aug

Wanted: A Few Good Muckrakers

ALPERN AT LARGE - Now that our armed forces have overseen the death of one of our greatest foreign enemies (Osama bin Laden), and combines both military and diplomatic efforts to minimize or eliminate our other enemies abroad, the time has come to focus our energies on those who are destroying our nation and world from within.

We’ve got our Tea Party, who has made it clear that the historical fight against “taxation without representation” is something that holds true today, but what’s missing is another historical fight that must be revisited; what we now need are a few good Muckrakers.

Who are the Muckrakers?  They appeared at the turn of the 19th century and lasted into the 1930’s and which spawned much of the balancing efforts of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his New Deal and created a Progressive Movement that helped establish worker’s rights, women’s rights and an end to child labor. (Link)

The term might or might not be attributed to President Teddy Roosevelt (one of my own personal heroes), who both cautioned against being too negative on our United States while also demanding that evil be fought anywhere and everywhere among us, no matter how socially, politically or economically empowered that evil might be.

Of course, 100 years later, we have to acknowledge a “Muckrakers 2.0” whereby much of those who claim to fight for worker’s rights and even women’s rights have their own deleterious agendas (well-meant or not), just as those who claim to fight for capitalism and taxpayer’s rights have hidden and harmful agendas that destroy us from within.

Therefore, in our modern pro-transparency and pro-credibility era, even the slightest impression of a cover-up or of a hypocritical approach to our problems is sure to backfire or cause a painful blowback.

For example, those Republican leaders who claimed to oppose inappropriate spending but who themselves spent inappropriately (whether to benefit corporate pals or the military establishment), or who claimed to champion the rule of law but enabled illegal immigration just to thwart the minimum wage, were and are themselves at risk of being hurled out of office by the incipient Tea Party.

In other words, the GOP political leadership has the most to fear from the Tea Party, and that fear is a very good thing.  And for those who pejoratively refer to the entire volunteer/grassroots Tea Party as “teabaggers”, particularly for those liberal/Democratic icons who would otherwise be expected to respect volunteer/grassroots efforts (and who probably wouldn’t appreciate being referred to as “d-bags”), using that term hurts their own credibility at a time when BOTH political parties need credibility more than ever.

Must we all be reminded that the leading political affiliation, both in the state of California and the entire nation, is “Independent/Decline to State?”

So when the Tea Party Movement shows up (and we really should exclude the fringes of that movement that have nothing to do with the anti-tax, pro-Constitution, anti-nanny state core of this volunteer movement) and scares the bejeezus out of the GOP ruling elite but yet empowers those who actually stand for something, an equivalent and venerable Muckraker Movement is entirely in order to empower those who wish to restore the credibility of Democratic Party (and the nation) as well.

After all, I don’t think it’s a secret as to which political party the current City Council of Los Angeles is, and the former City Council of Bell was, affiliated with and I’ve never heard a single Democratic friend or family member cozy up to any shenanigans from those entities.

I also don’t think it’s a secret that Governor Jerry Brown, who’s come a long way towards cleaning up our state government, might lose in his efforts to convince taxpayers to raise their taxes and balance the budget because he really hasn’t come down hard enough on the prison guard and education unions whose own agendas have virtually destroyed voters’ credibility with Sacramento.

BUT THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE:  Whether it’s our state deficit, our national debt or just the huge financial meltdown that’s robbed so many ordinary Americans out of their wealth or even their homes, there are many within the corporate elites that need to be brought to bear (many of them who cozy up behind GOP or even Democratic efforts to reduce corporate regulation).

AND THE FACTS REMAIN FACTS:  Wealth accumulation, jobs being sent overseas without penalties, corporate welfare and a host of related evils (and yes, the word “evil” is appropriate) are destroying and demoralizing this country, and the GOP-dominated Tea Party Movement hasn’t focused enough on these issues…thereby necessitating a Democratic-grassroots dominated Muckrakers Movement to fight those evils.

SO CREDIBILITY IS A MUST AND HYPOCRISY CAN’T BE TOLERATED:  If a “Muckrakers 2.0” is to be successful, then dismissing the excesses of educational and other public sector unions (who prey on the middle class as much through inappropriate taxes as do our corporate elites through inappropriate tax policies), will destroy real reform.

The middle class can and must be restored, and it will have to be restored with an approach that combines governmental regulation with a promotion of, not diversion from, a healthy work ethic that gives credence to the idea that hard work and honest living will achieve economic success without creating class warfare.

A rising tide is needed to lift all boats, and neither outdated left-wing nor failed right-wing aphorisms will be bought by the general public in this modern age.  Our country needs Modern-Day Muckrakers more than ever, and President Teddy Roosevelt’s advice still holds true today:

“There are, in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, in business, or in social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform, or in book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful.”
Theodore Roosevelt

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently cochairs its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected].  The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)   -cw

Vol 9 Issue 36
Pub: May 6, 2011