Front and Center

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Tag Archives: History

Just Random: A Fresh look at Hitler and the Third Reich

Yes, with all that is going on in politics, talking about Hitler and the Third Reich is totally a tangent.

I am a World War II buff (much to the chagrin of my wife, who makes me go watch the History Channel in a separate room).  I recently watched a 2 part series on the rise and fall of the Third Reich.  I knew the general idea of how Hitler rose to power, the wanton killing the Nazis did to hold power, the extermination of Jews across Europe, and the subsequent mudhole stomping they received from the Allies by the end of the war.

But this was different.  They showed things from the perspective of home videos, shot by people in Germany at the time, as well as those shot by soldiers in the war.  What jumped out at me most:

  • Hitler and the Nazis ascended to power very quickly.  Two weeks after Hitler lost an election attempt to run the country, he was able to become Chancellor.  52 days later, he was head of Germany
  • It is amazing how much Hitler had Germany in the palm of his hand.  People believed whatever he told them.  Whether it was justifying killing and displacing Jews, or the whole idea of a master race, they ate it up.  Women wanted to marry him.  Kids wanted to be just like him.
  • At one point there were 20,000 concentration camps.  And the people in the towns near them claim they had no idea what was going on.  When the allies captured Germany, they made the townsfolk walk through the camps and see first hand the cruelty.  They also made Nazi party members buy the dead.
  • The German people were convinced nothing could go wrong.  That is, until their cities were getting bombed and the German army got routed by the Russians.
  • By the end of the war, Germany had lowered the drafting age to 13.  Kids were in the streets fighting to protect Berlin.  Any kids caught hiding from duty were hung.
  • Other countries knew was was going on with German Jews, but turned them away when they came looking for refuge.  That includes the US.

There is more, of course, as the show was 4 hours long.  It’s not for the faint of heart, as there are many disturbing images.  but I highly recommend the program.

Reagan is Conservatism’s Patron Saint But Would Never Get Elected By Today’s GOP

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

Image via Wikipedia

Aside from Feb. 6th being Super Bowl Sunday, it was also what would’ve been President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday.  As Reagan is considered a hero by many on the right, there have been remembrances, dedications, shout outs, flashbacks, and countless other looks back on Reagan and his legacy in the last week.  Of course, folks on the left are having none of that, understandably choosing to focus more on those “accomplishments” that they feel did more bad than good.

I (as is often the case) am in the middle on Reagan.  I wouldn’t call him a hero, but then again, I wouldn’t try to back over him with a MARTA bus, either.  But I’m pretty convinced that based on his overall record, if an exact Reagan clone popped up today and attempted to run for President saying he would do exactly as Reagan did and be exactly as Reagan was, he wouldn’t even make it out of the primaries.  Why?  Simple.  Reagan doesn’t fit the mold of today’s Republican.

First, there is his track record on taxes.  In 1981, Reagan signed the The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 also known as the ERTA or “Kemp-Roth Tax Cut.”  The top marginal rate for personal income taxes went from 70% to 50%, and the bottom rate dropped from 14% to 11%.   In general, the Act lowered marginal tax rates on average 23% across the board.  He also lowered taxes in 1986.  After that, the top marginal rate was 28%.  While tax revenues decreased over the short term, over the long term there was not only an increase in the amount of tax revenues to the government, but also a long period of economic growth.  But, that’s not the entire story.

As the budget deficit grew, Reagan knew something had to be done.  So, he signed into law legislation that, in essence, were tax increases.   Bills signed in 1982 and 1984 closed tax loopholes and increased the tax base by making more transactions taxable.  The 1986 reform bill eliminated many deductions that high income earners had been allowed to use, increasing their tax bills.  In the end, his tax increases actually increased tax revenue to the government and offset much of the revenue lost from the earlier tax cuts.

In 1982, Reagan led efforts to privatize Social Security.  Not only did it not work, but (as is usually the case in midterms) the GOP lost many seats in the following elections.  In 1983 he signed legislation that bailed out Social Security.  Pricetag:  $165 billion. Results of the bailout included higher  payroll taxes for higher income earners and the self-employed, expanded the system to include federal workers, and made Social Security benefits taxable.

These tax increases are rarely mentioned.  In today’s environment, once it came to light, the Reagan-clone would get skewered for ever considering tax increases as fiscal policy.

The national debt also tripled under Reagan.  It went over $1 trillion during his first year, and was $3 trillion when he left.  Of course, that was a bipartisan effort, as the House was under Democrat control all 8 years of his presidency, and the Senate was for 2 of his 8 years.  But evidently, veto wasn’t an option.  Of course, many will say that much of the spending was to counter the Soviet Union.  But SOMEONE has to account for the money vacuum that was SDI, which never worked.

Among other things that are rarely mentioned:

  • Reagan promised to reduce the size of government, in part by eliminating the Departments of Energy and Education.  Instead, he added a new Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • There was little done in the way to reduce government spending over Reagan’s 2 terms.
  • Many will always repeat Reagan’s call to Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” and say “see?  you have to be tough!”  In actuality, Reagan and Gorbachev nearly agreed to eliminate ALL nuclear weapons from each country’s arsenal.  Plus, to help Gorbachev enact reform, the US reduced defense spending in the latter part of Reagan’s second term.  How’s that for “peace through strength?”

Finally, the the proverbial straw that would bring our Reagan-clone’s hopes to an end–and yet one more point rarely mentioned–is immigration.  In 1982, Reagan signed a bill that allowed any illegal alien in the US before that year to be eligible for amnesty.  Yep, blanket amnesty.  In today’s environment, that would be a big no-no.

In the end, Reagan gains sainthood by default.  For those keeping up with conservative politics, there is no one else that can take his place.  Nixon resigned.  Ford was considered weak.  Bush I lost his reelection bid despite removing Saddam Hussein from Kuwait (taxes played a role in his defeat).  Bush II had two terms, but many on the right don’t consider him conservative enough.  So who is left?  No one but the Gipper.  But he’d never make it today.

QuickHit: Shout out to Vets

Just wanted to give a special shout out to all the folks who are serving or have served in the military.  Even though I did a brief stint (in the Air National Guard) I keep forgetting that I guess I fall in that category as well.  FYI, Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day, enacted to celebrate the end of World War I.

“Bush Screwed the Working and Middle Class.” How?

I was in a discussion where someone stated “Bush screwed the middle and working class.”  My reply was to ask exactly how he screwed them.  We then got into a discussion about corporations, tax breaks, and outsourcing.  But it really made me wonder:  do people know the difference between when something the government does puts them in a bad situation, vs when they themselves do it?  When they hear that a policy or program is bad, or doesn’t benefit them, do they actually do the research to find out why?  Or do they simply believe what they hear and don’t research for themselves?

Its apparent that many people don’t bother to find things out for themselves.  We are a nation of people who tend to enjoy being led around by the nose, trusting others to tell us what we need to know instead of finding out for ourselves.

In the end, I didn’t get an answer as to how Bush screwed the working and middle class.  I’m sure someone has an example.