Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

July 2, 2010

THE AMERICA JOHN BOEHNER GREW UP IN.... The interview House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) did with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review this week turned out to be a pretty big deal. His remarks comparing the global financial crisis to "an ant" continue to be the subject of debate, as do his comments about raising the Social Security retirement age in order to pay for the wars in the Middle East.

But I'm also glad to see interest in another quote linger. In reference to Democrats, Boehner said, "They're snuffing out the America that I grew up in."

Nostalgia for the 1950s and 1960s isn't uncommon, but it's worth considering exactly what Boehner wants to go back to.

Michael Tomasky, for example, had a great item yesterday noting some of the policies that were common during Boehner's youth.

In the America John Boehner grew up in, the top marginal tax rate on wealthy earners was 90%. It had gone up there during the war, and five, 10, 15 years after armistice, no sizable group, Democrat or Republican, felt any strong urge to lower it.

In the America John Boehner grew up in, private-sector union membership was around or above 30%. Today's figure is 7%. The right to form a union was broadly accepted. Outside of a few small turbulent pockets, there was no such thing as today's union-busting law firms hired by management to go into workplaces and intimidate workers.

Is this the American Boehner wants to return to? I imagine Democrats would be happy to talk about it.

For that matter, America in the 1950s and 1960s was also heavily regulated -- airlines didn't even set their own prices -- and there weren't many complaints about "big government"' or "excessive spending" when a Republican president (Eisenhower) launched one of the biggest domestic infrastructure projects in history (the interstate highway system). Is this the American Boehner wants to return to?

What's more, politically, the Republican Party was very moderate -- indeed, it had plenty of northern liberals -- and, when it came to congressional votes, partisanship was a historic low. The GOP establishment was aware of right-wing nuts who wanted to eliminate Social Security and the rest of the New Deal reforms, but Republicans considered them bizarre kooks, better left ignored, or as the Republican president of the era labeled them, "stupid." Is this the American Boehner wants to return to?

Socially, America in the 1950s and 1960s was a repressive place for African Americans, Jews, and gays, and by any reasonable standard, women were second-class citizens in every aspect of American life. Is this the American Boehner wants to return to?

That's not really a rhetorical question. If the would-be Speaker wants to argue publicly that Democrats are trying "snuff out" the America that he grew up in, the public should know exactly what it is about that era he wants to fight to protect, or more to the point, bring back.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

Bookmark and Share

Please! Dear gods above and below, have some reporter ask him these astute questions to his face!

Posted by: sduffys on July 2, 2010 at 8:04 AM | PERMALINK

Boehner - up, or down?
Regulated industries, high tax rates, growing union membership.
Boehner down...
An America where women are 2nd class citizens, and 'a repressive place for African Americans, Jews, and gays...'
Boehner UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Great post. Thanks, Steve!!!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on July 2, 2010 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

And let's also remind him that it was during this era that we saw the greatest expansion of a middle class in perhaps recorded history; where prosperity was attainable across all segments of society, due in a large part to functional government. This is where America lost her way, when the whole concept of 'government is the cause of all problems' took root.

Posted by: citizen_pain on July 2, 2010 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

your argument is a good one..


but for conservatives..

emotion trumps all..

"Facts are stupid things." - President Reagan

Posted by: mr. irony on July 2, 2010 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

An America where women are 2nd class citizens, and 'a repressive place for African Americans, Jews, and gays...'

Not to mention orange people.

Posted by: Danp on July 2, 2010 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

It also goes without mentioning that the America that Boner grew up in institutionally restricted large swaths of people - blacks, women, gays - from higher education and good jobs.

On second thought, Boner probably preferred it that way.

Posted by: Stetson Kennedy on July 2, 2010 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

I was ten years old in America in 1950, and it WAS a great place to be- for a (WASP) 10 year old!

Not so much for 'blacks, women, gays', but since anyone under the age of 60 has no memory of those halcyon years, Boner can safely invent a past that never was.

Much as he and his ilk constantly invent a present that never is. . .

Posted by: DAY on July 2, 2010 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

Since everything Repubps know about history started with Saint Ronnie, and as far as Saint Ronnie was concerned history was what he did in the movies, this is the natural result...

Posted by: efgoldman on July 2, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting about those '50s, he yearns for. In those days, many railroaders worked until they were 70. It was commonplace for RR workers to work for 50 years for the same RR. As many had started in their late teens, that 50 years became their standard. I remember seeing a roster where the three oldest engineers in our division were 70. I never heard anyone mention retiring at the age of 65 and I grew up in a Santa Fe RR community. So, now, Boehner wants to see Social Security retirement raised to the age of 70. Huge difference, today. Many workers are let go by companies, when they reach their early fifties and very few find new employment. In addition, many work for companies which have either no pension plans or poorly protected ones. Boehner may wax nostalgic about the '50s and '60s, but, I doubt if he will ever champion meaningful employment with company paid full medical and pension rights, such as many had in those days, especially, in the mid-sixties, our last Golden Age.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 2, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Boner is a world class idiot. I believe Joe Scarborough was right , his brain is fogged by alcohol abuse. I hope he keeps it up , inadvertently speaking the truth and providing us with ad copy for the election.

Posted by: john R on July 2, 2010 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, those '50s and the glorious days of the Iron Lung and the leg braces.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 2, 2010 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

Boehner almost certainly doesn't know or care what happened 50 years ago. He's just popping off a talking point that he believes people are dumb enough to buy into (I know quite a few personally).

I was watching a clip of a Teabagger from Alabama? yesterday on Chris Matthews show. He was talking about implementing the Fair Tax and getting rid of the Income Tax. It was just yak. I know more about this topic than he did. Actually, it's closer to true to say he didn't have any idea how the Fair Tax does or would work - just "a talking point that he believes people are dumb enough to buy into".

Posted by: Mark-NC on July 2, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Boner is a world class idiot. I believe Joe Scarborough was right , his brain is fogged by alcohol abuse.

Did Scarborough really come right out and say that? Damn.

Posted by: drkrick on July 2, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

The answers to your questions are:

Posted by: josef on July 2, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Except in Boehner's case it's "There snuffing out the America that I grew up in." or possibly "Their snuffing out the Amerikkka that I grew up in.".

I thought John came from oompa-loompa land..

Posted by: Trollop on July 2, 2010 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

The general reaction starts as an enraged reflex . With a small amount of self control it brews into a bitterness which is either finely decanted as either a sweet snark or a rude general angry poke at supposed evolutionary dead enders . The common inability to react to these constant barrages of disciplined stupidity with anything resembling the neat lines of the packaged product they are delivered in , is ungood .
With that in mind reacting to the numbing mass produced deceptive right wing populism , is starting to create in me the hope of a better process of debunking . Reflecting on the more difficult task of answering foolishness with serious , solid verifiable language is quite impossible to flip off as dead on as a "Death Panels" or the all 'new' "Leave it to Beaver" nostalgia . Employing the simple dread brought to life by Mary Shelly , and Bram Stoker's impressions of the fearful mechanized bloodless parasitic images of the Industrial Revolution is a wonderful visceral poetry . This seems to me to be how the corporate and legions of right wing manage hackamensa to quickly develop a swell of instant feelings of counterintuitive revulsion . It is accepted stagecraft by the winners of the propaganda cycles since the middle sixties .
The approach of reacting at this point seems futile . My father mused in a playground concerning the means to play with rule benders was that the answer to my question was not to play .
The choice of preparing equally visceral packages with the same ferocious ideation has one small advantage . What appears to enervate those of us who may find the dissembling from those quarters where the pay is good and the security endless , is merely drawing correct conclusions . This is quite a different kettle of fish than the accepted practice we see so effortlessly , neatly , and frighteningly efficient like the imaginary vampire . Coolly destroying the product it thrives on , but stylish and attractive , with all those pithy little persistent flanking about liberal this and liberal that , they need only to start the well worn route to the fire .
Presuming an idea needs only a proper conclusion and no cumbersome back story is the advantage used by Karl Rove and his playmates . The nonsense fighters response needs to be freed from reacting to farcical posing . The supporters of America and the American dream , necessarily support the Constitution . This can be used repeatedly to show truthfully , without ever acknowledging Rove and friends even exist . The field is full of poisoned Gulfs , Cigarette Cancer , and all the other calumnies hurled at Americans from these first class anti American dissemblers . We have the conclusions , we have the narrative , we have the facts and the truth . What we don't have is a bold and pithy , disciplined , bomb throwing cadre of professional hard heads who will just keep throwing .

Posted by: FRP on July 2, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

This type of post is rhetorically cheap and indefensible. Make him say exactly what he missed, and don't troll through the history books for lists of things he's apparently approving.

I don't believe Boehner has a strong opinion about any of these things you list, or that he's nostalgic for the great wrongs that were reversed since the 1950s. With just as much evidence as you offer, I will say that this is an entirely emotional response to a world he finds bewildering and frightening. For many conservatives, the amount of change that is ongoing must be alarming.

Posted by: Rathskeller on July 2, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

...don't troll through the history books for lists of things he's apparently approving.

Where did Steve do that? In fact, most of that list is almost certainly things that Boehner would not approve of, which was the point.

Given that the guy is a politician, talking about political issues (one would imagine), what's out of bounds about bringing up a number of political issues of the time and wondering if those are the things he agrees with? I'm not sure why you'd rather let him say a wholly absurd thing and not question it just because he's guided by emotion.

Of course, you will say something without evidence, whereas Steve did nothing of the sort. In fact, Steve was trying to figure out why exactly he would've said what he said. You're just coming up with a theory with no evidence.

Posted by: Tree on July 2, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Boehner obviously spent the 50's and early 60's planted in front of the TV watching Beaver Cleaver and Opie's antics. That's the America he's referring to.
I wonder who his favorite dance couple was on American Bandstand? Arlene and Kenny or Bunny and Ed?

Posted by: milt on July 2, 2010 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

What the Honorable Congressman Boehner and I want to return to is a repressive place for African Americans, Jews, and gays, and by any reasonable standard, women were second-class citizens is every aspect of American life.

We will settle for the repeal of the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th & 19th amendments.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on July 2, 2010 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

It's also interesting that in the America he grew up in our seniors did not have to worry about Social Security as it had not been raided to pay for wars. He now talks out of both sides of his neck. 1) he and his cohorts want to privatize Social Security. 2) he and his cohorts want to raise the retirement age to 70 so Social Security can pay for both of these wars they took us into. That those who are on Social Security or soon to be still support loons like this is remarkalbe since it is not in their best benefit nor is it in the best for America.

Posted by: del on July 2, 2010 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Consider that 50 years ago, House Republican leader John Boehner, would have been laughed out of existence. This is a man who would become House speaker if the GOP takes control in November, and he states that sooner or later, raising the Social Security retirement age to 70 and reducing or ending benefits for retirees with "substantial" other income is necessary, so that we can use that money to fight more war.

And we are supposed to say what? Thank you? The Republicans give tax breaks and major financial incentives to multi-national corporations and big oil. They send vast millions of our jobs overseas, and give huge, unfunded tax cuts to millionaires during war time, (thus raising an already massive national debt). They seem to have a fluctuating combination of scorn, indifference and hate for others of lesser means, differing class, lower status, and those from other cultures (consider their record on empowering the poor, the jobless, the sick, the disabled, the disadvantaged. Now consider their record on corporate welfare, tax breaks for millionaires, support for the banksters, no-bid contracts to Haliburton, Blackwater and other defense contractors). Arrogant, contemptuous, and patronizing Republican Congresspeople, exemplified by Boehner, content and happy with themselves for calling the unemployed lazy and "spoiled" during one of the worst economic downturns ever. Spoiled by their OWN excesses, yet glibly pointing the finger at the poor and unemployed. This is “representative government”? Yet, what about their own indulgent, government-supported retirements? (obviously paid for in part by the sweat off the American taxpayers' back).
So remember, as Boehner is insisting that you and I continue to work until we are 70 years old because the U.S.A. needs that money for more killing, he will soon be driving his Mercedes to a luxurious retirement at the age of his choice, to spend his his lifetime, government-subsidized checks as he pleases. How much of the government-contributed portion of his retirement (agency-matching donations, the compound interest on those agency contributions, etc?) will he be forfeiting for the Cheney/Bush wars? Of all the deaths and all the billions that have been spent on the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, how much benefit has really accrued to our nation's security, to our freedom? Borders secured? No. Airlines secured? No. International cargo ships and containers inspected with assurances of safety? No. Our rights as Americans secured and protected? No. How close are we to eliminating 'terror' with our 'War on Terror'? (Should we ask the Taliban, the Hutari militia, James von Brunn, Andrew Joseph Stack, or Scott Roeder?) And now Boehner wants our social security to go to these wars as well? Sure...when he sends his retirement first.

Posted by: In what respect, Charlie? on July 2, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

I think Rep. Boner misspoke. He does not want to return to the America of the 50's and 60's. He wants to return to those golden years before the first Roosevelt. A simple time when Union members were shot & workers lived in company towns run by their owners. When lynching of the coloreds & queers was a kodak moment to be photographed, savored & remembered. Girls did as they were told & so did you if you knew what was good for you.

These are the happy time Boner wants us all to relive.

Posted by: frankdawg81 on July 2, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Since Boehner's desperately comedic "Hell No You Can't!" speech which he gave before HCR was voted on, I can't help but wonder if he keeps up his much ridiculed man-tan in order to mask the flushed effects of alcohol abuse.

He seriously seemed drunk to me when he made that speech. Can you imagine if Nancy Pelosi had stumbled to the podium that way and given such a ridiculous performance?

Posted by: June on July 2, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry Mr. Benen, it would be nice to think that Democrats would want to return the USA of Boners youth, but I see exactly no evidence that the modern Democratic party, starting with Obama have any desire to do so. They are just as invested in the fucked up status quo as the Republicans.

Posted by: Vince on July 2, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

The America he wants to return to is the America of Joseph McCarthy, where when you accused someone of being a Communist the media took it seriously and you could haul people in front of the HUAC to intimidate them.

Posted by: wahoofive on July 2, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

BRING BACK THE ROBBER BARONS! They used to bribe Congress, pay for votes, keep women in their place and ONLY ELECT WHITE MEN! Yahoo! What a place.

Posted by: SYSPROG on July 2, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Great post, Steve. I have said for years that conservatives yearn for a past that never existed. Tomasky's article drives that point home beautifully.

Boner is a very stupid man, as well as a chemically impaired man. I have a friend who is a bartender in DC and he says Boner is drunk every night! There should be a law covering LWI (legislating while intoxicated). They should make Boner blow a Breathalyzer every day, before he sets foot on the floor of the House!

Posted by: Sam Simple on July 2, 2010 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Boehner must now really regret not clarifying that what he really meant was, "growing up in an America that didn't have black people in Congress of the Oval Office".

Posted by: Moxo on July 2, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Not forgetting that in the 50's and into the 60's women were property to be beaten and raped, as were children.
Blacks were largely uneducated and unempolyed outside of manual labor sub poverty level jobs.
Hispanics were all wet backs regardless of their national origins and did most of our stoop labor, except for the part done by Blacks.
Women were limited to maybe 6 different professions all paying sub poverty wages.

Boehner is longing for the age of white male supremism when a man could murder his wife if he even thought she was cheating and could beat his own child or any non white male to death simply because he was having a bad hair day.

It is a testament to the blindness and selfishness of the Repos that they still haven't notice that their most favorited things tend to be racist, sexist, and elitist. That and the stupidity of continuing to admit it out loud.

Posted by: Marnie on July 2, 2010 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

this internet site is my intake , very superb style and design and perfect content .

Posted by: Carri on January 6, 2011 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly