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Toby Barlow

Toby Barlow

Posted: September 6, 2010 10:45 AM

The Tea Party's Worst Nightmare: Ike

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We know what Glenn and Sarah hate. We know what all the Tea Party candidates hate. They hate taxes. They hate Big Government. They want to see our great nation once again standing on top of the world. You know, like it was in the 1950s, when the magnificent United States of A Plus was the height of our economic power, when we ruled the world, before the Kennedys and the Johnsons, the Clintons and the Obamas came along and just screwed everything up. Back when Republicans had control of the House, the Senate and, best of all, the White House. Those were the golden years.

It wasn't just anyone in the White House then -- it was Dwight D. Eisenhower, the man who won the big one for us. The man who was elected and reelected in landslides, with Richard Nixon standing right by his side. Man, it was awesome to be an American back then, and it was exceptionally awesome to be a Republican.

Except not by Tea Party standards. By Tea Party standards, Dwight D. was probably the most evil, awful, terrible creation Joe Stalin could have possibly hoped for, far worse than Osama Obama could ever be. By their measure, Dwight was a freaking twisted, bald demonic nightmare.

Putting aside the fact that he named Earl Warren to the Supreme Court and put Harry Blackmun on the Federal Bench (how could he have known what absolute pansy liberals they would turn out to be?) forgetting that Ike warned us about dangers of the military industrial complex (um, he wasn't talking about Haliburton, was he?) there are much clearer and more dangerous signs of what this Red agent was up to.

First, there was civil rights -- that Bleeding Heart Ike actually sent armed forces into Arkansas to make sure that black students could enroll in Little Rock Central High School. Imagine the apoplectic hue and cry that would strike the airwaves if Obama did something similar.

It just gets worse. The biggest piece of legislation Ike passed, The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, was big government at its absolute worst. An enormous public works project that was paid for by, yes, you guessed it, lots and lots of new taxes, gas and diesel taxes mostly. When Obama launches his proposed program for 50 billion in infrastructure spending this week, you can bet nobody on the right will mention its similarity to Ike's idea, which at the time was the largest public works project in American history, costing the equivalent of $197 billion today.

But it gets even more terrifying. Having a lock on the legislative and executive branches of the government should have been an orgiastic tax cutting field day for Republicans. The leaders of the House and Senate sure hoped so -- after all, thanks to FDR and Truman, the highest tax rate at the time was an unbelievably high 91%. But that Red Menace Ike completely blocked their play. To quote our Communist Pinko Commander in Chief Eisenhower at the time, "We cannot afford to reduce taxes, [and] reduce income until we have in sight a program of expenditure that shows that the factors of income and outgo will be balanced."

It's worth repeating: The top income tax rate paid by the wealthiest Americans was 91%. Right now, it's 35%. That's right. Somehow the country still managed to function and prosper, but the rich just happened to pay 56% more in taxes than they do today. They still golfed, drove around in shiny automobiles and ate caviar in fancy dining cars, but they paid a lot more back to society. Instead of fleeing en masse to Cuba they stayed in Connecticut and sent their kids to boarding schools and private colleges. America rewarded them by becoming a stronger nation, allowing the wealthy in turn to become even wealthier. America rocked.

We have been trained to believe that taxation is the worst ill that can strike a society, and yet for decades our nation prospered while asking those who profited from our strength to give significantly more. Ike understood this and protected our nation's prosperity.

So we can go on listening to Glenn and Rush and Sarah fume and rant and whine. They probably won't pipe down. Rupert Murdoch will continue to personally profit from their tirades and people with no sense of history will shout along with their chosen leaders, while fire stations lose funding and bridges collapse. But it's worth remembering that the president who led us through one of the greatest sustained periods of prosperity since World War II, and ironically the man who helped us win World War II in the first place, didn't see the things working the way The Tea Party does. He saw things differently and because of his vision and his discipline, America was stronger, richer and more powerful.

I think we should all start wearing "I like Ike" buttons. It might just be the way that we can again find some middle ground between moderate republicans and democrats. It would be a nice way to symbolize our belief that politics can offer more that simply obstructionist hysteria. It would be a simple political statement that says we can stand together and build a government that actually works. I hope too that someone will ask the Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle, Joe Miller and Rand Paul what they think about Dwight. I'm sure the answer will be illuminating.