Hey Mr. Sandman, Revise Me A Dream

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 at 07:18 PM

Revisionism is nothing more than a childish attempt to pound reality into a shape which will fit nicely into the form of your existing ideas. Its certain consequence--deliberate in many instances--is to distort the past so that sensible actions appear to be mistakes, and mistakes appear to have been sensible actions. If you want to repeat the mistakes of history, just let the revisionists have at it.

Viet Nam is the probably the best example going today, if only because it was recent enough that there are still hordes of us who were there. The loonatoons on the bellicose right pound away at the reality of that war. No, it was not fought for the wrong reasons. No, it was not a failure. No we were not defeated, we just lost "the will to win." In fact, we not only didn't lose, we were on the verge of winning. Right there at the edge of victory when the weak willed, wobbly kneed surrender artists on the left, and their jabbering media allies, snatched victory away from our brave men and boys who risked their lives to defend America from the savages and the savagery of communism.

Crap, and demonstrable crap at that. But the kind of crap that serves as a versatile foundation for the insanity that the lunatics wish to commit not in the past times of Viet Nam, but here and now. If they convince you of their version of Viet Nam, then, well, you wouldn't want to repeat the mistake of giving up in Iraq, Afghanistan, the war on terror, the culture war, the Christians versus heathens war, the war on drugs, the war on crime, the war on whoever the hell the revisionists pin an "enemy" label on today.

The "war on poverty" on the other hand.......Well, that's a war that supports our enemy--the poor. Or, as they are viewed inside the loonatoon state, the unambitious, the lazy Godless hordes, those meaningless mooches who steal the money rightfully intended for fun vacations and a bright kitchen makeover.

Come on, you know how the loonatoons feel about the poor. Just ask Bill O'Reilly who can't begin to imagine how big a loser you would have to be in order to be poor in this land of plenty. Or ask Neal Boortz, who not only can't fathom how incompetent you'd have to be in order to be poor in the good old US of A, but has managed to make his disgust with the poor a major pillar of his own financial success as author, an observer, and a visionary capitalist.

Another hot field of right wing revisionism is the Great Depression, specifically the role that FDR's New Deal played in ending it and/or helping people survive it. We're in the middle of a real spate of books and articles that revise that history into one in which Hoover was, by God, right after all. If only FDR had kept his meddling finder out of the capital pie, the depression would have been over in no time. In fact, some loonatoons now suggest that FDR's policies prolonged the depression.

There are more and more attempts to revise post World War II policy as well. Marshall Plan? Why it didn't really help Europe recover. In fact, it might have prolonged the recovery period.

And what do all these revisions have in common? They depend on comparing what actually happened to what might have happened had we done things differently. In other words, they compare real world evidence to the shakiest of abstract analysis. It's tough to lose an argument when your argument is based on what never happened.

And again, compare that to the attacks on the War on Poverty. In that war, the loonatoons suddenly want to focus on what did happen, especially the financial costs and the failure of many programs to deliver the level of benefit that their supporters promised when enacting them. Suddenly they find it irrelevant to look at what might have happened to the poor if the programs had not been enacted. And, of course, they are equally cavalier about what actually did happen to people who received benefits under programs that were ended or drastically cut.

If the populace doesn't wake up pretty quick and see what the revisionists are really up to, we just might revise ourselves into a future that is just as bad as the past which is being revised. Or worse.


Revisionism indeed. To quote FDR in his celebrated Inaugural Address of March 4, 1933, "Our greatest primary task is to put people to work." By his own standard, then, his programs were a failure. Unemployment was not brought under control until WWII removed hundreds of thousands of men from the workforce. In 1934 unemployment averaged a little under 22%. It didn't drop below 14% until well into the War. The vaunted programs of the New Deal had little effect on unemployment.

Ditto the "War on Poverty." Prior to the Johnson administration, poverty rates were dropping dramatically. From 1959 through 1964 the poverty rate dropped from 27.3% to 21%. In the forty years since the poverty rate has never dropped below 14% and has averaged about 18.3%. Trillions of dollars poured into the "War on Poverty" to get less than a three point reduction in the rate? If you view that as "success" then you gotta be kiddin' me.