Mucked-up: America 2012

I was challenged in a comment yesterday about my use of the term, muckraker. Historically, the term was used by President T. Roosevelt in a speech he gave saying, 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.. The term muckraking therefore meant investigative or watchdog journalism.

Some of America’s early muckrakers were Lincoln Steffens ,Tweed Days in St. Louis– as he uncovered political corruption in the city;  Upton Sinclair, The Jungle– an expose’ of the meatpacking industry; Ray S. Baker, Right to Work– exposed the dangers of coal mining; Ida Tarbell, The Rise of the Standard Oil Company– disclosed the workings of unbound industrial giants; Gustavus Myers published three volumes on the history of family wealth in the United States as well as the famous book, The History of Tammany Hall; Jacob Riis shined a spotlight on urban slums in,  How the Other Half Lives; John Spargo was the author of, The Bitter Cry of Children– an investigation into child labor; Burton J. Hendrick wrote an article in McClure’s titled, “The Story of Life Insurance.”

Interesting topics that seemingly never seem to fade away. Take Hendrick’s unmasking of the Insurance business, for example. Mitt Romney tells his audiences at every speech that on ‘day one’ he will eliminate the Affordable Care Act- a generous nod to today’s insurance companies.  Myers expose’ of wealth in America in 1914 seems new again as we talk of the one-percenters. Baker’s Right to Work ought to ring an alarm bell today as the GOP works hard to eliminate regulations that insure worker safety as well as the safety of the public. Ida Tarbell would roll over in her grave if she knew how corporate America has grown and spread its tentacles into all facets of our government. As would Jacob Riis if he knew that slums were still part of the American cultural scene here in 2012.

What I have been seeing for the past 4 decades [beginning with Reagan’s firing of the Air Traffic Controllers] is a gradual return to the ugly past- before the brave journalists raked the muck to expose the truth- the truth that had been obscured from The People. It seems to me that the muck is thickening here in the 2nd decade of the 21st century. There are many people working behind the mucked-up waters for personal gain at the expense of the masses- much like it was before the muckrakers of the 19 and early 20th century. And today’s shysters are aided and abetted by today’s Republican Party which is working hard for the corporations and one-percenters.
Sadly, there are many of the 99-percenters who cheer the GOP as if that political party has their best interests at heart! Where are today’s muckrakers to help the 99 see the injustices and greed of corporate America, Wall Street and the Financial Institutions? Their voices are muted and distorted [mucked-up!] by paid propagandists blathering nonsense to The People. Sadly The People don’t know and, in their naiveté, the greedy shysters wallow.
Mucked-up: America, 2012.

21 thoughts on “Mucked-up: America 2012

  1. First, thanks for accepting my “challenge” that muckraking had
    very little to do with attacking organized religion. Good work on a muckraking bibliography. There are a couple of more that I can

    Oouis Brandeis, before becoming a Suplre Court Justice, was a
    muckraker. One of his best is an article entitled, “Other People’s
    Money, and How the Bankers Use it.” He writes, “ a
    democratic society the existence of largwe centers of private power is danger of a free people.” Brandeis coined the phrase, “other people’s money” and you will see it repreated often during and
    after the Progressive Period. I believe that it is in the quote that
    I gave from FDR in 1936. Brandeis continued, “..these few able financiers…are gradually acquiring control over our quick
    Brandeis developed a shibboleth for this activity. He called it
    “Legal Realism.” He challenged the elitist view that the
    accumulation of wealth is a natural phenomenion that is outside
    of politics and governmment and was based on hard work and
    merit. Speaking of “merit”, Cliff Hayes has a new book out this week on the false concept of meritocracy.
    However, Brandeis and legal realism denies the above and
    shows that the rich and fiancial markets used politics and government to achieve their elite status.

    Another muckraker active in the Progressive Period was
    Walter Lippman He wrote “Drift and Mastery in 1914.By “drift’ he meant that government failed to respond to the econmic ralities of the Gilded Age.By “mastery” he meant that the government hd to have democractic supervision of the ecnomy.

  2. mudrake,
    Thank you for reminding us of the fine muckrakers from past days. We could sure use more of them today! Meanwhile, though, their spirit remains alive in this fine website as well as those of other progressive bloggers.

  3. Can you make money by telling the truth? By looking at successful news broadcasts and popular news magazines, you apparently can’t. And if you don’t make money doing it, it doesn’t happen.

      1. It seems to me that MSNBC from Morning Joe to Larry O’Donnell
        provides an opportunity to hear the issues more objectively, and,
        in print, The Nation seems to present the people’s perspective.
        Moreover, the nation’s newpapers still provides coverage of issues.
        Just recently, I read Ms. Johanek’s article in The Toledo Blade
        concerning the role of women in the catholic church. That’s not
        keeping people “in the dark” and being told lies, is it?

        1. Just because you watch MSNBC and read The Blade does not mean that most voters across America do the same. Seriously, most People out there don’t listen to news programs or even read the newspaper. They are concerned about other things and spend their time on activities not related to politics.

          That’s why the Obama volunteers go door-to-door and make persuasion phone calls- to get the ‘news’ to them directly.

          1. You have a good “muckraker” in your corner, M_R. In addition
            to what Walter Lippman wrote above in “Drift and Mastery”,
            he wrote that “democracy has to defeat money.” Democracy must
            must be the master of the monied interests. The problem in
            1914 to Lippman is the same as we see it today. He writes that
            the people, that is, democracy, “has to lift itself by its bootstrapes.”
            He meant voter turn-out on election day. The people have to be
            organized to turn out on election day to over ride the use of money.

            There can be no better endorsement of your effort, M_R, than
            Walter Lippmann. Re-discovering Lippmann has led me to
            think again about the get- out -the- vote effort. However, will
            a drive the people to the poll house as Lippmann suggests
            in 1914, still work in 2012, a hundred years later? This election is pitting two voter attention methods. Obama is counting on
            traditional voter turn out methods of knocking on doors and using the social internet, while Romney will count on huge outlays of
            money for advertising as he did in crushing Pawlenty, Gingrich, and Santorum. The problem for “democracy” this time around
            is a lack of enthusasm for the President

        2. No, but have you listened to the disloyal opposition lately (as distinct from the loyal opposition, an English concept) ?

          The right wing media, Murdoch, Limbaugh, et al and the right wing blogosphere are pretty bad — Fox Not News is so bad that people who rely on it are more ILL informed than people who don’t listen to the news at all.

  4. Do people really have to be interesting in the nightly news and
    newspapers to vote? Maybe intelligently, but not if they are voting
    by their “gut”. Remember, the shortest nerve in the human body
    is that nerve that runs from the hip pocket to the brain..That
    trumps all. They will decide on Sunday before election Tuesday,
    if they are better off four years later under Obmaa. How they answer that question it seems to me, will determine if Obama
    receives another four years.

    1. But what will a Romney presidency offer to them? He never says more that a few stump speech lines about what he intends to do: lower taxes [for the rich], less regulations, and less government.

      What can a person glean from this nonsense?

      1. To be sure, it is “nonsense.” We have been there, done that, and
        look what it has got us. The same result as in 1929. The
        “Roaring Twenties” was capitalism unfettered…This is the story
        that has to be brought out…

  5. “But what will a Romney presidency offer to them?” Maybe the
    idea of change?

    More interestingly maybe is, what will it offer us?

  6. I am sure, M_R, that you remember my dictate on achieving
    progressive legislation: change the people OR change the people.

    For some reason most Americans don’t like to do that. Just take
    your case with Kaptur and Latta. This then thwartswhat Lippmanm
    was writting about about democracy gaining “mastery” over “drift”.

    We have written much about the Constitution and how it seems not
    to permit change. That is true, but that is precisely what the Founders did. “ambition checks ambition”, is how Madison
    described the operation of the Constitution.

    A thread that runs through our history is periods when curbing economic inequality and financial power are ignored and then short periods of reform because of the structure of our Federal
    Government. Our national government under the Constitution
    allows gridlock and stalemate. Here are the problems:
    1.) Three equal branches of goverrnment
    2.) Federalism- National Government and States check each other.
    3.) 2/3 rule to overcome a veto; lack of concensus.
    4.) Two Houses of Congress with different rules and procedures.
    5.) Gerrymandered House election districts.
    6.) Two senators from each state regardless of population.
    7/) Disenfranchisement of 800,000 in Wahington D.C.
    Yet Wyoming has a population of 530,000!
    8.) Rural clout versus Urban diversity.
    9.) The Senate filibuster.

    It is a Constritution written for agricultural interests and designed
    to prevent quiick decisive action. Yet it was a democratic document for its time and has become mor4e democratic over the 200 years.

    1. Yes, it has become ‘more’ democratic over time, but it is not nearly appropriate in dealing [legislating]l the problems of a non-agrarian, multi-cultural, high-tech, 350 million-person nation. The Electoral College and the 2-Senators/state are just the tip of the titanic iceberg clogging the channel. All of your points above are major flaws that infect the governance of our nation in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.

      Our Founding Fathers could never have envisioned that document fully-operational and functioning for The People in our time. Never. It is time for another constitutional convention. Yet, I fear that such a gathering would be highly charged and extremely partisan and that little good for the Common Man would result.

      Sorry for the pessimism, but that’s where my emotions take me at this time.

      1. I left Number 10 open, so people could add to it…The Electoral
        is a good addition. But, there is a way to overcome it without
        an Amendment….

  7. The ONLY way a convention would be successful would be for all participants to prequailify. Test for I.Q., ability to learn and understand change, test for world knowledge including history, pre-existing prejustices, etc. Things one is supposed to learn in school/life, especially if they are a voter.

    1. That, my friend, would never happen in the Land of the Free. There are today way-too many special interests who want a piece of the pie for themselves and those whom they represent. So, continuing my pessimism, it’s all over for our type of democracy.

      How’s the Canadian system sound for us: parliamentary democracy?

      1. That could possibly lead to multi-party system, and where would that get us? Divided government? A senior PM and a junior PM as tthere is now in England with the Conservatives and the Liberal Party? It seems to me, M_R, that Lippmann had it right, democrcy
        has to check money.

        There seems to be two ways to do this. One is a crisis as in 1932, and the people turn out automatically and vote overwhelmingly
        for change. The other, according to Lippmann, is turn the
        people out by the get-out-the-vote campaign, of which you have
        written about and are participating in.. There would have to
        be enough Representatives and Senators elected to pass the

        And, didn’t Obama have this in January, 2009 to December2010?
        The House passed for example Cap and Trade and the Dream Act, yet Obama could not get it passed in a Dem 60-40 Senate.

        BTW, M_R, there is a new book coming out, “The New New Deal”,
        which apparently maintains Obama’s legislation is better that FDR”s. Should be right up our alley, lol….

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