The Republicans and their budget proposals want us to cede the very ground that gave us the right to look toward the future with hope, and that once made us consider ourselves “the greatest nation” on earth. (More)
Those of us alive at the time will never forget this moment, or the chills we felt watching and listening:
These are a few the things that made us great, and it will surprise many of us to know that the Great Society was enacted while cutting the federal budget. But of course, back then the tax rate on the wealthiest Americans was 70%. Now it is 28%.
The Republicans want to cede our greatness by cutting assistance to the poorest among us while making the wealthy wealthier. They want to cut spending on education. And they want to end the Great Society which gave hope to so many.
They also want to cut environmental protections that have endured since Nixon.
It was at just this time that Congress sent to the President a remarkable bill known as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis)–looking back at the “Environmental Decade” in 1980–called NEPA “the most important piece of environmental legislation in our history.” It is easy to see why.
A tone of high-minded idealism pervades this statute. NEPA’s stated purposes were:
“To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment.”
“To promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man.”
“To enrich our understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation.”
To further these ends, NEPA called for the formation of a Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to give the President expert advice on environmental matters. The CEQ was also charged with reviewing Environmental Impact Statements, which were now required of all federal agencies planning projects with major environmental ramifications.
In an era of bitter ideological disputes, public opinion was virtually unanimous on the need for the national environmental policy NEPA would generate. Turning his reluctant consent into a show of visionary statesmanship, President Nixon chose to sign NEPA on New Year’s Day, 1970–thus making the signing his “first official act of the decade.” He named future EPA Administrator Russell E. Train to be the first CEQ Chairman.
As Obama said in his speech on the budget, Republicans are telling our children that we can’t afford to give them the same future that was our past.
I know the speech is long, and you may have already listened. But the point is so important: The Republicans want to deny our children a future like the one we have enjoyed. They are actually demanding cuts to funding for schools and for educational grants, making it harder for our children and grandchildren to achieve the kind of education that can take us to the moon or invent new technologies for green energy.
They are saying we can’t afford it.
Now look at those tax rates for the wealthy again. They remained wealthy under 1969 tax rates, and would remain wealthy now if they paid the same rate as they did back then. Clearly those tax rates didn’t prevent the making of millionaires and didn’t cripple business, or we would not have been able to do the things we did then.
Without an educated populace, we never would have gone to the moon, invented computers, or done so many other important things that have revolutionized our lives.
The Republicans want to cede ground. They want to cede a future that rightfully belongs to our children, while CEO pay rises to new highs. While profits increase. While the wealthy get ever more bloated.
Yet our president reminds us of something we all used to know: That we do not have to cede ground. We can instead seed ground. Where some would give up the things that make us great and proud, others, like our president, see this as a time to sow for the future. Seeding instead of ceding.
We are not too poor to afford a future as bright as our past. I don’t want to be looking back at our glory days, I want to be looking forward.
And so should all the rest of us.