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Planning for the past

BY BEAU ELLIOT | APRIL 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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You hear a lot of people these days talking about planning for the future. (Well, it could be that people have talked about planning for the future for thousands of years.

Well, I suppose planning for the future is good, because planning for the past is rather beside the point.

It’s kind of a Republican thing to do, if Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican from Wisconsin and House Budget Committee chairman, is any indication. He unveiled the GOP budget plan last week, and it’s basically back to Reaganomics.

We tried that once; turns out, tax cuts do not pay for themselves. Tax cuts under President Reagan created then-record budget deficits, forcing Reagan to raise various taxes 11 times.

Actually, as I remember, we tried it another time, when President George W. Bush cut taxes for the rich and turned President Clinton’s budget surpluses into budget deficits.

And, as it turns out, Ryan’s planned budget cuts would for the most part — around two-thirds — fall on the middle class, the working class, and the poor.

Why do all the bad ideas these days seem to emanate from Wisconsin?

Just wondering.

Well, OK, I exaggerate. Bad ideas come from places other than Wisconsin.

Which brings us, if we’re going to relive the past, to the Civil War. Today is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, which some in the South still refer to as the War of Northern Aggression.

Because this year is that anniversary, we will hear probably thousands of discussions about the war and what caused it. And one of the causes — slavery — will be dismissed by many. No, it wasn’t slavery, they’ll say, it was states’ rights. Or tariffs. Or taxes.

But as sociologist James Loewen pointed out in the Washington Post a few months ago, the Civil War was all about slavery.

As he wrote: “Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right. In fact, Confederates opposed states’ rights — that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery.”

He went on to point out that South Carolina, in its secession convention on Dec. 24, 1860, described “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding states to the institution of slavery” and noted that Northern states were not fulfilling “… their constitutional obligations” to return fugitive slaves to the Southern states.

South Carolina was not alone. Mississippi, for example, in its session statement, said, “[Slavery’s] labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the Earth. … A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

Of course the Civil War was not concerned with slavery.

Yeah, right.

Meanwhile, back in the present, in Libya, the African Union has been working to create a truce between Libyan rebels and dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi. A BBC Radio analyst suggested that after the group met with Qaddafi, the members seemed somewhat pro-Qaddafi, especially Jacob Zumami, the president of South Africa. He has been close to Qaddafi in the past, and he referred to Qaddafi as “Brother Leader,” which certainly didn’t endear him to the rebels.

Zumami, as it turns out, didn’t meet with the rebel leaders when the African Union leaders headed to Benghazi to speak with them. The South African leader had a pressing engagement with the leader of Swaziland.

Uh-huh.

According to NPR, the Libyan rebels seemed none too impressed with the African Union’s idea of a truce. It turns out, it doesn’t include Qaddafi leaving power, and that, it seems, is too much like the past.

That darned past. If only we could plan for it better.


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