Potomac Fever is the blog of the Hamilton College Semester in Washington Program.
I'm going to post some response to this video- there are lots of instances where the video is being very picky in what it says. I'm going to get sources to support everything I'm going to say so that way I won't be leaving myself open to the same flaws. Obviously this is going to take awhile. First comment, progressive history revisionism? There are lots of things we are taught in history class that turn out to be false. This charge goes both ways. Doesn't anyone remember the ridiculous things conservatives did with textbooks down in Texas? (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/17/AR2010031700560.html , http://www.newsweek.com/2010/05/21/texas-cooks-the-textbooks.html ) Historical memory is something that's created and often is different than actualy history. You win some and you lose some. I consider this a mute point for the video, so I give it no credence.
The critique of Woodrow Wilson. First of all, in my history classes Wilson was never glorified- the consequences of his actions and flaws were always pointed out. These video implictly touches upon a point frequently made by Republicans- that Wilson was a facist and a bigot. The bigot charge is accurate- by today's standards he is, and by those standards he wasn't the most progressive. Big deal!!! Apply that same standard to our founding fathers and you'd realize they were all bigots. Even back then there were those who were enlightened enough to believe in equality across race and gender. Either you say that you can't judge anyone outside of their historical contexts (so it's fine if they were a racist if most people were racist: aka our Founding Fathers and Wilson aren't that bad), or you hold everyone up to the best standard of their time (in which case the Founding Fathers and Wilson are both despicable, and many of our Founding Fathers it should be acknowledge committed crimes against humanity). Next point about Wilson- the Federal Reserve is an essential institution for bringing balance to a modern economy with a large financial sector. Without it, our economy and standards of living would be a fraction of what they are now. The IRS is an essential institution for regulating the financing of our government- even a minimalist government with just national defense and other public goods spending requires hundreds of billions of dollars. There are only a few ways to come up with that much revenue- without an income tax, you'd have to do a consumption tax of some sort. Without extensive modifications, consumption taxes are extremely regressive!!!!! You'd basically have the poor paying for the formation of the army that they are the ones who serve in that defends the wealth and prosperity of the rich. Doesn't that sound great!?!I'm confused about the charge about World War I and its goal to make the world safe for democracy. Is the video arguing World War I was a mistake? Is it trying to draw comparisons between Bush's actions and Wilson's (a false one, Wilson defended pre-existing democracies, Bush attempted to impose democracy). Or (since this video seems like a libertarian rant Ron Paul-style), is it pointing out how Wilson is just as bad as neo-cons about getting our nation involved in war- in which case this video must be arguing that we would have been better off not entering World War I. That seems to be unlikely, but it's not really a point that can be evaluated because it rests on a non-existent historical counterfactual.
I'd like to address the 1920's economics, Harding and Coolidge point- but I'm afraid I don't enough to fully rebut the conclusions the video is attempting to draw. However, I would point out that the 1920's economic problems were a lot smaller than those faced in the 30's, and that Hoover's government actions (which the video is hoping you'll realize are classic Keynesian, liberal economic policies) were extremely small- especially compared to the severity of the problem. But that's all I know about the economic history of that time period, so I'll stop there. Also, many economists would argue that FDR's response was way to small to the severity of the problem (and the same with Bush/Obama's response to the recent downturn). However, these arguments are disputed by economists. Many disagree about the problems and what are the appropriate policy responses. Surprise!
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