FROM HOOVER TO HOOVER IN A LIFETIME—“…roll back the twentieth century” by Perry Mann


I remember seeing Herbert Hoover’s picture on the front page of a newspaper on the day after his victory over Alfred Smith. On a March morning in 1933, I recall hearing my father say to my mother: “I would rather die than go to that bank today.” He went but that was the last day he went; because the Security Bank and Trust Company never opened its doors again. Thus began the Great Depression for my family.

I lived the days of recovery and remember getting a social security card in 1938. I recall FDR’s heartening leadership designed to repair the Republican wreckage and his efforts to make certain it did not happen again. I served four years in WWII and I cheered the establishment of the United Nations. I was proud of this nation. But beginning with Reagan and continuing with Bush I and now Bush II, I have watched the nation that liberalism created be dismembered piece by piece by ideological descendents of those who nearly destroyed it in 1929. Hoover was at the helm so he gets the blame.

Now, William Greider in “The Nation” informs me of the grand ambition of those descendents, who are the current incumbents: “The movement’s grand ambition—one can no longer say grandiose—is to roll back the twentieth century, quite literally. That is, defenestrate the federal government and reduce its scale and powers to a level well below what it was before the New Deal’s centralization. With that accomplished, movement conservatives envision a restored society in which the prevailing values and power relationships resemble the America that existed around 1900, when William McKinley was president. “

The movement’s chief goals are: “Eliminate federal taxation of private capital, as the essential predicate for dismantling the progressive income tax.” Reagan began the elimination with his tax cut for the wealthy. Bush II has out-Reaganed Reagan with a trillion dollar cut mainly for the rich, with the repeal of the estate tax and with the proposal to free dividends from taxation. Only the poor pay taxes.

“Gradually phase out the pension-fund retirement systems as we know it, starting with Social Security privatization but moving eventually to breaking up the other large pools of retirement savings, even huge public-employee funds, and converting them into individualized accounts. Everyone takes care of himself.” That is, the nation becomes a dog eat dog society with, of course, the most predacious by claw and tooth expropriating unto themselves the mightiest’s share. The rich get richer and the poor poorer.

“Withdraw the federal government from a direct role in housing, healthcare, assistance to the poor and many other long-established social priorities,….” That is, the sidewalks of America are to become the residence of those who cannot somehow provide a roof against rain, snow, hail and all other elements and mishaps.

“Restore churches, families and private education to a more influential role in the nation’s cultural life by giving them a significant new base of income—public money.” That is, subsidize the forces that would breach the wall of church and state and establish a church that is state supported and that eventually will be the only church to which the citizens can congregate. And convert secular public schools into Christian academies.

“Strengthen the hand of business enterprise against burdensome regulatory obligations, especially environmental protection by introducing voluntary goals and ‘market-driven’ solutions.” That is, allow rapacious and amoral capitalism to regulate itself and to have freedom to pillage nature. In short, to establish commercial anarchy.

“Smash organized labor. Though unions have lost considerable influence, they remain a major obstacle to achieving the right’s vision.” That is, smash the only recourse short of revolution and violence labor has to redress and ameliorate capitalism’s inherent exploitation of labor and its unjust expropriation of labor-created value.

The right’s ambition will encounter obstacles, some insuperable: The people intuitively know that progressive taxation is just. There is in the nature of man the inclination to cooperate for the security of all. A nation that claims to be Christian cannot long ignore the mandates of its Founder. In 1900 90% of the people lived on the land; today 90% live in the cities, providing a potentially massive proletariat. Unbridled capitalism’s plunder of the environment will spur greens to heroic resistance on behalf of nature. History and today’s headlines provide horrendous and irrefutable reasons to keep state and church separate. Unregulated capitalism would be a nightmare of scams and frauds. And liberalism and compassion reside within man’s genes, a natural phenomenon not even Bush’s imperialists can root out. One Hoover was enough.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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