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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 9:43 am | Fair 59º


Trent Benedetti: Where’s the Progress with Progressives?

Who among us does not desire “progress”? We all do. And we know it when we see it.

It is progress when no one is hungry. When everyone capable of working has a job earning a fair wage. When there is affordable housing for all. When every park, road and public building is properly maintained.

When every neighborhood is safe. When children are universally loved and nurtured. When elders are universally respected and valued for the lessons their lives provide. It is progress when everyone believes the future will be better than the past.

We agree what progress is. But how is it best pursued?

We each have our own ideas. As is always the case, some ideas work, some don’t. Franklin Roosevelt said, “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

Roosevelt’s idea for addressing the maladies of his day was bigger government with the higher taxes and greater regulation that comes with it. FDR’s ideas should come as no surprise because they are progressive ideas and he was a progressive.

The progressive movement started in the United States in the late 1800s and became national in scope under the Republican President Roosevelt, Theodore.

Progressivism can be broadly defined as seeking improvement of the human condition with government cast as benevolent protector of the public interest.

The movement emerged from the belief that late 19th-century industrialization impeded human progress because the rich were getting richer and the poor poorer.

That sounds remarkably similar to what we hear progressives saying today.

Progressives then and now focus upon income inequality, inadequate regulation, and excessive profits. The problems that existed when the movement started exist today. They have not changed. Neither have the means by which progressives propose to address them.

Progressives have always thought more regulation was better than less. The same is true today.

This, in turn, leads to something else progressives enthusiastically embrace more often than not: higher taxes.

As more regulation is imposed, government bureaucracy must expand to oversee the additional regulation. As the government grows larger, taxes must be raised. It is a vicious cycle.

A notable progressive in California was Upton Sinclair, a card-carrying socialist for much of his adult life. Sinclair was known nationally for his writing, including The Jungle, an exposé on the American meat-packing industry first published serially in a socialist newspaper.

In 1934, Sinclair ran for governor of California on the EPIC platform, an acronym for End Poverty In California.

EPIC called for bigger government, higher taxes and more regulation. At the time, The New York Times said EPIC was “the first serious movement against the profit system in the United States.”

Even though Sinclair was not elected, vestiges of his campaign took control of the Democratic Party machinery, and four years later, California elected its first Democrat governor since 1894.

Progressivism has been firmly rooted in California ever since.

However, progressive ideas have not ended poverty in California. In fact, quite the opposite. California suffers the highest poverty rate in the nation.

The more progressives decry income equality, the more inequality we have. The more regulation we have, the more regulation progressives want. The higher taxes are, the more taxes progressives say we need. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Perhaps it is time for progressives to consider what FDR said about admitting failure and trying something new? After all, insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

— Trent Benedetti is a member of the board of directors of the Committee to Improve North County and a longtime local business owner. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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