[Marxism] Fwd: Former U.S. Senator Fred Harris’ Speech – Josh Lee Lecture Series – Oklahoma Democratic Party

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Apr 10 17:22:03 MDT 2016

(The Bernie Sanders of his day.)

Sure, I had grown up as a Franklin Roosevelt progressive Democrat 
(although my family, a poor and working-class family, often having faced 
some early, hard-scrabble years, took little interest in politics). When 
I was a kid, my family did listen to President Roosevelt’s radio 
“Fireside Chats,” and we not only listened, we sat and actually watched 
the radio while we took in what the great New Deal President had to say. 
And, sure, I had studied economics, along with political science, 
history, and law here at OU.

But when I first got to Washington, mine was still, like that of the 
followers of Franklin Roosevelt, a kind of “conscience” politics. The 
government ought to do right because it was the right thing to do, 
morally right. Those of us well-off ought to help those less fortunate 
out of the goodness of our hearts, with the federal government a kind of 
necessary funnel for our charity.

And then, rather right away soon after I arrived at the Senate, I was 
appointed to the Senate’s most powerful committee, the Senate Finance 
Committee, which because of its broad jurisdiction, covering taxes, 
foreign trade, social security, Medicare, and welfare, had, and still 
has, a central role in making national economic policy. And soon, too, I 
was, together with New York City mayor John Lindsay, a guiding leader of 
President Lyndon Johnson’s National  Advisory Commission on Civil 
Disorders, the Kerner Commission, established partly at my suggestion 
following the terrible riots which occurred in the African American 
sections of most of America’s cities during the “hot summer” of 1967—a 
Commission which found, quite famously, that “America is moving toward 
two societies, one white, one black, separate and unequal,” and that 
institutional racism was the basic, endemic and awful cause. And then 
the Commission recommended, in addition to vigorous enforcement of the 
recently enacted civil rights laws, great new federal programs, 
particularly for jobs, education, and training.

My friend, the then Secretary of Labor, Willard Wirtz, summarized the 
Kerner Commission’s findings of fact by saying, “In the words of that 
great American philosopher, Pogo, ‘We have met the enemy, and he is 
us!’” And another admired friend of mine, the wonderful then Secretary 
of Health Education and Welfare, John Gardner, backed our Kerner 
recommendations by declaring, “We are in deep trouble as a people, and 
history will not deal kindly with any nation which will not tax itself 
to cure its miseries.”

But my laborer, cowboy, cattle trader father, then eking out a living on 
a small farm in southwestern Oklahoma, struggling to pay the medical 
bills for my mother who was suffering in a years-long coma from a stroke 
that eventually killed her—he loved me, my Dad did, and believed in me, 
but the way he heard what we said on the Kerner Commission was: “Mr. 
Harris, you should, out of the goodness of your heart and because of 
your Christian duty, pay more taxes to help poor black people who’ve 
been rioting in Detroit.”

My Dad’s response was something like: “To hell with that! I’ve got 
enough troubles of my own. I’m barely making a living, and I’m already 
paying too much tax. What about me?”

My Dad had a right to have those feelings.

full: http://okdemocrats.org/senator-fred-harris-speech-josh-lee-lecture/

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