Listening to Republicans rage about big government, you would think it was a plot magically hatched in Washington by elitist bureaucrats to spend taxes and regulate for no good reason.
How the GOP has changed since 1900, when real people had real problems and there were no government safety nets.
Led by GOP insurgents, the Progressive era of the 1900s was mostly a Republican show, in Washington and in state legislatures.
Here is what the Republican administrations of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft were able to accomplish from 1901 to 1913 despite the Old Guard Republican leadership of Congress, which insisted it was socialism, abuse of executive authority and the overthrow of the Constitution:
The Meat Inspection Act; the Pure Food and Drug Act; railroad rate regulation; a Bureau of Corporations in a new Department of Commerce and Labor; a tax on corporations; an inheritance tax; a Bureau of Mines; a postal savings bank; publication of congressional campaign contributions; a workmen’s compensation law; the Children’s Bureau; and creation of more national parks, forests and nature reserves than before or since.
The Roosevelt and Taft administrations also built the framework for the Federal Reserve and set in motion ratification of the constitutional amendments for direct election of senators and — yes — a federal income tax.
In a GOP Congress dominated by tea party ideology, it is unlikely any of the above — conceived then by real people, not elitist bureaucrats — could be accomplished today.
John N. Rippey