As he never tires of telling us, Glenn Beck hates Woodrow Wilson, the nation's leading Progressive in that movement's final years. It's a strange sentiment for a professed Christian, ostensibly committed to Jesus' injunction "to love your enemies." But I'm less concerned with Beck's religious hypocrisy than with his castigation of government regulation, the Progressives' response to the Constitution's injunction "to promote the general welfare."
Like the overwhelming majority of regulation opponents, Beck seldom, if ever, gets specific. His anti-regulatory oratory is mistily abstract, railing against government interference, socialism, bureaucracy - the usual conservative complaints. "This was a very dark time in the nation's history," says Beck about the Progressive Era, indicating opposition to all its programs.
Here are some specific Progressive projects: 1906 Meat Inspection Act; 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act; 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act; Mine-safety regulations.
The 1906 Meat Inspection act followed publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, an expose of Chicago's filthy meat-packing plants, infested with rat feces and offal. More than a century after the Pure Food and Drug enactment, its necessity is demonstrated by nearly daily revelations of drug companies' lying about their products' safety. Progressive anti-trust legislation is the basis for a recent Obama administration lawsuit against a monopolistic health insurance company. Blue Cross Michigan is currently attempting to suppress competition by forcing hospitals to charge rivals 40 percent more than they charge Blue Cross. This monopolistic practice would obviously raise health costs for all Michiganders. But it's evidently OK with Beck.
As demonstrated by the 29 deaths at the Upper Big Branch mine explosion last April, mine-safety regulations are inadequately enforced. The guilty mine owner, Massey Energy, has a long record of safety violations. Massey perennially contests these regulations. That practice delays fines, which Massey treats as acceptable business costs. That, too, is evidently OK with Beck.
These are only a few Progressive-Era regulations implicitly condemned by Beck. Child-labor laws, maximum working hours, general work-safety regulations - these Progressive Era achievements would be abolished if Beck had his way.
Accounting for Beck, however, is not the problem. Playing the role of a reactionary kook pays Beck $32 million a year. The problem raised by Beck is why his numerous fans find his idiotic historical analyses and his barbarous indifference to corporate corruption so appealing.
C.W. (Bill) Griffin is a retired consulting engineer. He has lived in Ahwatukee Foothills for 22 years.