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“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

This Day in History: LBJ Signs Fair Housing Act Into Law

Lyndon Baines Johnson, Remarks on Signing the Civil Rights Act, April 11, 1968

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the signing of the 1968 Civil Rights Act, which provided for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, creed, or national origin. President Lyndon B. Johnson had failed to persuade Congress to pass a civil rights bill in 1966 with a fair housing provision. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and amidst the riots in the wake of his assassination, Congress passed civil rights legislation, which included Title VIII that banned discrimination in the sale and rental of 80 percent of housing. The bill also contained anti-riot provisions and protected persons exercising specific rights—such as attending school or serving on a jury—as well as it protected civil rights workers urging others to exercise these rights.  The bill included the Indian Bill of Rights, which extended constitutional protections to Native Americans not covered by the Bill of Rights.

Upon signing the bill into law, President Johnson delivered remarks to Congress and the nation on the progress made:

I shall never forget that it was more than 100 years ago when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation—but it was a proclamation; it was not a fact.
In the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we affirmed through law that men equal under God are also equal when they seek a job, when they go to get a meal in a restaurant, or when they seek lodging for the night in any State in the Union…
In the Civil Rights Act of 1965, we affirmed through law for every citizen in this land the most basic right of democracy—the right of a citizen to vote in an election in his country. In the five States where the Act had its greater impact, Negro voter registration has already more than doubled.
Now, with this bill, the voice of justice speaks again.
It proclaims that fair housing for all—all human beings who live in this country—is now a part of the American way of life.

Should We Celebrate the Federal Income Tax?

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the federal income tax. Curious about its origins and development? Molly Michelmore, an associate professor of history at Washington and Lee University and former Miller Center Fellow, offers her views in the Washington Post.

The federal income tax was once quite popular. According to Michelmore:

After the Civil War, the federal government relied on a combination of consumption taxes and high tariffs to raise revenue. Both bore most heavily on regular people while doing little to tap the fortunes of the Gilded Age’s robber barons.

 Popular hostility toward these moneyed interests helps explain the initial popularity of the income tax. In their 1892 platform, a group of agrarian radicals known as Populists demanded a graduated income tax to bring an end to “oppression, injustice, and poverty” and to restore “equal rights and equal privileges for all.” Republicans and Democrats took notice; in 1894, Congress imposed a 2 percent tax on incomes over $4,000.

After the Supreme Court ruled the legislation unconstitutional, Congress sent an income tax amendment to the states for ratification. On February 3, 1913, the 16th amendment was ratified. According to Michelmore, it wasn’t until post-World War II that income tax declined in popularity as a result of liberals divorcing economic security and mobility from the burden of taxation.

Read Michelmore’s full piece here. Michelmore is also author of Tax and Spend: The Welfare State, Tax Politics, and the Limits of American Liberalism.

Election’s Eve: Our Roundup of Some of the Key Issues

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the foreign policy presidential debate. October 22, 2012.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the foreign policy presidential debate. October 22, 2012. Photo by Irina Lagunina, courtesy of Voice of America, PD.

Election’s Eve is finally upon us. Even after the longest presidential campaign in history, the two candidates and their running mates are scheduled to hold 14 events across eight states in the final hours. The current (as of 2 pm) Real Clear Politics average of twelve polls shows President Obama at 48.5 percent, with Mitt Romney closely following at 48.1 percent. Some have maintained this election is too close to call. Nate Silver puts the odds at 86 percent chance that President Obama will win the Electoral College. This morning, Larry Sabato and the Crystal Ball predicted that President Obama would likely win a second term. Here at Riding the Tiger, we aren’t the prediction business, but we have been following the election closely throughout year and weighing in with historical analysis and commentary. In this post, we highlight some of the more salient issues in the election, as well as some issues the candidates didn’t address but we wish they had.

The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act: Organized Labor’s Toxic Cocktail

Bernard Spindel (d. 1972) whispers in ear of James R. Hoffa (b. 1913) after court session.

Bernard Spindel (d. 1972) whispers in ear of James R. Hoffa (b. 1913) after court session in which they pleaded innocent to illegal wiretap charges. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper staff photographer: Roger Higgins. PD.

Today's post is written by Miller Center National Fellow James J. ("Jack") Epstein. In this post, Jack explores the origins and development of the unexpectedly related crossroads of labor law and crime control. The impact of these policies no doubt are alive in this election year. Both the Republican and Democratic Parties included planks on labor and crime control in their platforms. Furthermore, the relationship between labor and Democratic Party continues on an ambivalent path and appears to be at an important crossroads based on events from the Wisconsin recall election of Scott Walker, to the Labor Unions' holding of their own shadow convention in July, to the teachers' union strike in Chicago.

On this date in 1959 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), popularly known as Landrum-Griffin.  A notoriously complex law, Landrum-Griffin marked the achievement of two long-standing policy objectives for conservative opponents of organized labor.  On one hand, it restricted considerably unions’ use of effective, and thus always controversial, organizing tactics like “secondary boycotts” and “hot cargo agreements.”  On the other, it brought unprecedented federal oversight. LMRDA thus was a kind of toxic cocktail for labor, a more muscular version of Taft-Hartley, mixed with a variation of public regulation akin to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s supervision of corporate activities.  Despite this breadth of coverage, however, Landrum-Griffin has lived long in the historical shadows of the key federal labor laws that preceded it – the 1932 Norris-LaGuardia Act, the 1935 Wagner Act, and the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.  Yet it is as vital for a full understanding of American politics today as any of its more famous predecessors. 

Passed by landslides in both the Senate (95-2) and House (352-52), LMRDA showed above all the awesome political power of a criminal concept used since the late 1920s to attack American trade unionism – labor “racketeering.”  Supporters used public fears over the power of union “racketeers” – or labor “czars” or “bosses,” to cite other common catchphrases of the day – to attack labor and to garner political capital sufficient to pass their law.  And so, at the height of organized labor’s historical strength – in the mid-1950’s, roughly 35% of the non-agricultural workforce carried union cards – Congress passed, and Ike signed, a law aimed directly at the interests of unions.

Labor Relations and Partisan Division

Francis Perkins looks on as Franklin Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act.

Francis Perkins looks on as Franklin Roosevelt signs the National Labor Relations Act.

On this day in 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the pro-labor National Labor Relations Act, also called the Wagner Act or NLRA, into law, which established the National Labor Relations Board and gave the unions the right to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining. At the time, AFL leader William Green and future CIO president John L. Lewis called the law labor’s “Magna Carta.” One scholar, Karl Klare, heralded the Wagner Act as “the most radical piece of legislation ever enacted by the United States Congress.” The bill led to an era, albeit a rather short-lived one, of union and federal regulatory power, giving workers the legal right to strike, the right to be protected from discrimination on the basis of their union activity, and the right to enter into collective bargaining agreements, all regulated and enforced by the National Labor Relations Board. Scholars have noted the dramatic increase in the number of labor unions after the Wagner Act’s passage as one measure of the bill’s success.

However, the law was a short-lived victory for unions. As Dorian T. Warren (gated article) has argued, since its inception the National Labor Relations Board has lacked adequate power to monitor and enforce labor law effectively because of a comparatively weak federal administrative apparatus and its regulatory capture by business groups. Especially following the passage of the pro-business 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, unions were subsequently retrenched by employers. Although President Harry Truman vetoed Taft-Hartley, Congress passed the bill over the president’s veto. Truman explained his position to the American public:

I vetoed this bill because I am convinced it is a bad bill. It is bad for labor, bad for management, and bad for the country.

It is unfair to the working people of this country. It clearly abuses the right, which millions of our citizens now enjoy, to join together and bargain with their employers for fair wages and fair working conditions.

The bill is deliberately designed to weaken labor unions. When the sponsors of the bill claim that by weakening unions, they are giving rights back to individual workingmen, they ignore the basic reason why unions are important in our democracy. Unions exist so that laboring men can bargain with their employers on a basis of equality. Because of unions, the living standards of our working people have increased steadily until they are today the highest in the world.
A bill which would weaken unions would undermine our national policy of collective bargaining. The Taft-Hartley bill would do just that. It would take us back in the direction of the old evils of individual bargaining. It would take the bargaining power away from the workers and give more power to management.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act and Dismantling the Jim Crow State

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, look on.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, look on. Cecil Stoughton, White House Press Office (WHPO).

After surviving an 83-day filibuster, forty-eight years ago today, the Senate finally passed a compromised version of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a critical legal measure that contributed to the dismantlement of the Jim Crow State. The bill ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public. It also required equal employment opportunities to be provided by employers and laid the groundwork for passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

President Johnson began campaigning for civil rights legislation almost immediately upon assuming office. President Kennedy had sent the bill to Congress in June 1963, but was unable to get it passed before his assassination on November 22. In his first address to a joint session of Congress on November 27, 1963, President Johnson told the legislators:

No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long. We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. We have talked for one hundred years or more. It is time now to write the next chapter, and to write it in the books of law.

After the Senate finally passed its version of the bill, President Johnson urged House Minority Leader Charles Halleck in a phone call, to push through quick votes on several other bills pending before the House and to pass the Civil Rights Act in time to have a signing ceremony for July 4th. Halleck noted in the call that the president would receive all of the political credit for the law’s passage.

After a bipartisan coalition took control of the House Rules Committee, a panel reported a resolution accepting the Senate version of the bill and ruled that only a single hour of debate would be allowed on the House floor. On July 2, the House voted 289-126 to accept the Senate version of the bill. On the same day President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. President Johnson addressed the nation about the meaning and purpose of the law in the signing ceremony:

The purpose of the law is simple.
It does not restrict the freedom of any American, so long as he respects the rights of others.
It does not give special treatment to any citizen.
It does say the only limit to a man's hope for happiness, and for the future of his children, shall be his own ability.
It does say that there are those who are equal before God shall now also be equal in the polling booths, in the classrooms, in the factories, and in hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and other places that provide service to the public. …

Its purpose is to promote a more abiding commitment to freedom, a more constant pursuit of justice, and a deeper respect for human dignity.

But advocacy for the bill and its passage triggered a tumultuous election year.

Brown v. Board of Education and Education Reform

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Topeka, Kansas

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Topeka, Kansas, USA - Monroe Elementary school, where racial segregation was challenged in 1954

Fifty-eight years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously issued its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education that "separate educational facilities" for black and white students were "inherently unequal" and therefore unconstitutional. The ruling overturned the May 18, 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that continued to uphold the legality of Jim Crow laws and other forms of racial discrimination. But has real progress been made? How might politicians consider racial inequality in debates over education reform this election season?

The Politics of Presidential Commencement Addresses: Not Just for Grads

Barack Obama at Notre Dame commencement May 2009

President Barack Obama bows his head during the invocation at the University of Notre Dame’s commencement ceremony, May 17, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each delivered commencement addresses this week to core constituents of their respective party’s base. It is fair to say that both speeches were campaign speeches. Of course this wasn’t the first time in history that presidential candidates have delivered commencement addresses for campaign purposes or to justify policies. We dug into our archives here at the Miller Center to highlight a number of memorable commencement speeches from presidential history.
 

No Matter How the Court Rules, the Health Reform Battle Will Continue

The Supreme Court

Photo of the Supreme Court by Mark Fischer.

Today’s post is from Eric M. Patashnik, professor of public policy and politics in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and Jeffery Jenkins, associate professor of politics and GAGE faculty associate at the Miller Center. They are the coeditors of Living Legislation: Durability, Change and the Politics of American Lawmaking. This post originally appeared on The Monkey Cage.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in June. If Intrade is right, there is about a 60 percent chance that the individual mandate will be found unconstitutional. But suppose the smart money is wrong and the mandate is upheld. Will the Affordable Care Act then be completely secure?

Friday Roundup

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio, photo by Gage Skidmore

Each week in the Friday Roundup, Riding the Tiger takes a look at the major news stories of the week involving the presidential election of 2012.

This week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Arizona’s 2010 immigration law, S.B. 1070. Media reports suggested the Court, based on their questions, appeared to be rediscovering federalism and might be inclined to uphold a controversial part of the law. In a post for Riding the Tiger earlier this week, Anna O. Law provided historical context to the debate over who should control immigration policy, and conversations from the Miller Center's Presidential Recordings Program examined the historical relationship between immigration and the economy. 

Economic Effects on Immigration

The Bracero Program

In 1942, the first Mexican workers arrive in Los Angeles, California, as part of the Bracero Program.

Today the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Arizona’s S.B. 1070 law, which allows local police to inquire about the immigration status of people—stopped for any reason—whom they suspect are in the country illegally. One of the core issues at the heart of the Supreme Court decision is which level of government should address immigration policy. In a post for Riding the Tiger earlier this week, Anna O. Law provided historical context to the debate over who should control immigration policy.

S.B. 1070 and other state laws also raise important questions regarding the link between the economy and immigration. Historically, debates over national immigration policy have included two arguments. The first is the claim that immigrants do work that Americans do not want to do. On the other hand is the concern that illegal immigrants take jobs away from Americans.

Immigration Policy: Whose Line Is it Anyway?

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer meeting with President Barack Obama in June 2010 .

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer with President Obama, discussing immigration and border security issues in the wake of SB1070.

Today's guest post is from Anna O. Law, associate professor of political science at DePaul University and the author of The Immigration Battle in American Courts (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

The Supreme Court will this week hear oral argument in a case about Arizona's controversial immigration law, S.B. 1070. While the national debate over immigration has become reduced to campaign trail sound bites and a general holding pattern within the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court has the potential with this ruling in the Arizona case to make an important contribution in improving immigration policy.

Education and the 2012 Election

Department of Education, 2006

Department of Education in 2006. Photo by M. V. Jantzen.

Today's guest post is from Christopher P. Loss, assistant professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt University, and former Miller Center National Fellow. This piece originally appeared on the Princeton University Press Election 101 blog.

Barbara Perry on Presidents and the Supreme Court

Today in the Washington Post, our own Barbara Perry compares FDR's approach to addressing the Supreme Court to President Obama’s. You can read her thoughtful insights on last week's Obamacare hearings on our blog here.

Obamacare at the High Court: A Self-Inflicted Wound for the Supremes?

President-elect Obama and Chief Justice Roberts in 2009

President-elect Obama visits the Supreme Court as Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. looks on in January 2009.

When the Supreme Court hears the health care case beginning today, it steps into the political thicket, and it does so at its own peril.