Oliver Wiswell.

My Dad was the finest man I’ve ever known, but he didn’t have a lot of formal education or refined taste in literature.   He read the novels of John D. MacDonald, C.S. Forester and Kenneth Roberts.  Cheap paperbacks you could buy in the Rexall drugstore on 45th in Seattle.  So I read them as well.  It was a productive use of my time.  Kenneth Roberts (1885–1957) started as a journalist, tried his hand at soldiering in the First World War (Siberia expedition), went back to journalism (Saturday Evening Post), and ended up as a historical novelist.

Roberts was a cross-grained guy.  Arundel (1931) and A Rabble in Arms (1933) celebrate Benedict Arnold—before the treason.  Northwest Passage (1937) centers on Robert Rogers, the subsequently disgraced American hero of the French and Indian Wars.[1]  Oliver Wiswell (1940) is a view of the American Revolution from the perspective of a Tory.  After Arundel[2] it is his best book.

In Oliver Wiswell the hero instinctively helps a man who is being tarred and feathered and ridden on a fence rail for dissenting from common opinion; helps treat the British wounded after Bunker Hill (one guy is gut-shot by a musket ball with a nail pounded through it); interviews New York Loyalists who have been driven into hiding in a swamp to escape their tormentors; hears of other Loyalists who have been imprisoned in the depths of Connecticut’s Simsbury mines; investigates the mass murder of American prisoners of war by their British guards in New York; wanders in disguise through the back-country in search of the troops that General John Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga[3]; travels for a while with the many people migrating West of the Appalachians to escape the war and the “Land of Liberty”; arrives in South Carolina in time to hear of the bloody civil war underway in the South and to participate in the Loyalist defense of Ninety-Six; learns of the American assault upon the civilized Cherokee; returns to New York to share in the whale-boat fights on Long Island Sound as Loyalists sought to escape the United States; and ends by helping found new colonies in Canada for the Loyalists.  So, reading this book could give you the idea that the American Revolution involved a lot of informal violence on both sides, but especially against the opponents of the “Empire of Liberty.”

While not an “academic” historian, Roberts did a lot of research for his books.  He consulted both published primary sources and the “literary” histories of an earlier time.  Like any journalist, he sought out dramatic human stories that illustrated larger patterns.

In recent years, academic historians have systematically exploited many more sources that were used by Roberts.  However, their books largely confirm what Roberts intuited.[4]  There was nothing gentlemanly or moderate about the Patriots’ war with the allies of the British Army.  Roger Parkinson, The Common Cause, examines how Patriots nurtured white fear and hatred of blacks and Indians as a way to bind people to the Revolution.  Kathleen DuVal, Independence Lost, shows how on the Southwestern frontier many hopes for the future—especially among the Indians–failed when the United States succeeded.  Maya Jasanoff, Liberty’s Exiles, tracks the fate of losers red, white and black.  Holger Hoock, Scars of Independence, speaks directly to Robert’s theme of ruthless liberty.

All this emphasizes the achievement of the Founders in calming America after 1783.

[1] The first third of the book, on Rogers’ raid on the St. Francis Indians, is marvelous.  The rest is a dog.

[2] In one of the novels, an English noble-woman says “You live in a rundle?  Oh, you mean Arun-dell.”

[3] They were promised parole, but the Americans declined to fulfill this promise—or adequately care for their captives.

[4] See the discussion of books in Jane Kamensky, “Red, White, Black and Blue,” NYT Book Review, 21 May 2017.

Medicaid Essentials.

There is a good argument that the “welfare state” has been created out of changing social needs.  In 1965, as part of his “Great Society” effort to “complete” Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the law creating Medicaid.  The law extended medical insurance to the “deserving poor”: children, pregnant women, the disabled, and geezers unable to afford long-term care.[1]  By 2013, 57 million people were covered by Medicaid.[2]

In 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed states to extend Medicaid coverage to all those who earned 138 percent of the federal poverty level or less.  Some 31 states expanded Medicaid.  This added 17 million people to the Medicaid rolls.  Even though 19 states did not expand Medicaid, the total cost of the program rose to $574 billion in 2016.

Did the expansion of Medicaid improve health outcomes?  One might suppose that it would take a while to tell.  All the same, Harvard rushed out a study that that found a 6 percent drop in mortality among poor populations in states that expanded Medicaid after 2014.[3]  A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that there isn’t much difference between private insurance and Medicaid—except that Medicaid recipients are just as likely to get care that they wouldn’t have received otherwise.

The aging of the American population poses a huge challenge to Medicaid.  The chief problem is “long-term care”: home health aides and nursing home care.  Medicaid provides for such “long-term care.”[4]  Anyone who exhausts their savings paying for home health-care or a nursing home qualifies for Medicaid.  Better than 60 percent of people—mostly women because women tend to outlive men—in nursing homes are covered by Medicaid.  This amounts to 21 percent of total Medicaid spending and the share is only likely to grow.  About 18 percent of “Baby Boomers” will need nursing home care.  Most of them don’t have the resources to pay for it, so they will become public charges as they/we have been public charges throughout life.

Republicans wanted (and still want) to scale back spending on Medicaid.[5]  In particular, they want to roll-back the Obama administration’s extension of Medicaid to the “working poor” while leaving in place health coverage for the “deserving poor.”  In contrast, the vast majority (70 percent) of Americans favor maintaining Medicaid spending at its current level.

In the near term, there isn’t any real prospect of cutting entitlement spending.  It is a different question to ask if America can afford such spending.  The ACA loaded $875 billion in new taxes on upper income earners.  This seems to be the real source of funding for the ACA, rather than the revenues derived from “mandatory” insurance participation.[6]  The Republican “repeal and replace” plan would roll-back these taxes.  The House version would have cut spending by $834 billion.  Grimy though it may be, this turns into a debate over spending on an “undeserving” past versus spending on an uncertain future.  Boomers should have saved more.

[1] On the distinction between the “deserving” and Undeserving” poor, see http://www.herinst.org/BusinessManagedDemocracy/culture/work/deserving.html  It doesn’t matter if this is a nonsensical distinction.  In contemporary Democratic party ideology, ALL poor people are the “deserving poor,” as re many members of the middle class.  However, Republicans hold the White House, both houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court.  For that matter, it is clear that many conservative Democrats hold to the same beliefs.

[2] “The battle over Medicaid,” The Week, 23 June 2017, p. 11.

[3] Not to be callous, but over two years, the death rate declined by 6 percent and this is the result of extending Medicaid?  Is this reduced or merely postponed mortality or just a short-term deviation?

[4] Fat black ladies from the Caribbean, mon, sticking tubes in you and wiping your ass.

[5] People on Medicaid usually don’t vote Republican.  If the “reform” passes, they never will.

[6] My sons received forms for the last two years in which they were supposed to certify that they had health insurance.  However, they were not required to submit those forms with their tax returns.  That is the “mandate.”

Memoirs of the Addams Administration 28.

President Donald Trump’s foreign policy doesn’t seem that far off the mark: beat up on ISIS, try to square petty quarrels among the Gulf States, nudge the European NATO members to increase their defense spending to the promised levels before they talk about coercing the Russkies, figure out what to do about North Korea without blowing up the world, and start renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  The Democrats had turned against the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the election season, so the election of Hilary Clinton wouldn’t have made any difference there.  The Trump administration bailed on the Paris Climate Agreement, but the effects will be felt only at the margins and for a time.  Eventually, the United States will come back to supporting it.

The big problems have been in domestic policy.  What if the Republicans had chosen to work on something other than health care as their first order of business after the November 2016 election?[1]  What if they had gone with a big infrastructure bill?  Lord knows the country needs one, the Democrats have been just as neglectful as the Republicans on this matter in recent decades, and there could have been some kind of bi-partisan agreement on action.  Failing that, what if they had gone with a major tax over-haul?  Lord knows the country needs one, and there would have been lots of chances for horse-trading.

But no, the Republicans had to lead-off with efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  They had made it their battle cry for years before Donald Trump became their president.  Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell failed to assemble the minimum number of votes for the latest iteration of “repeal and replace.”[2]  Now all the things that might have been done, but were not done, face a steep up-hill climb.[3]

Still, beyond all the chortling over Republicans’ self-inflicted wounds, lie two realities.  First, the health-care market places already had begun to contract for reasons rooted in the ACA.[4]  Second, during the Obama administration, a federal court had invalidated the subsidies that made health insurance marginally affordable.  So, Republicans may get one more chance to get it right.  They need to think anew and act anew.

In contrast, the domestic economy is a mess.  “Trumponomics” consists of cutting corporate taxes and federal regulation in order to stimulate business activity; reforming welfare to get more Americans back into the labor force; re-negotiating trade deals to achieve equity; and stimulating the energy sector by relieving the burdens upon coal.  This will result in a 3 percent economic growth rate, he says.[5]

Many economists believe that 3 percent growth is a fantasy.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) guesses that these changes will produce only 1.9 percent growth.  The American economy can grow only if it has an expanding labor force.  So, no border wall.

[1] In the same ways that the first Barack Obama administration might have sought an adequate stimulus bill, rather than shifting its efforts to the creation of a costly new entitlement program in the form of the Affordable Care Act while the country slogged through an inadequate recovery from the financial crisis.  Paul Krugman had argued that the Obama stimulus bill was half a s bog as it should be, spread over two years instead of front-loaded into one year, and included tax cuts that would be used to de-leverage rather than spent to stimulate the economy.  As best I recall, President Obama was reported (by Bob Woodward) to have remarked that “Look, I get the Keynesian argument, but the American people aren’t there.”

[2] “GOP’s “repeal and replace” bill dies,” The Week, 28 Jult 2017, p. 4.

[3] See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tL1acYvpR_E

[4] The Democratic solution to this problem is ever-larger subsidies.  The budget effects do not concern them.

[5] “Issue of the week: Trump’s MAGAnomics” plan.” The Week, 28 July 2017, p. 34.

Lord Dunmore’s War.

From 1756 to 1763, Britain fought France for command of eastern North America.  Britain won, but then had troubles with its Indian and Anglo-American allies in that war.  The British government found itself ruling a multi-lingual, multi-racial empire in America.  French-speaking Catholic Canadians and Native Americans were suddenly joined with the English-speaking Atlantic Americans.  Were the Atlantic Americans to be the favored constituency or should the imperial government try to hold the ring between three equally valuable groups?  The latter made the most sense from a Justice perspective, and economic rationality supported Justice.  The fur trade with the interior regions generated wealth, while new wars would load the British government with more debt.  However, the Atlantic Americans bucked against imperial limits on their Westward drive, as they did against resistance from the Native Americans.

Trying to bring the territories of the Ohio Valley (western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky) under effective control, in 1768 the British signed the Treaty of Fort Stanwix with the formidable Iroquois Confederacy.[1]  The Treaty didn’t hand over to the British any lands actually occupied by the Iroquois.  It handed over lands used by the Shawnee and others as a common hunting ground.  The Iroquois had beaten all of these Native American peoples into submission in the many days ago.  The Shawnee didn’t like this deal (who would?) and weren’t anywhere as near afraid of white settlers or British soldiers as they were of the Iroquois.  So, trouble brewed, needing only an incident to set off a real war.[2]

Incidents began to accumulate from late 1773.  More and more Atlantic Americans crossed the Appalachians in search of trade, then of land.  A few of them bore names that ring out in American history: Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark.  Most, though, are known only to specialist historians: Michael Cresap (1742-1775), Ebenezer Zane (1747-1811), John Gibson (1740-1822), and the awful Daniel Greathouse (1752-1775).  The migration led to conflicts in which the Native Americans got rather the better of it.

In 1774, the royal governor of Virginia, John Murray, Lord Dunmore, responded by launching two columns of militia totaling about 2,500 men into the Ohio country.  The basic, usually effective, strategy consisted of marching cautiously toward the home villages of the Indians; hoping that they would retreat to save their families; and then burning down the villages, burning any food stores, and burning the crops in the field.  The Indians then could starve at their leisure.  This kinda-sorta worked in what came to be called “Lord Dunmore’s War.”[3]  The Shawnee took advantage of the separation of the two militia columns to try to destroy the enemy in detail by concentrating against first one, then the other.

On 10 October 1774, at Point Pleasant in what is today West Virginia, the Shawnee attacked.  The Shawnee did a lot of damage to the militia column, but could not defeat it.  The day ended in a victory for the American militia.  On 19 October 1774, faced with the prospect of a militia advance on his villages, the Shawnee chief signed over most of his lands.

“Lord Dunmore’s War,” as it came to be called, opened the country south of the Ohio River to settlement.  At the same time, it did nothing to settle the question of the country north of the Ohio.  It also offered another warning to the Native Americans that their future could not be reconciled with that of the Atlantic Americans.  Future wars loomed.

[1] See: https://waroftheworldblog.com/2017/07/15/iroquois-confederacy/

[2] Glenn F. Williams, Dunmore’s War: The Last Conflict of America’s Colonial Era (2017)

[3] It certainly worked a lot better than did two later expeditions by the U.S. Army in 1790 and 1791.  Both of those ended in disastrous defeats.  See: https://waroftheworldblog.com/2017/07/14/my-weekly-reader-14-july-2017/

Memoirs of the Addams Administration 27.

The third attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already died.  Last week, however, it seemed like it might work.  Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell tried adding inducements to win back “moderate” Republican senators.  Senator Ted Cruz added a proposal to require insurance companies to sell one full “Obamacare” policy in return for the freedom to offer more stripped-down policies as well.[1]  As is now known, McConnell’s effort to pull in votes from the two wings of the Republican party failed.

It is worth noticing several points that were not well articulated in the commentary.  First, critics claimed that the Cruz proposal would trigger a flight from the ACA standard policies on the part of younger, healthier (and often lower income) people.  That is, the ACA created not just an “entitlement” for some, but an irksome burden for many others.  Second, late in the Obama administration, a federal court held that the money for the insurance subsidies does not come from any Congressional appropriation.  Hence spending that money is illegal.  The Trump administration has not stopped paying the subsidies or hurried the case to the Supreme Court.  It seems likely that this Court would affirm the lower court.  In that case, the subsidies would stop and the market places would encounter some turbulence.  Third, the Republican party alone did not put Donald Trump into the White House.  Many traditionally Democratic voters switched side to vote for him.  Letting Mitch McConnell and other mainstream Republican decide the form of a new health-care law works against the interests of Trump’s own base.  He might do better to actually try to lead in conjunction with the Republican “moderates” and whatever Democrats he can pry loose.

The latter may not be so far-fetched as it sounds.[2]  First, Democrats have been debating whether the embrace of Bernie Sanders by many Democrats amounted to a sugar high.[3]  After the triumph of marriage equality,[4] transgender rights became an important liberal cause.  There are a great many gay people, but not a lot of transgender people.  Certainly their rights deserve as much protection as do those of anyone else.  However, was it politically wise to unleash the whole force of right-minded contempt on the many people who have not yet reached the point now occupied by urban liberal opinion?[5]  Then, you don’t see a lot of “We Oppose Our Local Police” yard-signs out there.  There are about 1,000 police shootings of civilians every year.  Focusing on a few high-profile cases, no matter how egregious they appear at first glance, may not be a winner.[6]  Democrats are divided over these and other issues.  The current chaos inside the Republican Party offers some of them a chance to actually accomplish something.  Much would depend upon Trump deciding to be president and Democrats shifting toward pragmatism.

[1] “Divided GOP haggles over health-care bill,” The Week, 21 July 2017, p. 5.

[2] “Democrats: Should they shift to the center?” The Week, 21 July 2017, p. 16.

[3] Meanwhile, in Venezuela,…

[4] Which I fully supported.  Why should gay people be the only ones with a socially-approved out?

[5] It is worth reflecting on how long it took for President Obama’s position on marriage equality to evolve.  An estimated 25 percent of people self-identify as liberals.  A recent survey of small town Americans reported that just over two-thirds of the respondents felt that they had different values from people in urban areas (probably why they’re still stuck in the boonies).  Almost as  many (56 percent) believe that the federal government does  more to help the cities than for people like them. “Poll Watch,” The Week, 30 June 2017, p. 17.  Hillary Clinton lost in the Electoral College, not in the popular vote.

[6] Of the 80 police officers arrested for fatal shootings since 2005, 28 have been convicted.  “Noted,” The Week, 30 June 2017, p. 16.  One can read this as a warning against a rush to judgement until all the facts come out.  Or you can read it as a sign that juries of ordinary citizens are reluctant to second-guess the police officers who protect their communities from other dangers.

Exclusive Covenants, Exclusively Arrived At.

Until the First World War, almost all African-Americans lived in the rural South.  By 1970, almost half of the African-American population lived in cities outside the South, while many others had migrated to Southern cities.[1]  That “Great Migration” fell in two parts.  From 1915 to 1930, about 1.5 million African-Americans moved out of the South.  From 1940 to 1970 another 5 million people moved North or West.

The migrants found no warm welcome from the white residents of cities.  Generally, white people did not want to live or work in proximity to black people.  Southern cities sometimes had ordinances that forebade people of one race to live in neighborhoods where the majority population belonged to another race.  However, in 1917, the Supreme Court held that such ordinances violated the 14th Amendment.[2]

As the “Great Migration” began during the First World War, it encountered violence from northern whites.  For example, in Chicago’s Washington Park between 1917 and 1921, bombings struck black-owned residences in traditionally white areas and the offices of realtors who sold houses to blacks between 1917 and 1921.  A bloody race riot shocked Chicago in Summer 1919.  Businessmen, and realtors in particular, saw violence as bad for business.  Integration led to violence.  So segregation had to be preserved.

A solution soon came to hand.  The “Great Migration” coincided with an effort at Republican “Progressive” reform launched by Herbert Hoover, the Secretary of Commerce in the Harding and Coolidge administrations.  In 1922, Hoover’s Commerce Department issued a model law for the states to pass called the “Standard State Zoning Enabling Act.”  The model law, subsequently revised, became the common basis for urban zoning.[3]

While the Commerce Department’s model law made no reference to racial segregation, it provided a framework within which city officials and real estate developers could use zoning and legal covenants attached to new subdivisions.  Immediately after a Supreme Court decision upholding covenants in 1926, the Chicago Real Estate Board promoted the use of covenants.

What was true in Chicago’s Washington Park section was true elsewhere.  Many real estate developers attached “exclusionary covenants” to each property in a sub-division.  They barred sale to or occupation by African-Americans.  For almost three decades, legally-enforceable residential segregation spread through much of urban America.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) mounted legal challenges to the covenants.  In 1926 the Supreme Court rejected NAACP arguments and affirmed the legality of the covenants as “private action” not covered by the 14th Amendment.  In 1940, the Supreme Court did reject one exclusionary covenant on technical grounds, but did not declare against covenants in general.[4]  In 1948, the Supreme Court essentially reversed the 1926 decision.  The Court held that private individuals could abide by the covenants, but that they could not use the courts to enforce their own views on others.[5]

In 1968, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act.  Title VII of that act is known as the Fair Housing Act.  It barred discrimination on the basis of race, creed, gender, or national origin.

[1] By 1970, 40 percent lived in the North, 7 percent in the West, and well over half of African-Americans living in the South lived in cities.  See: Nicholas Lemann, The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America (1991), and Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (2010).

[2] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buchanan_v._Warley

[3] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_State_Zoning_Enabling_Act

[4] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hansberry_v._Lee

[5] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelley_v._Kraemer

Iroquois Confederacy.

The Iroquois Confederacy united the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca tribes.  Sometime, perhaps around 1570, the five tribes had agreed to organize a confederation.  They had an elaborate government structure.  At its peak each tribe got one vote in the grand council and decisions had to be unanimous.  Why did they form this confederation?  Probably because they were under attack from all sides by more powerful tribes.  They concentrated in remote areas of central New York, building fortified villages on high ground.

Then they began to make a cult out of personal glory in warfare.  (Cultural values matter.)  The women of the tribes took over the farming duties.  This freed up the men for other activities.  Today it would be sitting in the recliner drinking a beer and watching sports.  For the Iroquois it was ranging through the forests to fight people.  Either you get good at this or you get dead.  The Iroquois got good at it.  Really, really good.  A total population of about 12,000 could produce 2,200 warriors at any one time.

At this time Europeans wanted beaver pelts in immense quantities.  (They made really sharp-looking and water-proof hats.)  Traders were taking 10,000 beaver a year out of upstate New York.  They were willing to pay Indian trappers a lot to get the pelts to satisfy the demand in Europe.  The first Iroquois treaty was with the French in 1624.  The two groups then fell out over the high price of French goods and the French favoritism for the Algonkins and Hurons, who seemed willing to accept Jesuit missionaries.  Also, the French did not want to sell the Iroquois guns.  The Iroquois got in touch with the Dutch fur traders on the Hudson River.  The Dutch tried to trade alcohol for furs.  The Iroquois wanted guns.  So the Dutch sold guns.

By the 1630s the over-hunting of beaver on Iroquois land threatened to undermine the economic basis of confederation power.  What to do?  Perhaps we should work to create a “sustainable” economy in harmony with Nature, instead of engaging in thoughtless resource depletion.  Perhaps we should reject consumerism, which puts a premium on “having things” at the expense of emphasizing nurturing relationships with the friends and family who give life real meaning.  Nope.  There’s lots of beaver on the lands of other tribes.  We’re going to conquer those tribes and take their beaver.

Between 1648 and 1675 they were on the offensive.  In a quarter of a century they smashed up all the major tribes to their west as far as Ohio and as far south as Georgia.  This gave them control of all the fur trade of the northern forests.  Tribes moving furs from up-country either paid a share to the Iroquois or they made a long detour to avoid coming into contact with the Iroquois.  Either way the “tax” on the fur trade pushed up the price of furs delivered in Montreal.  This greatly annoyed the French.  Anyway, between this and the butchering of Jesuit missionaries, the French got all bent out of shape with the Iroquois.  They launched several major invasions of Iroquois country.  This, in turn, greatly annoyed the Iroquois, who launched a whole series of raids against the French settlers in Canada.

Once the British got New York away from the Dutch, they started dealing with the Iroquois.  When France and Britain fought for control of North America, the Iroquois provided a valuable ally to the British.  (Certainly a lot more valuable than the useless American colonists who were afraid of the woods.)  The British would give you the guns for free, then they would pay for scalps on top of that.  Iroquois heaven.