The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

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Frances Perkins’s book, “The Roosevelt I Knew,” reissued as a Penguin Classic

In Biography on June 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm

The Frances Perkins Center is pleased to announce the re-issuance as a Penguin Classic of The Roosevelt I Knew, Frances Perkins’ memoir of her years working with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Originally published in November of 1946, it was the first definitive biography of Roosevelt, covering their years together from their first meeting in 1910 until his death in April of 1945.  The book quickly made its way to the top of the bestseller list, where it remained for ten weeks.  Even though out of print for several years, The Roosevelt I Knew has continued to make an enduring contribution to Roosevelt scholarship.

According to Christopher Breiseth, President Emeritus of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and Frances Perkins Center Board member, “Perhaps no political colleague was closer to FDR and understood him better over a longer period of time than Frances Perkins.  The portrait she drew within a year of his death in The Roosevelt I Knew was intimate, insightful, appreciative, candid and critical – all qualities that characterized their relationship.  At the same time, the self-portrait of Madame Secretary was telling.  The recent renewed interest in Frances Perkins’s extraordinary contributions to the domestic agenda of the New Deal will be deepened by Penguin Press’s reissuing of The Roosevelt I Knew, a wonderful by-product of this happy event.”

Adam Cohen, former New York Times editorial writer and author of Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America, has written the introduction to this new edition.  Cohen opens the book with an assessment of its author: “If American history textbooks accurately reflected the past, Frances Perkins would be recognized as one of the nation’s greatest heroes – as iconic as Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Paine.  Like Franklin, Perkins was a brilliant self-creation….  Like Paine, Perkins helped to start a revolution….  The New Deal was Perkins’ revolution, and it did nothing less than create modern America.”  Cohen will be the keynote speaker at the Frances Perkins Center’s annual Garden Party on Thursday, August 4th at The Brick House, Perkins’ home in Newcastle.

The book will be available on Tuesday, June 28th at the Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta and other local, as well as online, book sellers.

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Don’t like taxes? Then do not do the following…

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I just love this list, posted on May 20, 2011 by Stephen D. Foster, Jr., here.

1. Do not use Medicare.

2. Do not use Social Security

3. Do not become a member of the US military, who are paid with tax dollars.

4. Do not ask the National Guard to help you after a disaster.

5. Do not call 911 when you get hurt.

6. Do not call the police to stop intruders in your home.

7. Do not summon the fire department to save your burning home.

8. Do not drive on any paved road, highway, and interstate or drive on any bridge.

9. Do not use public restrooms.

10. Do not send your kids to public schools.

11. Do not put your trash out for city garbage collectors.

12. Do not live in areas with clean air.

13. Do not drink clean water.

14. Do not visit National Parks.

15. Do not visit public museums, zoos, and monuments.

16. Do not eat or use FDA inspected food and medicines.

17. Do not bring your kids to public playgrounds.

18. Do not walk or run on sidewalks.

19. Do not use public recreational facilities such as basketball and tennis courts.

20. Do not seek shelter facilities or food in soup kitchens when you are homeless and hungry.

21. Do not apply for educational or job training assistance when you lose your job.

22. Do not apply for food stamps when you can’t feed your children.

23. Do not use the judiciary system for any reason.

24. Do not ask for an attorney when you are arrested and do not ask for one to be assigned to you by the court.

25. Do not apply for any Pell Grants.

26. Do not use cures that were discovered by labs using federal dollars.

27. Do not fly on federally regulated airplanes.

28. Do not use any product that can trace its development back to NASA.

29. Do not watch the weather provided by the National Weather Service.

30. Do not listen to severe weather warnings from the National Weather Service.

31. Do not listen to tsunami, hurricane, or earthquake alert systems.

32. Do not apply for federal housing.

33. Do not use the internet, which was developed by the military.

34. Do not swim in clean rivers.

35. Do not allow your child to eat school lunches or breakfasts.

36. Do not ask for FEMA assistance when everything you own gets wiped out by disaster.

37. Do not ask the military to defend your life and home in the event of a foreign invasion.

38. Do not use your cell phone or home telephone.

39. Do not buy firearms that wouldn’t have been developed without the support of the US Government and military. That includes most of them.

40. Do not eat USDA inspected produce and meat.

41. Do not apply for government grants to start your own business.

42. Do not apply to win a government contract.

43. Do not buy any vehicle that has been inspected by government safety agencies.

44. Do not buy any product that is protected from poisons, toxins, etc…by the Consumer Protection Agency.

45. Do not save your money in a bank that is FDIC insured.

46. Do not use Veterans benefits or military health care.

47. Do not use the G.I. Bill to go to college.

48. Do not apply for unemployment benefits.

49. Do not use any electricity from companies regulated by the Department of Energy.

50. Do not live in homes that are built to code.

51. Do not run for public office. Politicians are paid with taxpayer dollars.

52. Do not ask for help from the FBI, S.W.A.T, the bomb squad, Homeland Security, State troopers, etc…

53. Do not apply for any government job whatsoever as all state and federal employees are paid with tax dollars.

54. Do not use public libraries.

55. Do not use the US Postal Service.

56. Do not visit the National Archives.

57. Do not visit Presidential Libraries.

58. Do not use airports that are secured by the federal government.

59. Do not apply for loans from any bank that is FDIC insured.

60. Do not ask the government to help you clean up after a tornado.

61. Do not ask the Department of Agriculture to provide a subsidy to help you run your farm.

62. Do not take walks in National Forests.

63. Do not ask for taxpayer dollars for your oil company.

64. Do not ask the federal government to bail your company out during recessions.

65. Do not seek medical care from places that use federal dollars.

66. Do not use Medicaid.

67. Do not use WIC.

68. Do not use electricity generated by Hoover Dam.

69. Do not use electricity or any service provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

70. Do not ask the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild levees when they break.

71. Do not let the Coast Guard save you from drowning when your boat capsizes at sea.

72. Do not ask the government to help evacuate you when all hell breaks loose in the country you are in.

73. Do not visit historic landmarks.

74. Do not visit fisheries.

75. Do not expect to see animals that are federally protected because of the Endangered Species List.

76. Do not expect plows to clear roads of snow and ice so your kids can go to school and so you can get to work.

77. Do not hunt or camp on federal land.

78. Do not work anywhere that has a safe workplace because of government regulations.

79. Do not use public transportation.

80. Do not drink water from public water fountains.

81. Do not whine when someone copies your work and sells it as their own. Government enforces copyright laws.

82. Do not expect to own your home, car, or boat. Government organizes and keeps all titles.

83. Do not expect convicted felons to remain off the streets.

84. Do not eat in restaurants that are regulated by food quality and safety standards.

85. Do not seek help from the US Embassy if you need assistance in a foreign nation.

86. Do not apply for a passport to travel outside of the United States.

87. Do not apply for a patent when you invent something.

88. Do not adopt a child through your local, state, or federal governments.

89.Do not use elevators that have been inspected by federal or state safety regulators.

90. Do not use any resource that was discovered by the USGS.

91. Do not ask for energy assistance from the government.

92. Do not move to any other developed nation, because the taxes are much higher.

93. Do not go to a beach that is kept clean by the state.

94. Do not use money printed by the US Treasury.

95. Do not complain when millions more illegal immigrants cross the border because there are no more border patrol agents.

96. Do not attend a state university.

97. Do not see any doctor that is licensed through the state.

98. Do not use any water from municipal water systems.

99. Do not complain when diseases and viruses, that were once fought around the globe by the US government and CDC, reach your house.

100. Do not work for any company that is required to pay it’s workers a livable wage, provide them sick days, vacation days, and benefits.

101. Do not expect to be able to vote on election days. Government provides voting booths, election day officials, and voting machines which are paid for with taxes.

102. Do not ride trains. The railroad was built with government financial assistance.

“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

The most interesting thing you don’t know about the deficit

In Legislation Today, Political world on April 14, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Washington scaremongers talking about the deficit have put the fear of China into the American psyche, but does China really “own” the U.S. deficit?

In a revealing article, former Senator Don Riegle and Social Security expert Lori Hansen Riegle let us in on a secret — the largest debt owed by the federal government to any one entity is to Social Security.

We owe it to ourselves. Literally.

Here’s how that works: when the federal government needs to borrow money, it issues Treasury bonds — a special form of IOU. Treasury bonds are considered a very safe investment; many Americans hold them in their retirement accounts. As Riegle and Riegle show with numbers from the U.S. Treasury Department, the largest single holder of Treasury bonds is Social Security. And Social Security is earning interest on those bonds, just like any other investor would. That’s the Social Security “trust fund” you’ve heard so much about.

So, what’s with all the talk about the “bankrupt” trust fund? And what does Social Security have to do with the deficit?

Imagine if you suddenly didn’t have to pay your house mortgage anymore. Wow, that would erase a large chunk of debt from your personal finances. It’s a lovely dream, but that’s all it is — wishful thinking. The bank is relying on you to make good on your loan, and as the foreclosure debacle has shown, you’ll face dire consequences if you don’t.

I can only assume that there are some politicians who are engaging in wishful thinking about the Treasury bonds held by Social Security. Gee, wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to make good on those loans… After all, no one less than Timothy Geithner pointed out that “that’s where the money is.”

Well, yes, that’s where it is and a good thing, too. The American workers have been paying into Social Security, their money was invested in Treasury bonds, and when it comes time to retire and rely on their Social Security benefits, that money will be there.

And the interesting thing is, while Social Security doesn’t contribute to the deficit — by law it can’t pay out more money that it has — it holds a large chunk of the debt owed by the federal government.

So, perhaps the deficit hawks are confused. Or maybe they want us to be confused.

Here’s what Riegle and Riegle have to say:

Another argument made by Social Security opponents to raise fear about the national debt is how much our government has borrowed from China. They never mention how much our government has borrowed from Social Security. In fact, the government has borrowed more from the Social Security surplus than it has from any other source in the world, including China. As a result, Social Security now “owns” nearly 18 percent of the federal debt, making it the largest single holder of US debt. The government owes almost twice as much to Social Security as it does to China and Hong Kong.

Why aren’t the opponents worried about paying back Social Security — why aren’t they talking about repaying this debt to the American people?

According to the U.S. Treasury Department’s “Monthly Statement of the Public Debt of the United States” (9.30.10), the total debt was $13.562 trillion and was held as follows:

US Holders of Debt

42.1 % — US Individuals and Institutions

17.9 % — Social Security Trust Fund

6.0 % — US Civil Service Retirement Fund

2.1 % — US Military Retirement Fund

Foreign Holders of Debt

11.7 % — Oil Exporting Countries

9.5 % — China and Hong Kong

6.3 % — Japan

1.4 % — United Kingdom

1.3 % — Brazil

1.6 % — All other foreign countries

The deficit is a concern. All U.S. debt must be covered. There’s no question about that. But let’s be clear. We can’t make China the bogeyman here.  The federal government has overspent in the last decade, thanks to two wars, a huge tax cut for the wealthy, and an unregulated banking industry that led to a global recession. The deficit came about because of a schism between two views of what the government’s (i.e. the people’s) responsibility is. As President Obama said in his speech yesterday:

Part of this American belief that we are all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us. “There but for the grace of God go I,” we say to ourselves, and so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, and those with disabilities. We are a better country because of these commitments. I’ll go further – we would not be a great country without those commitments.

Riegle and Riegle close their article with a view from the other side:

 House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) provided some insight to their Social Security views in a recent NPR interview when he was talking about Social Security and said, “We are going to have to come to grips with the fact that these programs cannot exist if we want America to be what we want it to be.”

Luckily, poll after poll shows that Americans of all political persuasions do not want Social Security to fail. Let’s be vigilant and make sure that tax investments that each and every one of us pays at work into the Social Security system are well managed and cashed in for full value as mature U.S. Treasury bonds.

Don’t mess with Maine artists!

In Political world on April 6, 2011 at 10:12 am

Rep. Ryan’s budget a disaster — according to CBO report

In Economics, Political world on April 6, 2011 at 10:08 am

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has issued a report on the budget written by Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee. (Read the report here: http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=12128.)

Here’s the CBO’s mandate:

CBO assists the House and Senate Budget Committees, and the Congress more generally, by preparing reports and analyses. In accordance with the CBO’s mandate to provide objective and impartial analysis, CBO’s reports contain no policy recommendations.

However, they do the numbers and write reports. This particular report contains the interesting facts that the Ryan plan would reduce federal spending on health programs roughly by two-thirds by 2050, more than double the share of total spending that Medicare recipients must pay out-of-pocket, and would raise he total cost of health care for Medicare enrollees by 25-45 percent. (Thanks to Henry Aaron of Brookings for that.)

And, according to Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, those Medicare enrollees, under the Ryan plan, by 2030 would end up spending most of their TOTAL INCOME on health care costs (see http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/representative-ryan-proposes-medicare-plan-under-which-seniors-would-pay-most-of-their-income-for-health-care).

Resolution of labor historians regarding the missing mural

In Political world on April 1, 2011 at 3:27 pm

To Whom It May Concern:

On behalf of the Labor and Working-Class History Association, I would like to bring to your attention a resolution that the LAWCHA board passed on March 31, 2011, regarding recent events at the Maine Department of Labor:

The resolution:

“The Labor and Working-Class History Association, the largest organization of labor historians in the United States, supports efforts to preserve public art that represents the nation’s labor history in local, state, and federal buildings. We deplore Maine Governor Paul LePage’s removal of the labor history mural from Maine Department of Labor offices over the weekend of March 26-27, 2011. In eleven panels painted by Maine artist Judy Taylor and installed in 2008, this mural depicts the working people who were central in the making of Maine’s rich industrial history. The panels portray diverse groups of working-class Mainers, including colonial-era artisans; nineteenth-century loggers and child laborers; shoe workers on strike with the CIO in Auburn and Lewiston in 1937; and women workers riveting ships at Bath Iron Works during World War II. Together with the renaming of department conference rooms previously named after important figures in the nation’s labor history, such as Frances Perkins, the first female secretary of labor, whose family has Maine roots, this act constitutes an attempt to erase the historical memory and heritage of Maine’s working people. LAWCHA urges Maine’s elected officials to reinstall the mural in its original location and to return the names of distinguished labor activists to the rooms where they belong.”

Labor and Working-Class History Association

Executive Committee

President, Kimberley Phillips

Vice President, Shelton Stromquist

Secretary, Cecelia Bucki

Treasurer, Thomas Klug

Immediate Past President, Mike Honey

Executive Assistant, Ryan Poe

Board

Randi Storch, SUNY – Cortland

Moon-Ho Jung, University of Washington

Laurie Green, University of Texas – Austin

Franca Iacovetta, University of Toronto

Erik Gellman, Roosevelt University

Thavolia Glymph, Duke Universityn

Ruth Milkman, University of California, Los Angeles

Joan Sangster, Trent University

Emilio Zamora, University of Texas, Austin

Francisco Barbarosa, University of Colorado, Boulder

Eileen Boris, University of California, Santa Barbara

Brian Kelly, Queen’s University

Clarence Lang, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Priscilla Murolo, Sarah Lawrence

We are urging LAWCHA members and all other historians in the United States to join those individuals and organizations in Maine who are working to restore the mural and conference room names to their original locations.

Missing: One Three-Year-Old Labor History Mural, Whereabouts Unknown

In Biography, Political world on March 29, 2011 at 7:56 pm

The Frances Perkins Center deplores the secret removal of the Maine Department of Labor’s mural depicting Maine workers through the centuries and asks that it be safely returned.

March 29, 2011 (Newcastle, Maine)–Frances Perkins, the nation’s longest serving secretary of labor and the first woman to be a U.S. Cabinet secretary, was a supporter of the arts. She was also a daughter of Maine, having inherited a beloved family homestead that has been in the Perkins family since the 1750s. It’s ironic that a mural installed in the Maine Department of Labor, which portrayed Perkins along with the workers whose lives she helped improve through passage of such measures as unemployment insurance, minimum wage legislation, child labor laws, and Social Security, would be removed from view by the Maine governor.

Later this year, a new edition of The Roosevelt I Knew by Frances Perkins will be published by Penguin Classics. In the book, Perkins describes how the WPA art projects of the 1930s came about: a “family member of a Cabinet secretary” suggested that the arts be included in the Works Progress Administration. In fact, that relative was Perkins’s teenaged daughter, Susanna. Perkins recognized the validity of Susanna’s suggestion, and joined with others advocating for the inclusion of artists, performers, musicians, and writers in the WPA, an idea that President Roosevelt also strongly supported. The Federal Art Project was born, and during the Great Depression, it created jobs for more than 5,000 artists. More than 225,000 works of art were created for the American people.

Many of the works were murals in public places. Some still remain, three-quarters of a century later. These often depict scenes from local history; others portray factory workers, or farm laborers. The intent was to show all sorts of people in their everyday lives, to honor the history and work of the nation.

Harking back to those WPA murals, in 2008 the Maine Department of Labor commissioned a mural for its new lobby. Painted by Maine artist Judy Taylor, and paid for by tax dollars through federal funding, the mural depicted the history of centuries of Maine workers. Evidently, after viewing the mural, a visiting businessperson faxed an anonymous complaint. As a result, one week ago, Maine’s governor decreed that the mural would be removed as soon as a new home was found for it.

On Monday, it was gone. Shockingly, the mural was removed over the weekend. There were no witnesses. No new home has been announced. The government of Maine, a state that prides itself on its artistic tradition and knows well the monetary value of its Creative Economy, has now “disappeared” a work of art.

What remains are the questions. Where has the mural been taken? Why is it no longer on public display? What was the urgency for its removal?

Frances Perkins’s grandson and only surviving descendent, Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, also wonders, “Was the artwork properly removed? Is it in a safe place, suitable for the storage of art?” He is especially sensitive to this issue, as Susanna’s son. His father was the well-known painter, Calvert Coggeshall.

The Frances Perkins Center is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Newcastle, Maine, at Perkins’s beloved historic homestead. The center celebrates Perkins’s accomplishments and seeks to carry on her commitment to economic security and social justice.

“This is a chilling act,” said Barbara Burt, executive director of the Frances Perkins Center. “We are concerned about the condition of the art. We are also aghast at the message of censorship that this action conveys. Removing this artwork is an attempt to erase the significance of Frances Perkins and the heroic struggles of Maine workers. We believe that the mural should be returned to the place for which it was specifically created, at the Department of Labor.”

Statement at press conference in response to Maine governor’s action

In Biography, Political world on March 25, 2011 at 7:12 am

STATEMENT OF BARBARA BURT, EXECUTIVE DIRCTOR OF THE FRANCES PERKINS CENTER OF NEWCASTLE

March 25, 2011

Augusta, Maine

The Frances Perkins Center deplores the edict handed down by Maine’s governor to strip the Department of Labor of its mural depicting Maine workers through the centuries and to rename conference rooms that currently honor heroes of Maine’s workforce. I am sorry to miss this occasion to stand with artists, union members, and outraged members of the public. Ironically, at this very moment, many of the Frances Perkins Center’s board members and I, along with thousands of people from all around the country, are participating in the commemoration of the Triangle Factory Fire in Manhattan’s Washington Square. One-hundred-forty-six factory workers lost their lives in that fire one hundred years ago today.

Frances Perkins witnessed that tragedy and was galvanized by the experience, becoming a lifelong advocate for working people. As the first woman Cabinet member and the country’s longest serving secretary of labor, she is largely responsible for Social Security, the minimum wage, many workplace safety laws, and unemployment insurance.

Maine can be proud to claim Frances Perkins as one of our own. Artist Judy Taylor included a portrait of her in one of the mural’s panels, and a conference room is titled the Perkins Room. Although she wasn’t born in Maine, Frances spent her summers at her grandparents’ home in Newcastle and eventually came to own the homestead, known as the Brick House, which has been in the Perkins family since the 1750s.

It is shocking that Maine’s governor would want to divorce himself from a leader so significant in the history of our country and so closely allied with Maine. His action is completely misguided. Frances Perkins was no enemy of business. Her concern was that the relationship between employer and employee be fair and balanced, that the need for profit not outweigh the need for safety and reasonable wages.

The workers of Maine built this state just as surely as did their employers. And, as Frances Perkins recognized, they often paid for that work with their lives or disability; they certainly didn’t get rich. We strongly urge the governor to honor their contributions by allowing the mural to remain in its current location at the Department of Labor.

Maine Governor “Disses” Frances Perkins

In Biography, Political world on March 23, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Believe it or not, the governor of Maine wants to remove a mural depicting the history of Maine workers — which was commissioned by the Maine Arts Commission and painted by Maine artist Judy Taylor — from the lobby of the Department of Labor because it’s “not friendly to business.” (In the excerpt above, the eighth panel depicts Frances Perkins.)

The Maine Department of Labor has also been ordered to rename the meeting room now known as the Perkins Room.

We are aghast at this action. It is an attempt to erase history and a direct affront to the millions of workers in Maine and the country who built thousands of businesses. It’s also misguided. Frances Perkins wasn’t opposed to business; she simply wanted the drive for profit to be balanced by workplace safety, fair wages, and economic security.

Is this part of a national plan to weaken respect for working people? Add the Maine governor’s action to that of Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan…

For more about the Maine issue, read this article in the Lewiston Sun Journal.

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In Events on March 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm

 

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