Some thoughts on 1619

Posted on 11/03/2019 in misc

I finished up the 1619 podcast yesterday, which is a companion to the 1619 feature from the NYT. I can't recommend this podcast series enough. It's only 5 podcasts, about 30 minutes each. A couple of things I learned, or in some cases maybe had reinforced.

  1. At it's peak, slaves were the most valuable business asset in America. They were worth more than the railroads.

  2. America's comfort with extreme inequality can be traced all the way back to slavery. America practices a particularly brutal form of capitalism, with less oversight on bad behavior and way more latitude given to the investor class than we see in most other western economies. We are also way more comfortable with the extreme inequality that results. European economies uses taxes and laws to insure that the spread become the have-it-alls and have-nots is not so extreme. America's first very valuable commodity was human labor. It was slavery. Given that the thing that made us an economic powerhouse is the worst evil imaginable, is it really a surprise that we as a nation are still so racist that we elected Trump as President?

  3. When southern plantation owners needed to expand, which was often as cotton deleted the soil of nutrients in 3 seasons, they put up slaves as collateral. The western expansion of the US had a lot less to do with manifest destiny than it did simple greed. Cotton farmers needed the land.

  4. Even though Europe had outlawed slavery where do you think a lot of those loans originated?

  5. The largest civil judgment ever against the US Govt. was a settlement with the USDA over racism in farm lending. This was in the late 1990s, and can be traced back to Reagan era policies when he shut down the Civil Rights office of the USDA, whose job it was to police that sort of thing. In other news, Reagan was racist.

  6. Healthcare services for recently freed slaves were purposefully underfunded by the government. It was a commonly held belief in the late 19th century that the higher rate of disease and death among blacks was proof that they weren't fit to be free.

  7. President Truman pushed for universal healthcare in 1945. IN 1945! It even had fairly wide spread popular support. That support turned when the American Medical Association launched an aggressive campaign to defeat the proposal. The AMA also tried to derail Medicare. Also, it was Medicare that finally desegregated the healthcare system. Prior to 1965 a black person delivered to a white hospital ER wouldn't receive treatment. Medicare, due to the Civil Rights Act, required hospitals to desegregate if they wanted to get on the Medicare gravy train. 3000 hospitals desegregated in the year after Medicare became law.

  8. If you think black people get equal healthcare in 2019 you probably voted for Trump.

In a lot of ways, the podcast is very depressing as it forces you to confront that fact that we still have a very, very long way to go before we aren't a nation built on white supremacy.

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