Forward to Yesteryear! Get Ready for the New Gilded Age

Roundup
tags: inequality, Trump



Bernard A. Weisberger is a historian who has been by turns a university professor, an editor of American Heritage and a collaborator on several of Bill’s documentaries. He is the author of Many People, One Nation, a history of immigration to the United States.

As Democrats debate whether they should adapt some slogan snappier than “A Better Deal” to woo voters in next year’s elections, I offer one to the Republicans, based on recent legislative announcements, that should cleverly appeal to both forward-looking and conservative thinkers alike, to wit, FORWARD TO YESTERYEAR!

Alas, it’s no laughing matter.

On Aug. 2, President Trump announced two new initiatives to advance his campaign to “make America great again” without any clear message of exactly what he means. But if you look closely, they go a long way toward clarifying a couple of his intentions.

One was the repeal and replacement of the Immigration Act of 1965, which itself replaced earlier laws of the 1920s. Those had set racial and ethnic quotas to limit the entry of so-called racially “inferior” post-Civil War immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. They also banned immigration from Asian countries entirely, completing a process begun with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 on the grounds that both these groups brought crime and disease in their wake and undercut the wages of American workers.

The 1965 legislation abandoned such restrictions entirely and replaced them with a system based on uniting families and encouraging immigrants with special artistic or scientific talent.

Trump’s new proposal would be “merit-based” and award points to those with literacy in English, advanced education, lucrative job offers waiting or, of course, existing capital. What’s more, the overall numbers of immigrants admitted would be slashed almost in half. The huddled masses would stay huddled in their refugee camps and slums. Back we would go to the “safety” of 1925.  ...




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