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Fighting the Socialist Menace of 1961 

Our local daily newspaper offers a great editorial rant this morning about an impending socialist menace, warning ominously of "the specter of a vast and sprawling federal bureaucracy [that] is too horrible to contemplate."

Is the editorial attacking liberal health care reform ideas like single-payer or the "public option"? Nope - it's attacking federal aid to education, and it came from the paper's archives of 1961.

Specifically, the editorial is ripping the Crook County School Board for showing interest in accepting - horrors! - federal money to help with school construction and - double horrors! - teachers' pay.

"There may be some justification for federal help in school construction, particularly in the more hard-pressed areas of the country," The Bulletin conceded. "But the proposal to provide federal money for teacher salaries is a piece of political skullduggery.

"The specter of a vast and sprawling federal bureaucracy in control of America's schools is too horrible to contemplate. We're convinced that federal money for paying our teachers would be an opening wedge. This must not happen."

It might be hard for anybody born after, say, 1955 to believe that federal aid to education was once hotly controversial, but it was. When I was on my high school debating team in the mid-1960s, the topic one year was "Resolved: That federal aid to education should be significantly increased."

The argument on the anti side was that the eeee-vil, tyrannical federal government wanted to "take over" education and extend its slimy, socialistic tentacles into every classroom in America - just as we're hearing today that the eeee-vil, tyrannical federal government wants to "take over" health care and extend its slimy, socialistic tentacles into every doctor's office.

Of course conservatives have said pretty much the same thing about every progressive idea going back for more than a hundred years. They said it about Social Security, they said it about Medicare and, as we have just seen, they said it about federal aid to schools. Today only the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe wants to abolish these programs, and it would be hard to imagine America without them.

For progressives, in addition to a good laugh, the 1961 Bulletin editorial offers some encouragement. It shows that change for the better does gradually happen - although the conservatives have to be dragged along kicking and screaming every inch of the way.

For conservatives, the lesson of the editorial is that they need a new line. Your old one's getting mighty tired, folks.

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