The specific welfare

As The Times prepares to endorse a presidential candidate for the first time in more than 35 years, the editorial board will examine the candidates' stances on issues through our own sense of the meaning of some essential American values. How much have The Times' values changed since its 1972 endorsement of Richard Nixon? We'll find out by looking through editorials from that year. Earlier, we went through The Times' positions on defense, domestic tranquility, powers of the earth, life, liberty and justice and the pursuit of happiness.

Today The Times discusses healthcare, education and immigration as issues that impact "the general welfare" — the ability of Americans to pursue opportunity and preserve values. But, as editorial pages editor Jim Newton notes on the Opinion L.A. blog, what composed the "general welfare" varies over the years.

The board of 1972 wouldn't have considered healthcare a national-level concern, and it didn't even mention Medicare or Medicaid, which were the only federal-level health initiatives at the time. Immigration wasn't on the radar — a search through The Times archives yields only a handful of editorials on immigrants (including one in favor of stopping deportation proceedings against John Lennon and Yoko Ono). But both boards would agree that education is vital to welfare; 30 years ago, the country was still struggling with how best to make desegregation a reality. Below, we select one editorial per topic to illustrate how much has changed in the politics of healthcare, immigration, and education.


On Feb. 13, The Times took a long historical look at discrimination in America to argue its point that busing, while controversial, was still necessary. The board had harsh words for the eventual winner of its presidential endorsement:

This nation, which won its independence from colonial rule nearly two centuries ago, was founded upon the principle of equality. But the perceptions that early Americans held of equality were limited. Servants were indentured; other workers had few rights; women were chattels; some of the most eloquent of the founding fathers saw no inconsistency in denouncing tyranny and keeping slaves. Still, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were documents that never ceased to exert t heir powerful appeal to the minds and emotions of the people. As the nation spread westward across the continent, its consciousness grew to comprehend the need for the expansion of liberty. The Civil War decided for that time that this nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" would endure. Emancipation of the blacks was short-lived. They were free by law only. In reality, they were not, but the struggle continued, and 89 years after Lincoln's address on the battlefield of Gettysburg, the Supreme Court of the United States reflected the stirring consciousness of the nation…. The flow of orders from the courts began rapidly to eliminate official segregation in the South, particularly in small-town and rural schools. When the South resisted integration, the North reacted angrily. But what appeared in that era to be the great obstacle to school integration, legal segregation in the South, has taken on a new form in the 1970s: de facto segregation in the large cities and Northern resistance to change. De facto segregation, based not on law, but on residential patterns, also in part a result of discrimination, is the problem now. Various methods have been proposed to deal with it. Among these, bussing is one, not the only one, but by far the most controversial. Yet bussing in varying degrees must be used to implement integration in some situations. In the face of this, and in an election year, President Nixon has chosen not only to reiterate his long-standing opposition to bussing "for purposes of racial balance" in the schools, but to announce his support of a constitutional amendment to bar bussing, if legislation cannot achieve that purpose. Bussing is widely unpopular, but today's realities dictate that some bussing is necessary unless we are prepared to accept de facto segregation as an insuperable barrier to integration…. President Nixon apparently is willing to risk this. In the short run, his action will stimulate popular response. But the struggle for equality will go on after the November election, and history will not look kindly upon a President who failed to give leadership on so vital an issue when that leadership was so urgently needed.


The Times' May 5 editorial reads like a bizarro-world version of contemporary immigration commentary — The Times received word that the American cultural onslaught had Mexicans in a nationalist fervor, and that, rather than ignoring visa allocations and simply entering the U.S., Mexicans were staying put and only objecting to the low number of workers allowed. But one constant remains — most Americans probably still don't know what Cinco de Mayo is about:

Cinco de Mayo has been cause for celebration in Mexico almost from the day it happened in 1862. no matter that it was a case of winning the battle and losing the war…. In Mexico's history, any setback for any intruder has been worth celebrating. The intruder most on Mexican minds these days is the United States, but not its troops — they haven't been a problem since Gen. John Pershing's fruitless invasion of 1916. It's American money, culture and official attitudes that are troubling the Mexicans. Our correspondent in Mexico City has reported the recent rise in nationalism which cloaks a new determination to be less dependent on the United States, to have a more equal relationship. It's easier said than done, given the geography and the concentration of wealth and power in the United States. A lot of the American money and American culture have been invited in by Mexicans. American economic domination can be controlled only by the Mexicans themselves…. Labor remains a complicated problem in bilateral relations. Mexico is not satisfied with the 43,000 daily and 100,000 seasonal workers admitted to the United States. But it approves the development of transformation industries along the frontier which enable American employers to utilize cheap Mexican labor in some phases of assembly. The continuation of tariff concessions that encourage this practice was based on a finding that any change would lead to a lessening of employment by Americans in the United States, not an increase, as some unions have claimed. A lot of the arrogance of Americans is an accident of ignorance. Most Mexicans know about Richard Nixon but not many Americans know about Luis Echeverria Alvarez…. Mexican history is so remote from most North Americans that a special committee keeps active in Southern California just to remind the population that Cinco de Mayo isn't Mexico's Fourth of July. No reminders will be necessary when the United States does a better job of being a good neighbor.


An editorial titled "Official Inhumanity" took on the notorious Tuskegee experiments, one of the rare federal-level health issues of the day:

A 40-year medical study by the U.S. Public Health Service fully merits Sen. Wiliam Proxmire's description of it as a "moral and ethical nightmare." That such an experiment took place in this country, sponsored by an agency of the federal government, outrages all moral sensibilities. Two hundred Alabama black men, suffering from syphilis, were persuaded to become human guinea pigs. Well, perhaps not quite that because the doctors obviously did not regard their subjects as completely human. The study began in 1932, 10 years before penicillin was found to be a cure for syphilis and 15 years before the drug became widely available. Yet, even after penicillin became common, the treatment was denied the victims. The experimenters wanted the disease to run its course so that its ravages on the human body could be determined from autopsies. The men were trapped into the program by poverty and ignorance. They were promised these incentives: free transportation to and from hospitals, free lunches, free medicine for ailments other than syphilis and free burial. For such inducements to be attractive, their lives must have been savagely harsh. This in itself, aside from the experiment, is an affront to decency…. Yet the blame cannot be placed solely on the men who conceived the experiment. In the 40 years that have elapsed, there was no known attempt to halt the program.

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