Posts Tagged ‘Roosevelt’

The Price of Ignoring the Lessons of History

June 2, 2014

As I read Doris Kerns Goodwin’s latest historical opus,  The Bully Pulpit,  I become more and more astounded by the parallels between the Gilded Age and now. It’s perhaps a prime example of how history repeats itself.

I just read how President Theodore Roosevelt was blamed by Wall Street for the “Roosevelt Panic of 1907.”  Th big money men said President Theodore Roosevelt’s “crusade against business” caused the crash, arguing that “his excessive regulation had paralyzed the economy.”  The actual cause of the crash was the same thing that caused the Great Recession of 2008.  A very large  investment bank in  New York had abandoned sound banking practices to gamble with customer’s deposits. That caused public confidence in financial institutions to fail, and “customers rushed to retrieve money.” The banks had to be bailed out by, “in the absence of a  central banking system,”  seventy-year old J.P. Morgan, who served as a “one-man Federal Reserve,” and the federal government.  Does that sound familiar?

That’s just one example of the parallels to now.  The book has quite a few more,  including a “do nothing” Congress that wouldn’t pass hardly any bills a progressive president wanted during the last two years of his presidency.

The full title of the book, by the way is, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.  .

Gaming the System

August 4, 2013

So-called Washington gridlock appears to work for the top one percent of America.  The economy is improving, and CEOs, top management, and professionals are raking it in.  Not so, for most others. That’s probably why it continues, and there is no end in sight.

The average American has seen his income decline over the past few decades, while the affluent American has seen his income dramatically increase.   The income gap between rich and poor is about as great as it was in the Gilded Age when the Robber Barons ran things.  After an anarchist assassinated President McKinley, his successor, President Theodore Roosevelt, became concerned about a revolution and started reforms, things like anti-trust laws to break up the monopolies.  The idea was to save American capitalism by reforming it.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who admired and wanted to emulate his cousin Teddy, took the same tact during the Great Depression, and for the same reason some historians report, to save American capitalism.   While the Russian revolution of 1917 brought on the communist state and the dictatorship of the murderous Joseph Stalin,  and the Great Depression set the stage for ruthless dictators Hitler and Mussolini to come into power in Germany and Italy,  the United States elected a president that promised it a New Deal. He is the only president in American history to  be elected four times to the office.

From about 1937 to 1947 income inequality dropped dramatically. This was brought about  by highly progressive taxation and the strengthening of unions, according to an article in Wikipedia. “And,,” the article says,”regulation of the National War Labor Board during World War II raised the income of the poor and working class and lowered that of top earners.” The middle class was at its peak and a “relatively low level of inequality remained fairly steady for about three decades ending in early 1970s.”

No doubt, the one percent leaders understand the lessons of those times.  When things get bad enough for the masses, they will revolt, maybe not violently in every case, but they will revolt.  There are ways to keep and increase the income gap while preventing revolt, and at the same time funnel tax dollars into their enterprises. They have figured out how to game the system.

Conservatives, including the American Medical Association, fought  the creation of Medicare with everything they had.  President Lyndon Johnson was a master at getting Congress to do what he wanted and he pushed through Medicare.  It was and is a very popular program and costs a lot less to administer – compare 3 percent to 20 percent – than private healthcare insurance. 

Recognizing this fact,  the healthcare industry’s leaders, for instance, obviously now understand that the majority of Americans want the government involved in providing healthcare.  Why not give them tax supported programs, but under the healthcare industry’s terms?

A good example is Congress passing of the Medicare “B” drug plan.   That plan doesn’t  allow Medicare to negotiate prices, which could lower them, but it does help senior Americans pay for their drugs, which means that billions in tax dollars are funneled into the coffers of the pharmaceutical companies. The CEO’s of the top eleven global pharmaceutical companies were paid  a total of $1.58 billion last year.  The top salary was $40 million.  Tax dollars paid a great deal of that.

Now, in spite of all the anti-Affordable Healthcare Act or “Obamacare” propaganda, guess who is not going to lose in that scenario?  The program calls for mandatory insurance for all Americans.  The lobbyists were successful in keeping out a government option healthcare insurance plan,  That was the one sure way of lowering premiums.  Only private healthcare providers will sell that mandatory insurance.  Do the math. 

Yes, the system can be gamed.



Saving Capitalism

November 7, 2011

It’s good to know that the huge problem of the immense and growing gap between the rich and the poor and the shrinking middle-class is not being ignored in Columbus.

For one thing, The Banquet on the Bridge organization held its fifth annual banquet on Dillingham Street Bridge Sunday.  According to the WRBL report, a thousand people showed up, a lot of them homeless and underprivileged.  The idea is for a social that mixes the affluent with the less than.  It’s one way of recognizing the growing income gap. (I have no idea why the Ledger-Enquirer ignored this story. Just  attracting a thousand people to a banquet on Dillingham Street Bridge  should have been enough to report why.)

Then tomorrow (Tuesday, 11/8/2011), prominent  Columbus attorney, and old Jaycee acquaintance of mine (the Jaycee thing was about 50 years ago) Mort Harris is going to speak on The Growing Gap Between the Rich and the Poor: A Political, Economic, and Moral Delima What it means for America. That’s at 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Spencer Event Hall at the International House at Columbus State University.  I plan to be there.

Meanwhile, you don’t have to wait until then to hear an engrossing lecture by  Richard Wilkinson on the issue. You can catch it by going to the TED website; just click on this link.

It’s a really crucial issue.  When wealth becomes so concentrated that it adversely affects great masses of people, the  stage is set for revolution, the kind we had when Theodore Roosevelt and his distant cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt were elected president. Thank goodness, for the most part, neither of them were violent.  Teddy – the  Teddy Bear is named for him – who was a devoted capitalist embarked on a program to save capitalism by reforming it, thereby giving average and poor folks a larger piece of the economic pie. FDR, saying he was inspired by cousin Teddy’s reformation, pledge to do the same thing.

We’ll get into more on that in future posts. Feel free to join the discussion. Just click on the comments button  and let fly.

Obama’s Phrase Challenge

January 19, 2009
U.S. Senate

President Elect Barack Obama, courtesy: U.S. Senate

When Barack Obama makes his inaugural address Tuesday,  will he have a phrase that will compare with the impact of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s phrase about  fear?  Some are saying that president-elect Obama is being sworn in at a time very similar to 1933 when President Roosevelt rivited his audience to their radio’s with his inaugural speech sentence, ” The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

 President Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 inaugral speech probably comes in second to FDR’s “fear” sentence, or ties with President John F. Kennedy’s “ask not” for second. 

 Lincoln said, “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Kennedy’s most famous phrase is,  “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” 
A report in the London Telegraph says President-elect Obama’s inaugral speech will harken back to Kennedy’s “Ask not…” appeal for shared reponsibility for getting the nation back on track.
President Jimmy Carter delivered no catchy, timeless line in his inaugural address.  I suppose his brave,  but futile, call for Americans to sacrifice for the common good,  is as close to one as he got.  He said, “So, together, in a spirit of individual sacrifice for the common good, we must simply do our best.”  That one went over like a lead balloon because America was in no mood to  sacrifice, individually or otherwise.  Carter’s greatest communication problem was that he couldn’t resist telling Americans the truth whether they wanted to hear it or not..

His successor, President Ronald Reagan, who understood the value of telling the American people what they wanted to hear,  only had one line in his inaugral that is remembered by a lot of people,  “Government is not the solution to our problem.”  But, guess what, he also had a stimulous package.  It was called the Emergency Jobs Credation Act, but it only cost taxpayers $9 billion. It’s not unusual for a president to say one thing and do another… just like the rest of us.

Obama is going to have a hard time coming up with anything that resonates like the Roosevelt “fear” phrase, which is probably the best known phrase of any president’s inaugural address.  However, there is a chance he will come up with a lasting line, because he,  like Roosevelt and Reagan,  is very good at oration, and he writes a lot of his own material, we’re told.  We’ll find out Tuesday.

Is the Money Going to the Wrong Place?

October 18, 2008

  This is not 1932, you might say when we compare today’s financial disaster with the Great Depression. No, it’s not.  But, there are similarities. You know, things like the stock market crashing and banks failing.

  This time is also different in that the government is pumping money into the banking system to keep it viable. However, there are those who say that’s the wrong way to go.

Franklin D. Roosevlet Library)

Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1932, Whistlestop Campaign, New Albany, IN (Courtesy: Franklin D. Roosevelt (Library)

  They are not opposed to the government intervening in the crisis, but they think the intervention needs to give relief to the average American, not just the banks. They point out that this is a good time to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. That harkens back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s public works programs.

   “There is no way a modern economy can function without good roads, telecommunication, rail transport and an educated labour force,” Allan Mendelowitz told , a member and former chairman of the Federal Housing Finance Board, told  Adrianne Appel of Inter Press Service.

  Using money for those things provides jobs, which means that people will have money to spend, and since our economy depends heavily on consumer spending, it makes sense to target working Americans when deciding on where to prop up the economy.

  Appel’s article reports that critics of the Bush administration say he waited until he could wait no longer to do something to stop the economic bleeding. They don’t believe he really wanted to do it because it flies in the face of the ideology he has been espousing. But, he really has no choice if he wants to prevent another Great Depression.  But, the way he is doing it follows his philosophy of giving to the wealthy and hoping it will trickle down to the rest of us.

  “Just think if we used those billions directly on jobs,” said Lewis Pitts, a public interest attorney in North Carolina.

  “In the developed world we have the worst income distribution of any country. A smaller and smaller portion of our population has a larger claim on wealth. This manifests in that the working poor have less and less income and have a harder time making ends meet,” Mendelowitz said.

  So, in that sense, we are back to 1932.

  Congressional Democrats plan to start working on help for the average American, planning to allot $150 billion for roads and other infrastructure programs.  But, Senate Republicans would probably filibuster any attempt to do that, or, if they didn’t, President Bush would probably veto the bill. That would mean a delay, but he’ll be gone in January and, if Sen. Obama is president, it will probably become law. McCain? It’s hard to tell. He did buy into the Bush economic program, but he is not, as he says, Bush, and he does have a habit of changing his mind.