Wednesday, October 20, 2010

We need FDR -- not Lincoln or Carter

During a 1936 speech in Madison Square Garden, FDR denounced the “do nothing” Republicans and the powerful interests that they represented. What he said nearly 75 years ago reminds us that the forces of intolerance, bigotry, greed and narrow-mindedness have always been with us:

“For four years now, you have had an administration, which instead of twirling its thumbs, has rolled up its sleeves. And I assure you that we keep our sleeves rolled up. We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace, business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs; and we know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.”

FDR went on to say that he wished it be said that in his administration, the forces of “selfishness” and “lust for power” had “met their match.” Barack Obama and the Democrats, fearful of disturbing the minds of extreme right Tea Party fanatics and providing deliberately misstated sound bites for Fox News and its little sister CNN, should have taken-up that sword and occupied the moral high ground from the very beginning; instead of groveling to a few “moderate” Republicans and Yellow Dog Democrats, it should have pushed more forcefully the idea that this government is for the people, not for powerful corporate and moneyed interests who do not have the welfare of the country in mind, but their own pockets. Of course the Republicans would shout “class warfare,” but it would force them on the defensive to explain why they seem more interested in the big money “welfare’ of their campaign donors than that of ordinary Americans. They would need to explain why they would cut programs that benefit the poor and unemployed while pushing for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans even while they sit upon $1.6 trillion dollars during a period high unemployment. It isn’t enough to say that corporations are waiting for more “favorable” conditions, which merely means the hope that their Republican friends will gain control of Congress and try to force-feed even less regulation than we have seen before. What if those “favorable” conditions do not occur? Will the powerful interests that really control and blackmail government officials decide in the end that the interests of the country come before their own greed? Or will they continue to oversee a destructive process?

It never ceases to amaze how people are gulled by powerful interests, none more so than Tea Party types. In the state of Washington, even the pathetic remains of the Seattle Times and its “independent” editorial board only sees the smoke. Instead of pointing out the unfairness of a regressive state tax system that is most burdensome on the low-income worker, which Initiative 1098 would address by placing a modest income tax on people making $200,000 or more, it decries the “crimp” it might put in the lifestyles of well-off, and making the fearsome claim that the legislature will use this initiative to pass an income tax on everyone. This latter claim has been used as the mantra of the anti-1098 campaign, but nothing is ever said about the current system which unfairly targets the less well-off.

Like Republicans demanding the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, the anti-1098 campaign does not have the interest of the majority of public in mind. I used to work for a company that fell on hard times (the whole of the 2000s was a “recession”). Who was laid-off? Not the people upstairs making the six-figure salaries, but the people downstairs making piddling wages. I encountered a former colleague who told me she was one of only three of the old crew still left, and she hadn’t had a pay raise in five years—while almost everyone upstairs still had a job, although on occasion they grumbled downstairs to do customer service and warehouse work because of the lack of sufficient labor. The question then is why are the people who are making a lot of money and still have a job not in some way responsible to the low-wage people who lost their jobs—especially since a modest salary decrease would be enough to retain another person's job? Why should they be disturbed by contributing to a modest income tax regimen for programs to alleviate the suffering of those left on the wayside? Especially when the low-income workers had little money to save as a cushion because of the regressive tax system?

The moneyed interests and their Republican stooges would say that it is only “fair” that the people who use public welfare programs should pay for them (when they are not saying that we should cut-out the programs altogether). But with what, if they don’t have a job or have poverty wages? Low-income wage earners have low wages so that others can have high wages; there has to be some balance to oppose what FDR called “selfishness.” And the well-off do benefit a great deal from government “aid.” Not just corporations who find ways to pay virtually no taxes, but the fact that law enforcement takes-up a huge chunk of local and state funds—and what is law enforcement but the means from which the “haves” are protected from the “have-nots?”

People should not be fearful of being accused of being "anti-American"--a pathetic euphemism for liberal and non-white American--in highlighting and denouncing the gross iniquities perpetrated by the extreme right on this society, and that includes the so-called Tea Party movement. Why should we be? We have seen that Republicans do not like to answer hard questions. When they are forced to explain themselves, they go daffy and say things like "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we" or "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." A counter-campaign that demands that they answer questions instead of hiding behind talking points will force them to show their hand—a hand that is firmly in the pocket of “organized money.” Obama should also “welcome their hate” instead of trying to make “friends.” He should long ago have forcefully have stated what he is for and what he is against, and fight for it. That is what people who voted for him wanted from him. This is what “change” meant. Whatever the outcome of the 2010 mid-term election, Obama must eschew Carteresque niceties and “bi-partisanship” and speak boldly and frankly about an egalitarian vision of America that looks to the future--as opposed to that of the Republicans who have no thought but lust for power, and who have no desire to work with Obama under any circumstances. They would rather destroy this country than see Obama succeed in any shape.

No comments:

Post a Comment