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Posts Tagged ‘Franklin Roosevelt

Democratic Republic for Sale by Narcessistic, No-Nothing Legislators. Shouldn’t the American Public Expect Better?

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In the days of Dole and Howard Baker, et al, Congressional members knew something about the legislation they were voting on. These days Congressional members know little to nothing about the legislation the vote on…and for far too many in Congress, they have no interest in learning about the legislation. Instead they spend an average of 60% of their time “dialing for dollars” and attending fundraisers. During the days of Dole and Baker, congressional members spent most of their time working on legislation and learning what was in the legislation. Now we have “no-nothing” narcissists representing us at both the state and federal levels, according to

This current state of affairs doesn’t work for me. I expect my legislators, whether in Congress or my state house, to work for my and my community’s benefit rather than for the benefit a wealthy donor or a corporation seeking protective legislation.

However, when we have a millionaires congress as currently exists, those legislators idea of average middle income lives doesn’t compute. Essentially, they have no clue what it means to struggle to meet expenses and keep/stay out of crushing debt when incomes are declining. Over the last 30 years, millionaires have completely segregated themselves from the rest of American society to the extent that millionaires no longer live in middle income communities so they have no point of reference or understanding of the lives and challenges facing middle income earners, let alone have friends and associates who are not millionaires. Their friends and associates are among their own wealthy class and they associate only among their wealthy class. As a consequence, those of us who are not among that wealth class, as donors and friends. hardly make into our legislators thoughts.

The most recent example of support of the congressional millionaire’s club was the truly bipartisan Senate approval of a Farm Bill amendment that makes it illegal for individual states to approve GMO labeling, even though marches across this country and around the world demanded GMO seeds and product labeling. Instead of listening to the millions of people, who do have legitimate concerns about the genetic effects of GMO foods on humans and animals, both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate cast their votes for Monsanto. Essentially, both sides of the aisle put the concerns of their millionaire friends and donors ahead of the concerns of millions of average families.

It’s taken 30 years of electoral politics of putting money ahead of expertise, knowledge, understanding and community – accelerated by Gingrich’s money raising focused changes in the House – to lead us to this moment when once again millionaires control Congress and all legislation. (see Washington Post associate editor and author of Act of Congress: How America’s Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn’t Robert G. Kaiser op ed)

At the turn of the 20th Century, millionaires controlled both Congress and state legislatures. That control worked fine for the millionaires, but not so well for anyone who challenged their domination. Tesla, the father of AC electrical current (now the American standard), was destroyed by JP Morgan’s millions (and his political connections) who had spent heavily backing Edison’s DC current. Henry Ford’s first patent application was denied because the millionaires who controlled congress didn’t want the competition he offered the public.

Even as millionaires consolidated their control over state and federal governments, average workers, often enduring deadly and extraordinarily harsh working conditions for very little income, were drawn to communism as espoused by Eugene Debs and other union organizers. Meanwhile the millionaires Congress, ignoring the often deadly plight of workers, along with many states chose to crack down violently on workers and worker movements. Thousands of workers died at state sponsored hands when those workers revolted, via strikes, against working and living conditions.

Finally, the strikes and street corner public outcry grew to the point that prescient economists and politicos like TR recognized that capitalism itself was endangered. Moreover, politicians like TR understood and spoke out in the public forum about the failure of basic ethics and morality among the politician class: that essentially legislation could be bought by or ransomed to the highest bidder at both the federal and state levels.

TR’s reforms began to bring unbridled money dominated capitalism under control, to bring ethics and morality back into government, and to enable competition, including creative destruction of old industries for newer, more inventive ones, back into the capitalist fold.

Later, FDR chose to focus on the human benefits of reform, once again recognizing the significant rise of communism among the working class, to quell the masses who saw only the idealistic good of communism rather than the downside of Stalin and Communist Russia. FDR’s fight against the pro-business SCOTUS Lockner Court was yet another example of the realization that, for capitalism to survive, average workers had to be brought back into the fold as participants in the decision making process: workers had to see some benefit to their labor to prevent a mass uprising against corporations and capitalism at large…and the massive poverty – and small business bankruptcies – that accompanied the Great Depression.

Our modern day millionaires Congress, on both sides of aisle, fails to understand the lessons of history in their constant search for donations and corporate money support. But throughout history, from the earliest days of Mesopotamia to 20th Century America, average people revolted against and overwhelmed governments they saw as not working on their behalf. The same will occur again with our modern day millionaires Congress and state legislatures. Out of the masses another TR will arise to claim an ethical and honorable balance. He or she will find an eager American willing to support his/her presidency that speaks to average, every day, middle income American values and morality with regards to work and living standards.

Communism was the driving force that changed the political millionaires club in Congress and the States. I don’t know what the next counter force will be, but I do know it will occur unless the political, judicial, and pundit class wakes up to harm it has wrought with purchased no-nothing legislators.

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In The 21st Century, A Replay Between Two Visions: Coolidge or TR/FDR

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Contrary to pundit analysis, the first half of Obama’s speech today in Cleveland reminded me of his old inspiring self. While the second half of his speech delved down into the weeds of policy differences between the current GOP and Democrats that became somewhat boring, even though completely true.

The first half of Obama’s speech clearly laid out his vision for the future of America. I might add, it’s a vision with which I completely agree, the essence of which is increased global competitiveness in every sector of the economy and greater economic rewards for labor – or actual work.

American Plutocrats take over the Economy for their own benefit

Nevertheless, the two visions of America going forward in this election replay the visions of Coolidge and of TR and his distant cousin, FDR.

Yes, it does seem strange that we’re even discussing the visions of presidents from a hundred or more years ago; yet, we are discussing the same essential policy visions again today.

While Coolidge, according to Wikipedia, had an essentially laissez-faire, hands off attitude towards business, believed that few regulations were needed and taxes should remain as low as possible, TR and FDR had another view based on their experiences with the so-called free market.

During the early 1900s when TR became President, the renowned Robber Barons dominated industry. Numerous books and magazine articles were written decrying the poor and often deadly state of American worker conditions under the heavy hand of corporate ownership: the high rate of deaths and physical dismembership among employees; the high rate of deaths in coal mines; and the overall low wages which prevented workers from rising above stark poverty and barely managed to provide roofs over their heads. Cold water flats, as cheap housing accommodations were known in the late 1800s, were not only common among workers but were miserly at best, providing only cold water and no heat except when the renter provided the coal to heat water and for cooking.

Yet, corporate businesses and Wall St boomed. Commodore Vanderbilt’s family regularly gave extraordinarily gaudy and lavish week-long parties. Wall St. magnates and other corporate leaders sought to compete in extravagance with the Vanderbilt’s.

In response to this disparity of wealth and opportunity, workers revolted. Street corner advocates called for massive worker revolutions against the corporate system. Unions formed. Workers struck, effectively shutting down businesses.

Businesses fought back with strike breakers and hired private police and army forces. Socialism and even Communism were on the rise amongst workers who saw the capitalistic system as supremely unfair and failing to live up to the promise of real democracy.

Violence was common…and threatened the country.

Into this era of violence, poverty and excess stepped Teddy Roosevelt. A rich kid from upper New York, TR quickly realized that to save capitalism he had to initiate reforms to save it from its worst excesses. That broadly spread economic benefits not only enabled the country to grow but maintained domestic order.

Thus, the GOP-created progressive era began as a consequence of unbridled free market capitalism that destroyed millions of families and businesses throughout the 1800s into the early 1900s.

TR realized that only the government could pull up on the reins of capitalism to prevent its largest horses from crushing underfoot the opportunities of millions of other citizens. He realized that if he and Congress did not put limits upon how trusts and other companies behaved, the likelihood of free market capitalism surviving was slim or, at the very least would fail to prevent revolution amongst the millions of American workers. After all, workers’ unions were the direct result of corporate management’s failure to address the wage, health and safety needs of workers.

FDR sought additional worker and consumer protections as well as for Social Security to lighten the burden on workers while enabling companies to grow. He understood that without a healthy, thriving middle class, real capitalism was doomed.

In 1936, GDP growth had reached a steady 45% degree angle upward throughout FDR’s Administration; yet, unemployment remained very high – even though accurate figures were not available. (The Fed. government did not begin keeping accurate unemployment data until the ’50s.) In 1937, the Fed. Government reined in its spending to balance the budget, thinking the economy had sufficiently healed. Those austerity policies sent the nation back into depression, increasing unemployment and federal deficits. Only the extraordinarily massive Federal spending for WWII, pulled the nation completely out of the Depression.

Oh, I know, some say that if FDR had not intervened the Depression would have ended much sooner. To them I say, read Rogoff and Reinhart’s book covering a century of global financial crises in which they report that financially caused recession takes up to 10 years before the economy returns to normal. Moreover, I would ask them to research what happened following each banking crash throughout the 1800s. What were the results for working Americans? How many working families lost everything? How many small business died? How much did the overall economy suffer as a result of banking crashes every 10 years. There is a reason why bankers asked for the Fed and the FDIC.

In between TR and FDR was Calvin Coolidge. His basic philosophy was hands off. He believed in light regulation, an almost unencumbered free market, and very low taxes. Business boomed under his administration during the 1920s. Unfortunately, his hands off approach led to massive speculation very similar to what occurred in the last decade. Hoover followed Coolidge’s economic philosophy and became the inheritor of a policy legacy that led to the worst depression in modern American history. When FDR was elected, the estimated unemployment rate was over 25%. Millions of businesses had shuttered. Millions more had lost their homes.

When FDR was elected the first time, he won all but 59 electoral college votes. In the 1936 election, he lost only 8 electoral college votes.

It’s that knowledge of history, including economic history, that informs my politics. You cannot have a thriving, broad-based economy without a thriving middle class who shares in the economic benefits of commerce. This nation has not had that sharing for at least the last 12 years – actually it’s been declining for 30 years as even Reagan acknowledged in the ’80s.

Right now, I think we’re once again caught up in a fight between the vision of Calvin Coolidge and TR/FDR. These are two very disparate visions of America. For myself, I fall on the side of a modernized version of TR/FDR because I believe their visions work better for America on the whole. And, indeed, because the TR/FDR model relies upon a muscular – even a Hamiltonian model – of a strong central government and the tax revenues need to meet the costs of government we need and over the last 100 years have chosen.

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