Happy FDR Day

desertwine reminds us that 127 years ago today, the greatest American President of the 20th Century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was born.

Roosevelt, born in wealth, became a traitor to his class and the greatest champion and most revolutionary, in terms of our philosophy of governance, the nation has ever seen.

He was the father of modern progressive governance. On this day, living in these times, let us remember the great FDR. I want to refer you to his famous speech at Oglethorpe University in 1932, words that resonate today:

You have been struck, I know, by the tragic irony of our economic situation today. We have not been brought to our present state by any natural calamity--by drought or floods or earthquakes or by the destruction of our productive machine or our man power. Indeed, we have a superabundance of raw materials, a more than ample supply of equipment for manufacturing these materials into the goods which we need, and transportation and commercial facilities for making them available to all who need them. But raw materials stand unused, factories stand idle, railroad traffic continues to dwindle, merchants sell less and less, while millions of able-bodied men and women, in dire need, are clamoring for the opportunity to work. This is the awful paradox with which we are confronted, a stinging rebuke that challenges our power to operate the economic machine which we have created.

. . . [I]n the field of industry and business many of those whose primary solicitude is confined to the welfare of what they call capital have failed to read the lessons of the past few years and have been moved less by calm analysis of the needs of the Nation as a whole than by a blind determination to preserve their own special stakes in the economic order. I do not mean to intimate that we have come to the end of this period of expansion. We shall continue to need capital for the production of newly-invented devices, for the replacement of equipment worn out or rendered obsolete by our technical progress; we need better housing in many of our cities and we still need in many parts of the country more good roads, canals, parks and other improvements.

. . . [O]ur basic trouble was not an insufficiency of capital. It was an insufficient distribution of buying power coupled with an over-sufficient speculation in production. While wages rose in many of our industries, they did not as a whole rise proportionately to the reward to capital, and at the same time the purchasing power of other great groups of our population was permitted to shrink. We accumulated such a superabundance of capital that our great bankers were vying with each other, some of them employing questionable methods, in their efforts to lend this capital at home and abroad.

I believe that we are at the threshold of a fundamental change in our popular economic thought, that in the future we are going to think less about the producer and more about the consumer. Do what we may have to do to inject life into our ailing economic order, we cannot make it endure for long unless we can bring about a wiser, more equitable distribution of the national income.

It is well within the inventive capacity of man, who has built up this great social and economic machine capable of satisfying the wants of all, to insure that all who are willing and able to work receive from it at least the necessities of life. In such a system, the reward for a day's work will have to be greater, on the average, than it has been, and the reward to capital, especially capital which is speculative, will have to be less. But I believe that after the experience of the last three years, the average citizen would rather receive a smaller return upon his savings in return for greater security for the principal, than experience for a moment the thrill or the prospect of being a millionaire only to find the next moment that his fortune, actual or expected, has withered in his hand because the economic machine has again broken down.

It is toward that objective that we must move if we are to profit by our recent experiences. Probably few will disagree that the goal is desirable. Yet many, of faint heart, fearful of change, sitting tightly on the roof-tops in the flood, will sternly resist striking out for it, lest they fail to attain it. Even among those who are ready to attempt the journey there will be violent differences of opinion as to how it should be made. So complex, so widely distributed over our whole society are the problems which confront us that men and women of common aim do not agree upon the method of attacking them. Such disagreement leads to doing nothing, to drifting. Agreement may come too late.

Let us not confuse objectives with methods. Too many so-called leaders of the Nation fail to see the forest because of the trees. Too many of them fail to recognize the vital necessity of planning for definite objectives. True leadership calls for the setting forth of the objectives and the rallying of public opinion in support of these objectives.

Do not confuse objectives with methods. When the Nation becomes substantially united in favor of planning the broad objectives of civilization, then true leadership must unite thought behind definite methods.

The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. The millions who are in want will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach.

We need enthusiasm, imagination and the ability to face facts, even unpleasant ones, bravely. We need to correct, by drastic means if necessary, the faults in our economic system from which we now suffer. We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking!

In days like those we face, we must remember and take to heart these resounding calls to action delivered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a time not unlike that we face today.

Speaking for me only

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    hmm, (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:35:04 AM EST
    Do what we may have to do to inject life into our ailing economic order, we cannot make it endure for long unless we can bring about a wiser, more equitable distribution of the national income.
    What do you think would happen if Obama said these words today?

    Oh, and happy birthday President Roosevelt! (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:35:26 AM EST
    heh (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by CST on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:42:24 AM EST
    you mean like "spread the wealth"



    And I don't think FDR... (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Dadler on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:46:04 AM EST
    ...would view outsourcing a huge chunk of our manufacturing and service sector to foreign nations as anything more than business trying to secure its own priveliged economic place rather than securing what is best for the nation.

    Great read. (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Joelarama on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:05:01 AM EST
    And, it's very rare for important revolutionary figures not to be a traitor to their class.  Most of them have been upper class or bourgeois.

    Paragraph number 3 (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by eric on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:56:49 AM EST
    describing the cause of the dilemma, might as well be written today.

    Inequality coupled with speculation.  As he puts it, "our great bankers were vying with each other, some of them employing questionable methods, in their efforts to lend this capital at home and abroad."

    Did we not learn our lesson?  Guess not.

    In memory of my Dad... (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by christinep on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:43:58 PM EST
    ...a toast to FDR! My late wonderful father was a teenager during the Depression. Throughout his life, he reminded my sister & I (whom he raised with love and stories after our mother died when we daughters were 2 and 6) about the central significance of being able to have a job, to work, to provide for yourself and family. He believed his ability to begin to do that came from the CCCs, the Civilian Conservation Corps that ultimately built portions of the nation's still extant infrastructure--FDR's CCCs. He talked often of his positive impressions of FDR and his focus on the American worker, the American family. Actually, Dad thought of him as a central member of our family. When he was trying different ways to cook for his young daughters and we would sit together for dinner after school, he would caution us to be skeptical of (in his words) the "plutocrat" and an "oligopolistic system." The two sisters would look at each other and then him, sometimes saying "oh dad....(yawn, etc.)" Well, when I recall the last several years of attempted and actual privatization scams--the you-too-can-have-the-golden-apple & screw-everyone-else--and when I think about the rip-offs by the take-their-money-&-run Wall Streeters, Dad's stories become real and vivid.  I am sure that my Dad would be at the front of the line raising a toast to FDR today.

    Thanks BTD (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jlvngstn on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:45:58 AM EST
    What a beautiful read.

    He laid the ground work.... (none / 0) (#6)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:47:25 AM EST
    for a nice little 70-80 year run, that included the golden age of the middle and working classes.  I just don't know if it issustainable...we'll certainly need more of the imagination he spoke of, and our friend Dadler is always speaking of...and a willingness to face hard truths to keep this machine humming.

    On the flip, I can't help but think of the victims of his racist japanese-american internment policy...they and their descendants might not feel like singing happy b-day.

    @Kdog (none / 0) (#42)
    by NYShooter on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:30:20 PM EST
    I respect your posts and find them to be your honest feelings regarding whatever topic is being discussed, so I hope you don't mind me adding my two cents regarding your last sentence. (and I'm not implying you were judgemental)

    I always find it uncomfortable to look back at a period of time, and be judgmental regarding a situation impossible to experience from our current perspective.

    The Japanese-American internment seems to be, today, a crystal clear example of a racist outrage. You can't believe that, and also believe that Roosevelt wasn't a racist. Do you believe he was? I don't, and probably you don't either. Nor, probably, do most people.
    So, what happened, and why did he do it? I know it's a little hard to absorb, but while we can "imagine" what we would feel like under certain circumstances, it's impossible to "experience" how we would feel.

    Having said that, and knowing Roosevelt's performance for most of his life would preclude his being a racist, I think it's rational to deduce that Roosevelt's perception of the situation 64 years ago was probably not much different than yours or mine would have been were we placed in his shoes.

    I'm pretty sure he contemplated the racial aspects before he made his decision. While realizing, as I said a few sentences ago, it's impossible to experience his experience, if I try to channel myself into his mind at that time, I tend to cut him some slack.
    He had a tremendously difficult decision to make, in a tremendously difficult period of time. We had just been viciously and surreptitiously attacked; he was stunned, confused, but needed to respond rapidly. A military reaction would take time, and the American people were demanding
    action to restore some semblance of confidence.

    In some ways similar to our recent 9-11 incident, Roosevelt didn't know if, or when, another attack(s) would occur. Was it completely from outside the country, or was there another front from within? Not knowing if, who, nor how many saboteurs may be active within the country at that very minute, he did what police departments have done in the past when confronted with similar situations; round them all up. Knowing full well he had dealt a blow to civil liberties, it was a price he was willing to pay to contain what may have been a mortal/fatal ending to our way of life.

    Sorry to have rambled on so long, but this period of time is so very interesting. As BTD says, these are my conclusions alone, and smarter people than me certainly have other opinions.


    Hopefully Obama will ride to ocassion (none / 0) (#7)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 10:58:17 AM EST
    Obama might have to frame it a bit different but I think the country may be ready to hear it. As with any structure, the top tier can't exist without the support of the middle.

    A glaring difference, is this generation is a lot more spoiled (or accustomed) to a much higher standard of living than the generation of FDR. I think civil unrest would be considerably worse.

    Given the options available, Obama may not have any choice. This may be the key for Obama to use in his bid to unify the country. Whether Limbough agrees or not, we're all in this together.

    Nominations for best FDR books anyone? (none / 0) (#9)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:34:56 AM EST

    Jean Edward Smith's is excellent (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:36:18 AM EST
    I thought Jonathan Alter's book (none / 0) (#22)
    by gtesta on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 01:56:28 PM EST
    was good, and I enjoyed reading Robert Jackson's That Man - published 50 years after Jackson's death.

    I have a copy of Justice Jackson's posthumous book (none / 0) (#39)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 04:41:25 PM EST
    BTD -- Have you ever seen that HBO (none / 0) (#11)
    by Exeter on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:46:52 AM EST
    movie  about FDR? Its pretty good. Its all about his  FDR's Warm Springs days.

    With Kenneth Brannagh? (none / 0) (#12)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:48:42 AM EST
    I concur

    Yep (none / 0) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 12:04:22 PM EST
    Very good indeed.

    The 1900's (none / 0) (#13)
    by SOS on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:50:39 AM EST
    Consider that in the 1930's the U.S.A. had plenty of mineral resources, lots of trained-and-regimented manpower, millions of productive family farms, factories that were practically new, and more than 90 percent left of the greatest petroleum reserve anywhere in the world, around 120 million population, and we still ended up with a great depression.

    Ugly stuff

    Not to forget what followed the 30's.

    And now (none / 0) (#16)
    by NJDem on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 12:20:40 PM EST
    for something entirely different:  Archie vs. Maude

    It get's on topic at the 1 minute mark--enjoy! :)

    Kind of Ironic, (none / 0) (#17)
    by bocajeff on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 12:40:26 PM EST
    The love for FDR, yet:

    The imprisonment of over 120,000 American citizens for nothing more than their ethnicity...

    Laying the groundwork for the nuclear detonations over Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed over 200,000 civilians (a War Crime?)...

    Trying to usurp Congress by packing the Supreme Court...

    Not adhering to the 2 term precedent

    Hiding his illness from the public...

    1940 lie during the Presidential Race not to get us into WWII...

    St. Louis?...

    Depression that didn't end until we were in War...

    Giving away Eastern Europe at Yalta thus enabling the next 50 years of Cold War (and some hot ones at that)...

    Not to mention the conspiracy theories revolving around Pearl Harbor that would give some 9/11 Truthers a run for their money...

    Wow (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by Steve M on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 12:43:38 PM EST
    You're really all over the map here, combining a list of things that you imagine liberals ought to hate FDR for, and then throwing in the Yalta wingnuttery for good measure.  Yes, it's true, there are plenty of extremists who despise FDR, but I'm not sure why the rest of us are supposed to find any of their arguments compelling.

    Well.... (none / 0) (#20)
    by desertswine on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 01:15:47 PM EST
    next week on 6 Febuary, to be fair, we can celebrate "The Perfect Stooge" Day for the wingnuts.

    Actually, (none / 0) (#25)
    by bocajeff on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:32:10 PM EST
    The uproar on this site (rightfully) over Guantanemo and 1,000 foreign citizens is deafening...yet somehow FDR always seems to get a pass on the tragic enslavement of 120,000 U.S. citizens (women, children, elderly) who were locked up because of their ancestry alone.

    Abu Grahib is disgusting to the less than 200 people there yet dropping 2 nukes on 200,000 people is somehow okay and not a war crime? We drop a bomb and kill 40 civilians at a wedding and commentators here go crazy...

    But I guess it's okay because he was a progressive and gave us Social Security.

    BTD, nice jab at America First, but not a substantive reply to the atrocities committed by FDR...


    I don't get it (none / 0) (#30)
    by Steve M on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:04:38 PM EST
    Of course the internment of Japanese-Americans is a stain on our history.  Good luck finding a liberal who believes otherwise.  Heck, usually it's only the "Blame America First" crowd who brings up these historical atrocities at all.

    The passage of time simply allows us to evaluate people like FDR on their entire body of work, that's all.  FDR can be a great President even though he made a number of serious errors in judgment.  Hard to think of a President, in fact, with quite as many good achievements on the positive side of the ledger.


    The nukes was Truman (none / 0) (#31)
    by jondee on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:10:03 PM EST
    wasnt it?

    Agree that it was beyond appalling. The Japs had already lost 99% of their "empire" and most of their cities had been practically reduced to ciders.

    But peace wasnt the objective, total hegemony was the objective.


    I think he is saying (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by Steve M on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:26:04 PM EST
    that FDR is to blame for even setting the Manhattan Project into motion in the first place - as if we were supposed to know years in advance, I guess, that the war could inevitably be won through conventional means.

    Kinda grasping for straws there but it's the sort of thing that happens when you're a non-liberal trying to conjure up reasons why liberals "should" hate FDR.


    Also (none / 0) (#34)
    by jondee on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:31:49 PM EST
    as I recall, the intelligence was that Hitler's scientists were working on it. I dont know what you're supposed to do at that point.

    Have to laugh at that (none / 0) (#32)
    by jondee on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:15:40 PM EST
    "tragic enslavement" bit. Jeff, why do I suspect that if Reagan had done the same thing, you would've been in favor of making them all wear big round glasses and fake buck teeth?

    the America First crowd arrives (none / 0) (#18)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 12:41:28 PM EST
    "Giving away Eastern Europe" (none / 0) (#23)
    by jondee on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:14:40 PM EST
    I didnt know it was ours to give away.

    Forget that the Russians had just finished engaging and turning back roughly 80% of the German army or that alot of Eastern Europe (not all) had allowed itself to be a willing staging ground for the German invasion of the S.U; if that crypto-socialist Roosevelt had had any backbone he woulda' said "the hell with ending the war and starting the rebuilding, lets go to war with the Rooskies."

    That what you're getting at, Jeff?


    Btw The Depression (none / 0) (#24)
    by jondee on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:18:48 PM EST
    was a world-wide Depression.

    They just dont magically end the second The Gipper appears on the scene, smiles and bends over for the major shareholdres.


    But he should never be let... (none / 0) (#26)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:33:00 PM EST
    off the hook for the internment, no matter how many other good things he accomplished.  Right up there behind Jackson's Trail of Tears on our all-time human rights crimes list.

    Now if he had locked up all the German-Americans too, that would still be wrong but at least consistent.  I can only assume racism was the motivator for only locking up the Japanese-Americans who committed no crime.


    Perspective of the times (none / 0) (#35)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:32:12 PM EST
    I agree it was terrible and racism was the main factor. But also if you look at the country at that time, racism was pretty much an accepted norm.

    Point taken... (none / 0) (#38)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:59:28 PM EST
    about the times, something to consider.

    Well (none / 0) (#36)
    by Steve M on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:43:06 PM EST
    We did in fact intern German-Americans at the start of the war... about 11,000 of them according to Wikipedia.  Part of the reason that the Japanese got worse treatment is that the West Coast, following Pearl Harbor, was under military control as a sort of "war zone" where we were concerned about invasion.  This is just by way of explanation, of course, not to defend the decisions that were made.

    Thanks... (none / 0) (#37)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 03:58:51 PM EST
    I didn't know about the German-Americans interned.

    italian-americans were also (none / 0) (#41)
    by cpinva on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 11:18:43 PM EST
    interned during wwII, though not nearly as many as were japanes-americans.

    the reason you don't hear as much about it is because their numbers were dwarfed by those of the japanese, mostly on the west coast.

    bear in mind, there was  the loss (briefly) of US soil, to the japanese, during wwII, an island off of alaska. as well, the japanese sent bomb balloons and mini-subs to the west coast, all during the war. so there was merit in the concerns raised.

    there were constant german u-boat attacks, on both merchant and military vessels, off the east coast, all during the war. ft. story, at va beach, still has shore guns, placed there during the war, as defenses against the u-boats.

    none of this excuses the inexcusable, but it does put it in a better perspective.


    Put the blame for the Cold War (none / 0) (#40)
    by ThatOneVoter on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 05:05:35 PM EST
    where it belongs---with the Dulles brothers and other right wing extremists.

    interestingly, (none / 0) (#21)
    by cpinva on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 01:20:52 PM EST
    FDR, unlike obama, didn't worry too much about bi-partisanship. he did what he felt was necessary to be done, for the overall good of the country. if the republicans didn't agree (and they mostly didn't), oh well.

    i don't see pres. obama coming up with anything close to a speech like that, because it would require that he hurt someone's feelings. FDR didn't let nonsense like that stand in the way of doing what he, and his administration, felt was necessary to get the country moving again.

    Greatness (none / 0) (#27)
    by bocajeff on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:33:37 PM EST
    That's one reason why people believe he was a great president: he had convictions and he stood for them, and fought for them - right, wrong or indifferent. People admire that trait greatly.

    Also because he looks (none / 0) (#28)
    by jondee on Fri Jan 30, 2009 at 02:41:58 PM EST
    like Ashoka the Great, The Virgin Queen and several Founding Fathers rolled into one when stood next to the Bushes, Reagan or Nixon.