Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why Obama Should Embrace Teddy Roosevelt - Substance and Style

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a letter today criticizing President Obama as being "anti-business." This to a president who rescued the auto and finance industries and set in motion an unprecedentedly enormous stimulus package for the overall economy. Unreason has knows no bounds.

Obama has much of the blame on his shoulders for not striking back at the fiendish money hounds who want George W. Bush's tax cuts for the rich to be extended at the end of the year and want a rollback on crucial legislation such as health care reform, and a dead stop put on emissions restrictions. The President seems to have mislaid his trump card, his inspiring oratory,

If the status quo were so wonderful, why do we find ourselves in such a huge, seemingly unsolvable mess?

Just before the Panic of 1907, another point in our history when capital had been hyper-concentrated in the hands of a few, in a speech in Indianapolis on Memorial Day, Teddy Roosevelt skewered the "predatory man of wealth" who was increasingly using his power to manipulate labor, prices, and liquidity. (J. P. Morgan was the archetypal "man of wealth," but he was only one among the oligarchy, the cabal.)

Roosevelt said in full:

One great problem that we have before us is to preserve the rights of property, and these can only be preserved if we remember that they are in less jeopardy from the Socialist and the Anarchist than from the predatory man of wealth. There can be no halt in the course we have deliberately elected to pursue, that policy of asserting the right of the nation, so far as it has the power, to supervise and control the business use of wealth, especially in the corporate form.

Paralleling the unwarranted attacks in the business press on Obama, the Commercial and Financial Chronicle (click) began to refer to T.R. as "the irritant." (Fittingly, the monthly Chronicle, founded in 1839, went out of business immediately after the stock market crash of 1987.)

Roosevelt was anything but anti-business. Nor is Obama, of course. Both have a reasoned approach to regulation and taxation. What the big business community wants ultimately is to have all fetters removed so that they are free to prey on the stupidly greedy (as during the housing bubble), the sick, the poor, and the working classes. Today, most likely the term "working classes" includes you. 

We need look no farther than the tempest over health care reform, the vulturous behavior of the financial sector, the outlandish prices for pharmaceuticals, the cost of our wars, and the wanton destruction caused by BP in the Gulf to see where the Republicans and corporatism have gotten us.

The Chamber of Commerce in its role as attack dog for corporations, wants deficits to be rolled back precipitously. Meanwhile, according to Reuters, "U.S. businesses are holding onto some $1.8 trillion in cash." So, if business won't spend, and government is basically out of cash or should not take on new debt, what exactly is the prescription for economic recovery?

When the Republicans were in charge of the country through the better part of the first decade of this century, real income for the average American declined over $2,000. George Bush's administration created exactly zero net private sector jobs. 

The right wing agenda is no less frightening as the midterm elections approach. The mainstream Republican wants to do away with Medicare; privatize Social Security while raising the retirement age to 70; they are against extending unemployment benefits; against legislation that would forbid another Wall Street bailout; against the inevitable green economy; and for a return to offshore drilling at it was before the Gulf catastrophe. And that's the mainstream right!

Teddy Roosevelt called the unholy amalgam of purely self-interested corporations of his era the "malefactors of great wealth." 

Right now, the top 1% of people in the United States own over 30% of the wealth in the country. The bottom 50% owns less than 20%. 

The Republicans speak for the top 1% (and more). 

Obama and the Democrats need to step up and start speaking for the rest of us. And hey, Mr. President, start shaking your fist and crying out for justice all around.


  1. The GOP is strange enough, but the stress of the midtown elections seems to be driving them over the edge - everything and anything is coming out of their mouths, like a BP gusher.

    My video response:

    Link: Desperately Seeking Sanity

  2. NY Liberal State of MindJuly 14, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    Midtown elections are ALWAYS stressful..what with the traffic, the parking... oy