What Would FDR Do?
Written by HEIST co-director/co-producer Frances Causey.
History has proven time and time again that the United States has prospered the most when capital and labor work hand in hand with each other. When they don’t, you get the likes of Michigan, Wisconsin, Hostess and Wal-Mart. Henry Ford understood that he needed to pay his workers well or who else would buy his automobiles? Pretty logical, huh?
Today, the balance of power between workers and capital has been obliterated with a tiny few elites making off like bandits as we have illustrated in Heist. The 1 percent has captured 93 percent of income growth since the alleged recovery of the economy. (This page asks, how can this truly be a recovery when only 1 percent of the population benefits?)
The tragedy is that our own lawmakers have allowed American corporations and the super rich to makeover government to suit their own whims. Don’t be deceived. American corporations have abandoned America for emerging markets, dispensing with loyalty as easily as they would an unprofitable manufacturing sector. Corporate media consolidation has sold this bill of goods (free market mysticism) to the American people as patriotic.
There is a fascinating yet depressing book entitled At Any Cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of Profit that illustrates just what has gone wrong with corporate America. Jack Welch maximized shareholder value by turning one of America’s most enterprising companies, GE, into a mercenary financial monolith that was eventually bailed out to the tune of $140 billion dollars by U.S. taxpayers.
Tens of thousands of GE jobs were (are) being outsourced at the exact moment the American people were bailing the company out! Then in the cruelest irony of all, President Obama appointed GE’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt to run his Presidential Council on Jobs and Competitiveness!
When an American corporation benefits greatly from being American (favorable tax law, use of U.S. infrastructure, protection of U.S. embassies abroad, favorable trade deals et al), it is the duty of our lawmakers who allegedly represent us to hold these companies accountable to America and her workers. We are not naïve as we understand that capital flows to the highest return but everything must have rules. The 1 percent has made their own rules and 99 percent of us are paying the price.
If FDR were president today, my guess is he would not meet in secret with the House speaker to cut a backroom deal that would further hammer the 99 percent by reducing Medicare and Social Security benefits that we have already paid for. Instead, FDR would call it like he saw it — as he did in a 1936 speech while accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. FDR addressed what he saw as a grave threat to the United States from within:
“These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.”
The economic royalists of today are the financial and corporate elite that lobbies for their own set of rules. Both U.S. parties are beholden to their outrageous cash flows. We as a united people can’t change things until we have accepted this reality. Under FDR, workers had a seat at the table but who speaks for us now? The Progressives won with FDR and we can do it again if President Obama stands with us. If not now, when? It’s time for President Obama to channel his inner FDR — if he has it in him.