Threats to American workers demand a President like FDR

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has a great column about Maine Governor Paul LePage up on the Christian Science Monitor website this evening. LePage, as you’ll recall from our conversation a few days ago, is the man who recently made headlines for ordering murals depicting the advances of organized labor to be painted over in the building housing Maine’s Department of Labor. Here’s a clip from the column:

…The LePage Administration is also renaming conference rooms that had carried the names of historic leaders of American labor, as well as former Secretary Perkins.

The Governor’s spokesman explains that the mural and the conference-room names were “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals.”

Are we still in America?

Frances Perkins was the first woman cabinet member in American history. She was also one of the most accomplished cabinet members in history.

She and her boss, Franklin D. Roosevelt, came to office at a time when average working people needed help – and Perkins and Roosevelt were determined to give it to them. Together, they created Social Security, unemployment insurance, the right of workers to unionize, the minimum wage, and the forty-hour workweek.

Big business and Wall Street thought Perkins and Roosevelt were not in keeping with pro-business goals. So they and their Republican puppets in Congress and in the states retaliated with a political assault on the New Deal.

Roosevelt did not flinch. In a speech in October 1936 he condemned “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.”

Big business and Wall Street, he said, “had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. 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.”

Fast forward 75 years.

Big business and Wall Street have emerged from the Great Recession with their pockets bulging. Profits and bonuses are as high as they were before the downturn. And they’re spending like mad on lobbying and politics. After the Supreme Court’s disgraceful Citizens United decision, there are no limits.

Pro-business goals are breaking out all over. Governors across America are slashing corporate taxes as they slash state budgets. House and Senate Republicans are intent on deregulating, privatizing, and cutting spending and taxes so their corporate and Wall Street patrons will do even better.

But most Americans are still in desperate trouble. Few if any of the economic gains are trickling down.

That’s why the current Republican assault on workers – on their right to form unions, on unemployment insurance and Social Security, on public employees, and even (courtesy of Governor LePage) on our common memory – is so despicable.

And it’s why we need a President who will fight for workers and fight against this assault — just as Perkins and FDR did…


How incredible would it be to hear our current President not only condemning “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, (and) war profiteering,” but then going on to say that he welcomed the hatred of people engaged in such acts? Instead, though, we have a President who holds the CEO of GE, Jeffrey Immelt, up as a shining example of American exceptionalism when the corporation that he runs pays nothing in federal taxes, despite making over $14 billion a year in profit off the American people. [On a very much related note, I’m finding it really difficult to work up much enthusiasm for Obama’s 2012 campaign, which just kicked off today.]

Speaking of Immelt, you can sign the petition stating that you’d like to see him booted from President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness here.

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  1. Gene
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    ditto. some on facebook are already supporting 2012. i sent 2012 a message, that as much as there might be a “difference” – i’m not really feelin’ it. obama has my vote, but reagan/bush/clinton/bush/obama is all running together for me. my hope is that a 2nd term would be more audacious than the 1st. otherwise, i think local politics is more impactful than national – it’s all too safe for my taste. “where have all the flower gone?” – they were killed by winter, i’m wondering where all the ass-kickers are…

  2. Posted April 5, 2011 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    “How incredible would it be to hear our current President not only condemning, “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, (and) war profiteering,” ”

    I don’t see Obama saying this at all, but assuming he ever did, he’d probably be assassinated by some unemplyed white guy violently defending the interests of the wealthy.

  3. EOS
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    In the midst of an economy in turmoil, Washington’s big government cabal continues to recklessly spend your money on things like abortion, bailing out failed corporate giants, and funding the new health care law. Were the problem only fiscal it would be bad enough, but the moral impact of saddling our children and grandchildren with the financial burden of our irresponsibility is something we cannot afford to explore by experience. We must put a stop to the out of control spending in Washington. Threats to American workers demand an end to BOTH big government (FDR’s legacy) AND business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism and war profiteering.

  4. Knox
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    I agree with EOS. It’s clearly our national addiction to abortion, and not the three foreign wars and the massive give-aways to industry, that’s responsible for our current economic situation.

  5. Edward
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Obama also announced yesterday that we’d be trying 9/11 conspirator Khalid Shiekh Mohammed before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, instead of in civilian court as he’d promised during his campaign for President.

  6. TeacherPatti
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    One of the things I love about Franklin R. is that he was a “dandy” (as they said in the Day) and STILL was on “our” side. I am not usually a fan of the rich (and boy do I get some shit for that) but I admire that. I also like Teddy Roosevelt. If you’ve never seen the pictures comparing him to the Lolrus who lost his bukkit, you owe it to yourself to Google it.

  7. Kim
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    OK, I took the LOLbait.

    I wonder if conservatives would like abortion if it was publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

  8. Ypsiosaurus Wrecks
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    EOS – I agree with you except for the abortion issue. You should read a rather convincing argument (tipping point/M. Gladwell) on the benefits of aborting fetuses that would otherwise be poorly cared for children i.e. future criminals/underclass. But we should start with ending grotesque big biz give-aways at the expense of the average taxpaying citizen.

  9. John Galt
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I think I’ve finally diagnosed your problem, Maynard. You physically can’t shut your cake hole. Here, try this.!5789076/the-shocking-treatment-for-girl-who-cant-close-her-mouth

  10. TaterSalad
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    FDR was a great Progressive! Close to being a dictator!

  11. Gene
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    I love Maynard’s cake hole – it’s open and warm and chocolatey.

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