This week, we've watched, helplessly, as our elected representatives decided among themselves to take 700 billion of our hard-earned dollars to bail Wall Street out of its gambling debts. Watching this mismanagement is no less of a helpless feeling than the one so many of us felt as we watched the planes dive into the World Trade Towers in 2001.
If we could just stop them! Stop! We know what they are doing is wrong! If we could have kept those jets from ever touching the towers, we would have.
If we could reach out and grab our elected representatives by the scruff of their necks, shake them by the shoulders and tell them to stop giving money to the rich, we would. We definitely would. Helpless to keep our lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican, from ruining our futures; we don't have the pause button we should have. Where is our Franklin Roosevelt?
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today...
“In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunk to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income....
"More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment."
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, January 1933, at his inauguration
Earlier this week, two bloggers here at Everyday Citizen reminded us (The Reagan Revolution - Mission Accomplished and Grandpa Ronnie Got It Wrong) that this Wall Street bailout is just a continuation of the wholesale destruction that began in 1980 when Ronald Reagan brought us Reaganomics, trickle-down economics, and the dismantling of the Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.
Roosevelt encouraged Americans to believe that we are all "in this together." Roosevelt thought that our government was an extension of our better selves and a tool with which we could realize our noblest ideals.
Fifty years later, Reagan laughed sarcastically while he began tearing down Roosevelt's New Deal, brick by brick. Reagan saw government (and our desire to help each other through our government) as our problem.
When Ronald Reagan became President, he announced that government was not the solution but the problem, and joked that, “The 10 most dangerous words in the English language are, 'Hi, I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.'”
It's very simple. Reagan promoted the Wall Street philosophy that greed and ambition were higher ideals than building society. Reagan thought that nothing should stand in the way of profit. So Reagan began dismantling social programs and safety nets. He and his successor, George H. W. Bush, began unregulating companies.
Corporations became more valued than communities. Profits were more important than people. Wall Street became the most important "citizen" in the Reagan/Bush society.
Reagan and Bush told us that whatever was good for Wall Street would eventually be good for all the rest of us, even the poorest of the poor. In a nutshell, this was their whole economic philosophy. Let Wall Street have its greatest profits unfettered by regulation or taxes, and surely some of that good fortune would "trickle down" to the middle class.
Roosevelt saw it differently. He believed that we would be a greater nation if we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
And, this week? We just watched more Reagan-style destruction and tremendous dereliction of duty.
We are not hearing or seeing ANY Roosevelts in Washington this week. Not any. Obama is not Roosevelt-like, nor is McCain, Dodd, Hoyer or even Pelosi.
I listened intently. I dug in and read the finer details on their bailout plans. I saw that these plans will not help people on "Main Street" and that, no matter what they say, the bailout plan is designed only for investors on Wall Street.
I only heard and saw more destruction of our future - by our own government. I watched our lawmakers dance around and promise 700 billion dollars of our future earnings to the robber barons on Wall Street.
It's still Reaganomics. It's still just trickle down fantasy. That's just not what's needed.
We don't need fear-mongering and election season posturing.
We need leadership. We need Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And we don't apparently have any leader with his wisdom, values or backbone.
“The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of that restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit…
"If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize, as we have never realized before, our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take, but we must give as well.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, January 1933, during the Great Depression in his inaugural speech upon being sworn in as president