The Great Task

Abby Zimet

For his Labor Day speech in Wisconsin, John Nichols suggests
President Obama take a page from Franklin Roosevelt, who 76 years ago
declared unequivocably - something Obama has difficulty with - what side he
was on.  To a people struggling with the Great Depression, FDR blasted
"the old law of the tooth and the claw" - that is, "private means of
exploitation" gained at the expense of the many who have "waged a long
and bitter fight
for (their) rights."

Roosevelt did this with a history lesson, of a sort, in which he
traced back to the founding of the republic in to recount the long fight
"against those forces which disregard human cooperation and human
rights in seeking that kind of individual profit which is gained at the
expense of his fellows."

The primary barrier to action, the president explained, was erected
by those who still entertained the fantasy who argued that FDR could
restore confidence only by "(telling) tell the people of the United
States that all supervision by all forms of Government, Federal and
State, over all forms of human activity called business should be
forthwith abolished."

Unlike Obama, however, Roosevelt refused to even entertain - let
alone embrace - the absurd constructs of the private-sector fabulists
who "would repeal all laws, State or national, which regulate
business-that a utility could henceforth charge any rate, unreasonable
or otherwise; that the railroads could go back to rebates and other
secret agreements; that the processors of food stuffs could disregard
all rules of health and of good faith; that the unregulated wild-cat
banking of a century ago could be restored; that fraudulent securities
and watered stock could be palmed off on the public; that stock
manipulation which caused panics and enriched insiders could go

"In fact," the president continued, "if we were to listen to (the
anti-government crowd), the old law of the tooth and the claw would
reign in our Nation once more."

"The people of the United States will not restore that ancient
order," thundered Roosevelt. "There is no lack of confidence on the part
of those business men, farmers and workers who clearly read the signs
of the times. Sound economic improvement comes from the improved
conditions of the whole population and not a small fraction thereof."

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