Today's leaders need a lesson on FDR and guts

logicSeptember 30, 2008

Today's leaders need a lesson on FDR and guts

Posted by Mark DiIonno September 29, 2008 10:21PM

Categories: Hot Topics

And now for a little history.

By now, we've all heard of Sen. Joe Biden's on-camera account of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's handling of the stock market crash of 1929.

In trying to explain how great leaders lead, Biden said FDR went public with insightful explanations and decisive solutions in the first days of the Great Depression.

"When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Here's what happened.' "

Biden, like any guy, is entitled to make a mistake.

Yes, it was Herbert Hoover, not FDR, who was president in 1929.

And, yes, television wasn't introduced to the public until the 1939 World's Fair. Radio -- and FDR's "Fireside Chats" -- remained the main media link between public and president until his death in 1945.

But Biden was wrong about something else, too.

When FDR took office in 1933, his inaugural address was all about the "princes of greed."

He did not try to make sense of unstable credit markets, unsecure securities and collateralized mortgage bundles. Instead, he got right to the heart of the problem.

FDR attacked greed. Immoral, indifferent greed. He attacked the self-serving myopia of chasing money. He asked the nation to re-ground itself in public service and not follow the examples of the day's "money changers."

It was high-minded. It was spiritual. It was bold, and challenging. It was all the things we don't hear today.

His inaugural speech, most famous for "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," gave an assessment of 1933 America that sounded much like today's.

''Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade ..¤. the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone," FDR said.

And who did he blame for this?

''... The rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated ...

''Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers."

History repeats itself when it is made by arrogant people. Re-read the above paragraphs and see how they apply to today's "money changers" and the executive bonus set. Incompetence. Failure. Abdication of responsibility. Pleading for restored confidence. The more things change ...

And here is something else we're not hearing today. As Bush, McCain, Obama, Paulson and the rest rush to defend us "ordinary Americans," none is sharpening the edges of the sword against the financial industry gluttons the way FDR did. It was a gutsy move, because FDR was an entrenched member of the privileged class. Still, he asked America to reset its moral barometer and readjust its priorities.

''Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization," he said.

''We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit. Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits ...

Who today will rein in the global corporate profits in exchange for American work?

Is anybody listening?

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manyhosta

Amen!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 11:38AM
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eal51

Based on the reaction of "John Q. Public", many in DC are starting to listen.

Just try to send your congressman an email. You can't get through. They are experiencing an abnormal amount of internet traffic!!

But have no fear, Hilary Clinton and John Kerry are trying to keep the bailout alive by having the senate vote on it.

But not everybody is listening!

Enjoy the journey.
eal51 in western CT

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 5:19PM
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old-vt-crafter

Thank God nobody's listening!
We do NOT need a BAILOUT. We need to INSURE those debts. Make the institutions pay a premium for the insurance. But we do not need to just give away hard earned taxpayer money to these people.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 7:45AM
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lyfia

I read something Dave Ramsey had written somewhere on his solution, which sounded great to me. Can't remember where I read it though. It was related to insuring mortgages FHA etc.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2008 at 10:36AM
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qdognj

you think things are painful NOW, wait until the boobs in Washington vote against this deal....Unfortuneately, there aren't many solutions,and while this deal stinks, it is necessary....The credit freeze up is at defcon 2,quickly approaching defcon 1.....

    Bookmark   October 2, 2008 at 3:45PM
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mugnaini

The deal will likely pass, but I'm still sceptical as to whether the credit markets will began to thaw. Never thought I'd see the DOW at these levels, and more downside is possible. Home values, at least according to Shiller (sp) and Co.,are still plunging...Is there any hope for us?

    Bookmark   October 2, 2008 at 5:58PM
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brickeyee

"He did not try to make sense of unstable credit markets, unsecure securities and collateralized mortgage bundles."

FDR created the secondary mortgage market woth Fannie.
It would be pretty hard to talk about something that did not exist yet.

Wall Street and the banks are holding the economy hostage until someone saves them.

The sub-prime debacle occurred at the governments urging.

'We need to help those poor credit buyers' was pushed over and over from the White house, congress, and even through law suits.

While I would like to see the idiots that created the mess pay for the mess, it goes far and wide.

And in the mean time the money industry WILL damage the economy.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2008 at 8:01PM
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mfbenson

"The rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods"

Who the heck is that supposed to be? I'd be more impressed if he named names... instead we are left to guess if he's referring to Rockefeller or Carnegie or maybe JP Morgan... philanthropists all... well, Morgan not as much, but still. He was riding a populist wave of support by telling people what they wanted to hear: your problems are not your fault, they're the fault of a small number of evil, rich, men...

It is an absurd argument, then and now.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 8:59PM
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