If you don’t like Obama, you certainly would have despised FDR

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Chris Cervini

Chris Cervini

The next time you hear the political rhetoric assailing policies that aim to give people a hand up, don’t forget that a solid piece of our historical success as a country is owed to policies that sought to care for people who were down on their luck.

A what-if scenario:

Over the next month you will be receiving a letter in the mail from the federal government. In the letter you will be assigned a number that will stick with you for the rest of your life. You will also be told in the letter that a percentage of your pay will be deducted as a tax that will go directly to supporting the elderly.

Sound good? Great. Now shut up and get back to work.

In 2012 America, such a letter might precipitate rioting in the streets, upturned cars and Molotov cocktails.

In 1930s America it was a different story, as Social Security was created to provide a vital safety net to our seniors, who were the most vulnerable in our society, often living in run-down tenements or in their children’s spare rooms.

Our attitudes have changed

So why the change in attitude?

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Well, our attitudes have changed in part because of the very success of Social Security.

Think about it. Generations of older Americans have now enjoyed the benefits of Social Security and lived more independent lives. They were able to stay on their own, stay in their homes and eventually retire to new homes in Florida or Arizona.

And when they died? Well, they actually had nest eggs and assets to hand down to their kids. Kids who invested and created more wealth and sent their kids to college, which in turn created even more private wealth and innovation in our economy.

Can you believe it? A “socialist” program partially responsible for creating generational private wealth, the middle class and an America with the quality of life we all have come to take for granted.

No surprise

It’s no surprise then that so many would now see the introduction of any large social program as an invasion of their personal nest eggs.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was so successful in passing progressive policy that his leadership (and the rising economic power of post-Word War 2 America) ultimately created an upscale, upwardly mobile society that now is almost openly hostile toward paying a little more in taxes to help the poor.

The words of conservative pundit George Will were never more true when he once said that we are all Roosevelt’s children.

Which I guess means we all must hate our father.

Why? Because if so many dislike President Obama for merely trying to give some people health insurance, then we surely would have absolutely despised FDR for his grand giveaway to the elderly.

The results

But wait a minute. Polls show Americans from all backgrounds love Social Security.

And no one can argue with the results: Generational wealth and seniors who are economically secure and not living in the guest rooms of their children.

So, the next time you hear the political rhetoric assailing policies that aim to give people a hand up, don’t forget that a solid piece of our historical success as a country is owed to policies that sought to care for people who were down on their luck and along the way just happened to create private wealth on a massive scale and improve the lives of every man, woman and child in our country.

When you look at it that way – with historical perspective – it certainly puts President Obama simply trying to provide health insurance for more Americans in a different light.

Chris Cervini is a vice president at Strategies 360, a Western regional strategic communications firm. He lives in Albuquerque.

12 thoughts on “If you don’t like Obama, you certainly would have despised FDR

  1. Experienced, you’re missing the point.

    I’m not lamenting taxes In general, but I’m pointing out that since
    nothing has been saved, Social Security payments are coming from
    young peoples taxes.

    Social Security and Medicare are unqualified disasters and utter failures,
    not because they are not good ideas – they are! Save while working for retirement later on.

    That remains a great idea on an individual level.

    But evidently we can’t do that in a democracy because the only consensus we can come
    to is spend money now and pass the debt on to the future generations.

    In my mind, it represents a crisis of democracy.

    Democracies do what’s popular which means receiving goodies,
    and doing that with debt means that no one has to do the unpopular things, like paying for them.

    But it is the obvious lesson of the financial meltdown that if you continue to leverage your debts,
    (as an individual, a bank, or a nation) a day of comeuppance is inevitable. 

  2. I think I might also opine, wrt the author here, his business probably doesn’t get much business from the right side of the political spectrum given his strong personal political beliefs on this political issue.

  3. Considering your previous positions Doris V, it doesn’t surprise me you would accuse me of not being “Christian” if I (or my Dad) don’t like Obama or FDR’s “policy actions”.  That’s a bit over the top, don’t you think?

  4. Oversimplimplified as stever points out, but Cervini makes a good point.  We’ve become rediculously knee-jerk partisan to the point we can’t accomplish anything.  Skeptic nailed it too though (and made me chuckle).  Those who want to “protect” social security, and Medicare for that matter, need to be willing to make the necessary changes to keep them from imploding, rather than the do-nothing equivalent of locking a suicidal person in a gun store to “protect” them.

  5. he say that we should care for one another

    Yes indeed and to the extent Christians do or do not, they will have to account for.  But its hardly your judgement that matters in regard to that.  I’ll remove the log out of my eye, will you?

  6. Thanks for the interesting article.  To Dr.J, doesn’t surprise me that your dad hated FDR.  Most of your writings seem to be of the same.  We claim to be a “Christian country”.  Seems to me we have forgotten that Christ loved the poor.  Didn’t he say that we should care for one another.  Oh well, hope the new law helps.

  7. Please, please, please Mr. or Ms. Skeptic.  Stop propagandizing.  “…we’ve got a new generation coming up that just loves paying higher taxes than you did to make up for not having any assets”.  Are you kidding, or are you just a kid?  Today’s Social Security recipients paid far higher income tax rates than today’s generation of income earners.  Even in recent history, the reality is that Americans paid lower taxes under George W. Bush than they did under Bill Clinton, and we pay lower taxes today under Obama than we did under Bush.  And if Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, and Grover Norquist get their way, tax rates will go even lower…at least for the very wealthy.  Maybe tax rates should minimally be adjusted annually to keep pace with inflation because the cost of the things we need to pay for as a country (fuel for our fighter jets, food for our soldiers, asphalt for our roads, concrete for our bridges, etc.) are affected by inflation. 

  8. Sadly, Social Security did not turn out they way FDR intended.

    He wanted very much for it to be a true retirement plan that was self sustaining.

    Expedience of politicians and complicity by an electorate have made it into the fiscal disaster that it is.
    FDR would very much NOT like what’s happened to his program.
     

  9. Isn’t it the Republican story that most people on welfare, and Medicaid, were born on welfare, grew up on welfare, had a litter of kids on welfare, and died still on welfare?  I wonder what the reality is. I am sure that there are some cases like this, but what’s the percentage?  1%?  4%?

    But I think that is their story– that the people on welfare now are not “down on their luck,” but instead are permanently down and not trying to change their luck. 

  10. “Over the next month you will be receiving a letter in the mail from the federal government.”

    Dear citizen:

    You may recall that we promised you a stipend for your old age, based on all those hard earned dollars
    we made you and your employer pay for all those years. Even though it made your job more expensive to
    your employer, we think they understand. Well, it’s a funny thing about those dollars – somebody in Washingtonseems to have spent some of them. Well, not some of them, all of them actually. But don’t worry, we’ve got a new generation coming up that just loves paying even higher taxes than you did to make up for not having any assets.

    Oh, and about that generation – since there are far fewer of them, even though they want to work twice as hard and long to support your benefits, they might not be able to put in as much as you take out.

    But don’t worry, the rest of the world ( and the federal reserve ) seem to be beating the door down to lend us money to pay for your benefits. For now. 

    Thank you for your understanding.

    Sincerely, your government. 

  11. My father despised FDR, he blamed him of all manner of bad things that happened between 1932 and 1945, including getting us into WWII, where so many died.  That was not a great time to be an American, and to my Dad, FDR was responsible for all the bad but was never held accountable since he died in office and probably would still be ruling us today if he had lived.  Maybe in hindsight some of FDR’s policies turned out OK, but people seem to forget FDR was not universally loved and respected during his rein, many hated him as much as many hate Obama, and for similar reasons.

  12. Because if so many dislike President Obama for merely trying to give some people health insurance, then we surely would have absolutely despised FDR for his grand giveaway to the elderly.

    You lost me at merely.  Surely you don’t think its that simple.  Of course you don’t.