It Seems To Me I’ve Heard That Song Before

October 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here is an editorial from the July 27, 1935 issue of Saturday Evening Post, attacking FDR because he was not a “business man”.

Two Billionaires
IF THE President’s “soak-the-rich” tax proposals
had been made for the purpose of balancing the
budget; if they had reached down to the lower income
brackets, so that everyone in proportion to his
means bore his share of the tax burden; and if they
had been accompanied by an expressed determination
to redeem his campaign pledges of drastic economies,
there could have been no just criticism of
these purposes. It is, therefore, with sincere regret
that we must conclude, on the evidence of both his
message and his “must” attitude toward Congress,
that his primary concern is with his political fortunes,
aa they are threatened on the left, and not
with the fortunes of America, as a whole.
The left should not be discouraged, even if they
feel that the proposed taxes will not soak the rich
enough. The objective, to adopt the President’s
football figure, the goal posts toward which the
Administration snake dance, with its wobbling from
right to left, has been heading from the first, should
now be perfectly plain to the gentlemen of the left,
as well as to those who, seeing, still could cot believe.
The New Dealers seem determined to uproot the
twin posts of constitutional government and the property
rights of the individual. And if they are leveled,
the crossbar of democracy, those other rights of the
individual, will fall to the ground and we shall find
ourselves members of a collectivist society.
Anyone with ordinary sense who has followed the
windings of this tortuous dance, one step to the
right and two to the left, can only conclude that
Professor Tugwell and the President are twins in
their determination to roll up their sleeves and make
over America. And what a mess they are making of
their making over !

That brings us to a consideration of our two billionaires:
President Roosevelt and Henry Ford—
President Roosevelt because he is the only man in
the world who has billions to spend as he sees fit,
and Henry Ford, a newspaper-reputed billionaire,
though his actual fortune is probably less than half a
billion. Rockefeller, or any one of a hundred other
men, would do as well for purposes of comparison,
but we have chosen Ford because he ie the best advertised
rich industrialist in the world.
Henry Ford started life as a humble mechanic,
without any special social or educational advantages.
but as he progressed step by atep, hia education
progressed along sound, if not academic, lines, and
he acquired an intimate knowledge of social problems
by personal contacts with both the higher and
the lower strata of society. No college, no professor
and no theorist formed his philosophy of life. No
banker, no trust, no financial skulduggery helped to
found and increase his fortune. He built it step by
step with his hands and his brains, and in building it
he was a member of many classes of society, and
gained an insight into their needs. His matured belief
is that to give work with good pay and an opportunity
to rise according to ability is the first and
soundest thing that can be done for any man. In
carrying out that idea he has been on firm ground.
From our own observation, his is the philosophy of
almost every successful businessman, but their objective
is always to make work, not ” made work.” It
is one of the strong points of the American System
that the men at the head of a business, starting with
tbeir bare hands, almost always create an industry
out of an idea’ and their willingness to stake their
lives on it; or if they have had some advantages, they
have been thrown into the hopper and have climbed
out because of special abilities. Men who inherit a
business, and without foundation training try to run
it, almost always make a mess of it.
As the rich industrialists made their wealth, only a
small part of it was spent on themselves. The major
part of it went into the creation of new wealth, more
jobs and more opportunities for others. Of course,
there are many exceptions—men who have achieved
wealth in devious ways and by sweating labor; men
who have disregarded the obligations and duties of
their position and spent wastefully and selfishly
on vain and vainglorious show, but they are not
representative of the American System, and their
number is steadily decreasing.
President Roosevelt is not, of course, a billionaire
m his own right, but he is by decree of Congress,
Born to inherited wealth, he was educated in select
schools, at Harvard and by travel. In his youth his
was the environment of the rich, and the rich with
social position. He tried business; practiced law;
went into politics and graduated to the position of
an Assistant Secretary of the Navy and a vicepresidential
candidate on the badly defeated Cox
and Roosevelt ticket. It was due to the persuasion
of Al Smith that he ran for governor of New York,
was elected and, under the tutelage of Louis Howe
and his Tammany friend, Jim Farley, became a
presidential candidate. ‘
President Roosevelt is wise politically, but qot
economically. His real experience is largely political.
His environment and inherited position cheated him
out of an opportunity to engage as a private in the
battle of business and to win his stars on the field as
a constructive economist. He is aa theoretical as any
of his professors. His whole course as President shows
that he is willing and ready to tackle almost any
experiment that listens well in the telling, regardless
of the counsels of experience. That, of course, is the
defect of his early environment and later training,
for he never was a real cog in the machine that
makes the economic wheels go round. That, too, is
the defect of his closest advisers.
Young men with brains—and there are many of
them in the field of inherited wealth—if they have
dormant ambition gradually tire of a round of
dinners, balls, hunts, Newport in summer and Palm
Beach in winter, with travel de luxe over and around
the world. Their names and pictures in the Bociety
column no longer give them a thrill and a sense of
importance. They yearn to move over to the news
columns. The deference that is paid to inherited
wealth and social position in America gives them a
sense of superiority and a feeling that they are thoroughly
qualified to iron out all other human inequalities
while keeping their own status on a higher
level, and to mold the rest of us in accordance with
their own impractical social theories. These young
men and women, with many professors and young
radical lawyers, have naturally floeked to the New

As we have already said, the President is not a
billionaire in his own right, but materially he is as
fortunately and as pleasantly placed as the richest.
Aside from his salary of seventy-five thousand dollars
a year, he occupies rent-free the most desirable
house in the United States, with greenhouses and
pleasant grounds, and by all accounts he is determined
to occupy it until 1941, at least. When he
wants to travel, there is a special train at his command;
when he wants to go to sea, there is a Navy
ship at his disposal or the luxurious Astor yacht.
With salary, house, allowances and perquisites, he
probably has what amounts to better than three
hundred thousand dollars a year. This is as it should
be. No one want-s the President to be stinted or to
live beneath the dignity of the office, but his is not
exactly a share-the-wealth background.
Then, as Mr. Garrett has pointed out in a recent
article, he has not one billion, but many billions
to spend and employ in the way that he thinks
best. No one doubts that he expects to spend for
what he believes to be the common good, though
a little personal political increment must necessarily
accrue to one who can dictate the place, time and
manner of such enormous expenditures.

We doubt whether any man in the country is big
enough or experienced enough to employ and expend
this vast sum wisely. If we may judge from
past utterances and the present tax program of the
President and his advisers, they would not trust
any other man in the United States to spend even a
small fraction of this sum. As a matter of fact,
both the sum and the grant of power vested in it
are fantastic and quite beyond the grasp of the
average man, including the average member of
Congress. But let nobody imagine that he will
escape lightly. Even more than the rich, the poor
and the middle-class will be ground between the
upper and the nether millstones of higher prices and
heavier, though indirect, taxation. The essential
difference between our two billionaires is that Henry
Ford creates and adds to the wealth of America,
and President Roosevelt taxes and takes from it.
This is not a nation of peasants and parasites.
There is still a lot of independence and fight left in it.
Farmers may temporarily be tempted by easy money,
but it is hard money for the rest of the country that
is taxed on its bread and meat for their benefit; labor
may be dazzled by the prospect of always-mounting
wages and the domination of industry, but neither
means anything when there is little work and less
industry; business may be beguiled by fair promises,
but when every face-to-face smile is followed by a
kick from behind, fair words soon lose their meaning.
The truth is that not only have we an unbalanced
budget but we have thoroughly unbalanced legisla-
tion, even to achieve the clearly avowed, and some
not so clearly stated, ends of the Administration.
Those who have sharp ears can already hear the
distant popping of the first minor Administration
experiments, punctuated from time to time by a
major explosion, though, so far as possible, the sound
of these blowups is being carefully muffled and the
effects discounted by new bombshells.

The real making over of America will come when
the country as a whole wakes up to what has been
done to it in the name of reform and the more abundant
life by the President and his subservient, though
not quite so subservient as it was, . Congress s0oner
or later, the return to sanity, to common sense and
to the possible, must come, and the foundations on
which America grew to its foremost position will he
rebuilt. They will be stronger foundations, bouud
together by a finer and cleaner cement, instead of
the jerry-built courses that are now being laid in a
professed attempt to build to high heaven.


The amazing thing about this diatribe is that it is so cookie-cutter similar to the Chamber of Commerce/Tea Party line today.  The dismissal of college-educated people; the “built it with his bare hands” rhetoric; the equation of taxation with theft; . l. . it’s all there.  These guys never change their tune.  And even more amazing:  Even when they are almost literally standing in the ashes of the latest financial or economic disaster brought on by those “built it with their bare hands” heroes, a substantial percentage of the listeners lap it up.

During the “Roaring Twenties”,  the Wall Street geniuses flew the entire American economy into a total collapse and, in 1935, when FDR and the Democrats were desperately trying to resurrect the barely breathing corpse, this jackass was denouncing him for his lack of business skills.  Sound familiar?

I have a theory about why this keeps happening:  No one ever goes to jail for doing it.  Lying, cheating and defrauding seems to be acceptable behavior so that we can retain our “freedom”.  It would be too “divisive”, even “class warfare” if the perpetrators of these dishonest schemes paid for their crimes.  Bernie Madoff went to jail because he caused a lot of losses among some wealthy “investors”; but the guys at AIG, who made gazillons of dollars peddling phony credit insurance (mis-labeled credit-default-swaps, as a result of a deliberate loophole in the applicable regulations), not only paid no penalty; they were bailed out with taxpayer money.  So why not keep doing it?  The brokers on Wall Street who sold billions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed derivatives, knowing full well that they were falsely stamped “AAA”; not to mention the dishonest evaluation companies who supplied the stamps –all those guys walked away with their fat bonuses and swanky vacation homes in the Greek Isles and the South of France.  So why shouldn’t they keep doing it?

We need to stop this nonsense the only way it can be stopped:  Perp walks and prison cells, and I don’t mean minimum security country clubs.   Those guys need to get to know the non-violent black kids in prison for possession of a handful of grass or a crack pipe.

I know.  It aint gonna happen.  But it should.


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