The New Man Cometh…

Yesterday, as the world knows, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.  He has his work cut out for him.  On the very day that he was inaugurated, the Citadel of Greed, otherwise known as the Dow Jones dropped 4%, pulled under by ongoing concerns about the solvency of US Banks. 

The US economy continues to stall and with it, the employment prospects and aspirations of millions of US citizens. As the US economy stalls so does the global economy.  I am sure that as President Obama said farewell to former President Bush, he was doubtless more than aware that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan continued and with it the disastrous and inglorious foreign policy pursued by Bush, ‘Pax-Americana’.

Obama has said a lot in recent months. Much of it has focused on the need of the US to change, economically, socially, environmentally and internationally.  During, his Inauguration Address, Obama observed that;

“…everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.”

Later he added that;

“…a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.”

These are bold words and now the time has come for him to put his words into action. He has talked the talk; can he now walk the walk? 

Interestingly, in the lead up to Obama’s inauguration, the ‘Times On-Line’ had an archived report of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s second Inauguration speech in 1937.  Roosevelt is seen as one of the three greatest US Presidents along with Washington and Lincoln. He is the only US President to have been elected for more than two terms and is likely to remain so, as after his fourth election victory the US Congress altered the constitution to limit a President to two terms.  Although, Roosevelt’s policies were often muddled, there is little doubt that his ‘New Deal’ improved the lives of many ordinary people suffering under the greatest economic depression ever seen. 

So, it was that on a cold, wet January day, Roosevelt spoke to a Depression wearied, but increasingly hopeful US public about the achievements of his first term and stressed the need to continue to go forward.  While, much had been achieved since 1933, much remained to be done;

“I see a United States which can demonstrate that, under democratic methods of government, national wealth can be translated into a spreading volume of human comforts hitherto unknown, and the lowest standard of living can be raised far above the level of mere subsistence.

But here is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens–a substantial part of its whole population–who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life.

I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meagre that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day.

I see millions whose daily lives in city and on farm continue under conditions labeled indecent by a so-called polite society half a century ago.

I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

I see millions lacking the means to buy the products of farm and factory and by their poverty denying work and productiveness to many other millions.

I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.”

Roosevelt’s observations remain true today. 

Seventy two years after that speech, successive US Government’s have watered down Roosevelt’s social and economic commitment to the US public.  They have attempted to reduce, and since the 1980s eliminate the security offered to millions by the New Deal, the Fair Deal and the Great Society, for the sake of making the prosperous, even more prosperous.

As a result, Seventy two years on, the US continues to be one of the most unequal countries in the western world.  Millions are still denied education, recreation and the opportunity to better their lot. Millions still live on incomes that are so meagre that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day. Millions remain ill-housed, ill-clothed and ill nourished.  In short, millions of Americans continue to be denied the necessities of life.

If Barack Obama really wishes to make the US a more equal state and ‘cleanse the temple of the money changers’, then he might want to take heed of Roosevelt’s first inauguration speech in 1933.  For it was then, in the depths of the Great Depression, that Roosevelt told people prior to implementing the new interventionist polices of the New Deal, that the “only thing we need to fear, is fear itself.” 


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