Monday, April 25, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt Identifies the Differences Between Crimes by the Poor Versus Crimes by the Rich

“A man who has never gone to school may steal a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” 

― Theodore Roosevelt

"If we treat the mighty  memories of the past merely as excuses for sitting  lazily down in the present, or for standing aside  from the rough work of the world, then these mem  ories will prove a curse instead of a blessing. But  if we treat them as I believe we shall treat them,  not as excuses for inaction, but as incentives to  make us show that we are worthy of our fathers  and of our fathers fathers, then in truth the deeds  of the past will not have been wasted, for they shall  bring forth fruit a hundred-fold in the present gen  eration. We of this Nation, we, the citizens of this  mighty and wonderful Republic, stretching across  a continent between the two greatest oceans, enjoy  extraordinary privileges, and as our opportunity is  great, therefore our responsibility is great. We  have duties to perform both abroad and at home,  and we can not shirk either set of duties and fully  retain our self-respect. 

"It was ultimately as fatal to the cause  of freedom whether it was the rich who oppressed  the poor or the poor who plundered the rich. The  crime of brutal disregard of the rights of others is  as much a crime when it manifests itself in the shape  of greed and brutal arrogance on the one side, as  when it manifests itself in the shape of envy and  lawless violence on the other. Our aim must be to  deal justice to each man; no more and no less. This  purpose must find its expression and support not  merely in our collective action through the agencies  of the Government, but in our social attitude. 

"Rich man and poor man must alike feel that on the one  hand they are protected by law and that on the  other hand they are responsible to the law; for  each is entitled to be fairly dealt with by his neighbor and by the State; and if we as citizens of this  Nation are true to ourselves and to the traditions of  our forefathers such fair measure of justice shall  always be dealt to each man; so that as far as we  can bring it about each shall receive his dues, each  shall be given the chance to show the stuff there  is in him, shall be secured against wrong, and in  turn prevented from wronging others. More than  this no man is entitled to, and less than this no  man shall have."

Theodore Roosevelt at Capitol Square, Richomond, Virginia, October 18, 1905  

With this election cycle, which has been far from typical, issues of the rich hording all wealth, and being so apparently willing to bend, if not break the rules, in order to do so, has been very much on people's minds. 

Jello Biafra called them "wealth addicts" in the No WTO Combo album, and he said that their excessive greed had simply gone too far, and was beginning to unite people on the right and on the left. That was back in 1999, when the protests against the World Trade Organization were making news around the world. 

Well, people really only seemed to be waking up a bit back then. We still had to endure eight long years of George W. Bush and all of the scandals, political and economic, not to mention the almost eight years of Barack Obama's false progressivism, before we started to see some real evidence that this was indeed so. 

Remember, that album was from a concert at the tail end of 1999, after some disastrous trade agreements that, Biafra suggested, could and should have landed our leaders in jail for treason. Also, President Bill Clinton had recently repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which of course paved the way for the banking scandals that almost sank the economy almost a decade later.   

Indeed, the economic scandals began to become front and center initially during the Bush administration, with the huge Enron scandal. This was obviously soon overshadowed by the 9/11 attacks, and the wars that followed.

However, the no bid contracts of the Iraq war, as well as the corporate scandals involving such huge firms as Blackwater and Halliburton (with obvious ties to Vice-President Dick Cheney)brought these economic scandals back to the fore, and the approval ratings for the Bush administration plummeted.

Too late, of course. And the worst was yet to come, as the economic bubble burst with the so-called Great Recession of 2008, followed by the bailout. 

By now, with living standards undeniably, and quite obviously, in decline, Americans finally began to ask questions about why their standard of living seemed to be in free fall over the course of decades. 

Greater mindfulness of the harsh economic realities were helped by more in depth explorations of these issues, not least of all from Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story, which became the first major American movie which outright questioned our traditional beliefs about capitalism. 

Of course, mindfulness is not a specialty for most people, and so this began to fade for many (too many) as well. The situation started to get better, until at least in terms of numbers, the economy was back to full strength. 

Still, there is now greater realization than probably at any other point in my lifetime that the economic realities remain harsh for a majority of people who struggle just to get by, and have little, and sometimes no opportunities to save to get ahead. And just as Jello Biafra rightly pointed out back in 1999, more and more Americans are feeling the pinch. He said that well before George W. Bush stole the election and all of those corporate scandals escalated, eventually leading to the near collapse of the entire economy during the "Great Recession."

Despite the great headlines suggesting the healthy economy, most Americans no longer fully believe it, because the numbers are not reflective of how well they are doing.

This all appears to be new for many Americans but, in fact, going back in the country's history, there are plenty of examples illustrating that there was some understanding of this in the past, as well. After all, millions of Americans suffered during the Great Depression, and they had learned the importance of fairness and saving, rather than an economy rigged by the rich, and buried in crushing debt.

It took the efforts of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs to help lift the struggling nation from it's knees, and in short order, to become the world's leading superpower, and the envy of the entire world in terms of living standards and economic strength and opportunities.

We have lost that somewhere in the last three decades and change now.

FDR understood what how necessary it was for the country to realize the significance of a healthy economy that boosts, rather than restricts, the emerging middle class. Theodore Roosevelt understood this as well, and also understood the that the rich and corporations simply could not be trusted to do what would be best for the country. Many other Americans came to understand this, as well.

The question, then, is how could we allow ourselves as a nation to forget? Also, are we going to remember these valuable lessons from the past in time to do something about it, before it truly grows all out of proportion, and becomes too big for us to do anything about it?

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