Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – TANSTAAFL, FDR and poltics today

Sometimes it’s rather disturbing to see just how accurate George Santayana was when he said “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – Reason in Common Sense. 

However, humans being humans, we run from extreme to extreme, always sure that it won’t be the same as before and the promises made *this time* will be kept.  We don’t remember the past, that extremes always have their faults and that fanatacism has yet to be shown a good thing. Another quote from Santayana, “Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.”

 On a recent episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart showed a clip of Franklin Delano Roosevelt giving a speech at the 1936 New York Democratic State Convention.  And it’s spooky on just how much it applies now.

And no, I am not trying to say that President Obama is another FDR, though people back then hated FDR as much as they hate him now.  Obama is *anything* but perfect. What I am saying is that Romney and Ryan are indeed those who are saying (of course depending on the day and audience):  
“Of course we believe all these things; we believe in social security; we believe in work for the unemployed; we believe in saving homes. Cross our hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things; but we do not like the way the present Administration is doing them. Just turn them over to us. We will do all of them- we will do more of them we will do them better; and, most important of all, the doing of them will not cost anybody anything.” – spoken with much sarcasm and laughter by FDR 

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.  No matter what the “math” Ryan claims he has (and refuses to show), someone’s paying for the tax cuts and the military increases. Who is it?   I’m sure someone will point to social programs as being “free lunches” but are they?  We support the hungry and helpless, the sick, injured and poor.  We benefit from them improving their lot so they might contribute to society, the person on food stamps that is working poor doing jobs many of us would not like, the solider injured in war so they can work again or at least be compensated for their sacrifice (again doing a job that many do not like), etc.   Our social net is the definite example of how there *is* no such thing as a free lunch,  since we cannot expect a free lunch on the backs of those people.  Slavery and the discarding of people to whom we have a debt happily is not part of the American ideal, at least not the ideal that I know.

Here’s the whole speech lest anyone fuss about “context”:  It’s long.  FDR sure could talk.  The following are the parts I found most interesting.

“In the spring of 1933 we faced a crisis which was the ugly fruit of twelve years of neglect of the causes of economic and social unrest. It was a crisis made to order for all those who would overthrow our form of government. Do I need to recall to you the fear of those days—the reports of those who piled supplies in their basements, who laid plans to get their fortunes across the border, who got themselves hideaways in the country against the impending upheaval? Do I need to recall the law-abiding heads of peaceful families, who began to wonder, as they saw their children starve, how they would get the bread they saw in the bakery window? Do I need to recall the homeless boys who were traveling in bands through the countryside seeking work, seeking food —desperate because they could find neither? Do I need to recall the farmers who banded together with pitchforks to keep the sheriff from selling the farm home under foreclosure? Do I need to recall the powerful leaders of industry and banking who came to me in Washington in those early days of 1933 pleading to be saved?

Most people in the United States remember today the fact that starvation was averted, that homes and farms were saved, that banks were reopened, that crop prices rose, that industry revived, and that the dangerous forces subversive of our form of government were turned aside.

A few people- a few only—unwilling to remember, seem to have forgotten those days.

In the summer of 1933, a nice old gentleman wearing a silk hat fell off the end of a pier. He was unable to swim. A friend ran down the pier, dived overboard and pulled him out; but the silk hat floated off with the tide. After the old gentleman had been revived, he was effusive in his thanks. He praised his friend for saving his life. Today, three years later, the old gentleman is berating his friend because the silk hat was lost.

Why did that crisis of 1929 to 1933 pass without disaster?

The answer is found in the record of what we did. Early in the campaign of 1932 I said: “To meet by reaction that danger of radicalism is to invite disaster. Reaction is no barrier to the radical, it is a challenge, a provocation. The way to meet that danger is to offer a workable program of reconstruction, and the party to offer it is the party with clean hands.” We met the emergency with emergency action. But far more important than that, we went to the roots of the problem, and attacked the cause of the crisis. We were against revolution. Therefore, we waged war against those conditions which make revolutions—against the inequalities and resentments which breed them. In America in 1933 the people did not attempt to remedy wrongs by overthrowing their institutions. Americans were made to realize that wrongs could and would be set right within their institutions. We proved that democracy can work.”


“Let me warn you and let me warn the Nation against the smooth evasion which says, “Of course we believe all these things; we believe in social security; we believe in work for the unemployed; we believe in saving homes. Cross our hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things; but we do not like the way the present Administration is doing them. Just turn them over to us. We will do all of them- we will do more of them we will do them better; and, most important of all, the doing of them will not cost anybody anything.”

But, my friends, these evaders are banking too heavily on the shortness of our memories. No one will forget that they had their golden opportunity—twelve long years of it.

Remember, too, that the first essential of doing a job well is to want to see the job done. Make no mistake about this: the Republican leadership today is not against the way we have done the job. The Republican leadership is against the job’s being done.”


“Who is there in America who believes that we can run the risk of turning back our Government to the old leadership which brought it to the brink of 1933? Out of the strains and stresses of these years we have come to see that the true conservative is the man who has a real concern for injustices and takes thought against the day of reckoning. The true conservative seeks to protect the system of private property and free enterprise by correcting such injustices and inequalities as arise from it. The most serious threat to our institutions comes from those who refuse to face the need for change. Liberalism becomes the protection for the far-sighted conservative.

Never has a Nation made greater strides in the safeguarding of democracy than we have made during the past three years. Wise and prudent men- intelligent conservatives—have long known that in a changing world worthy institutions can be conserved only by adjusting them to the changing time. In the words of the great essayist, “The voice of great events is proclaiming to us. Reform if you would preserve.” I am that kind of conservative because I am that kind of liberal.”

And we’re back to Santayana’s quote.  No matter what they call themselves, Democrats in the 1800s, Republicans in the 1900s, neo-cons, tea partiers, theocrats, those people are still around: the willfully ignorant, the greedy and the fearful.  Their claims remain nonsense.

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