Sunday, April 03, 2011

Tearing Down FDR

The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States (3/4/1933 to 4/12/1945) as quoted in his Second Inaugural Address (1/20/1937).

Welcome to the 3rd installment of "Will Hart Delusions" wherein I refute the comments of an individual who calls himself Will "Take No Prisoners" Hart (WTNPH).

Liberals have it all wrong regarding 32nd President of the United States and progressive icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Or they've got it partially wrong, at least. Today's progressives are so far to the Left that they make even FDR look like a moderate, or so one might believe if one were to listen to people like WTNPH spin it.

It began with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's attack on the public sector unions. Scott decided his first order of business when he entered office was going to be a big tax giveaway to benefit his state's corporations. Wisconsin was running a slight surplus, but Scott's proposed tax cut would put Wisconsin deep in the red. Scott determined that the solution would be to cut the wages and benefits of government workers. He knew he would take a lot of flack for this action, so he decided to blame the greedy unions (instead of himself) for Wisconsin's financial woes (which didn't exist prior to his taking office).

It turned out to be a two-for! Scott's corporate buddies got their tax cut paid for on the backs of working class public servants, and Scott got to engage in some old-fashioned union busting. Since the Republicans held large majorities in both of the state's Houses of Congress, the "union bosses" knew they would most certainly have to make some concessions. Which is why they immediately agreed to Scott's demands that they accept a pay cut AND contribute additional dollars to their health care plans and pension accounts. The only thing they asked is that Scott not take away their collective bargaining rights.

Scott, knowing that the greedy unions could be stopped once and for all, refused. He was only executing the will of the people. The stupid Conservative sheeple cheered him on; even FDR was on their side! We know this because FDR said, "...the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service". WTNPH used this quote in a post he titled "Straight From the Progressive's Mouth" (2/22/2011). All over the internets Conservatives pointed to this quote and drew the obvious conclusion - FDR and Scott Walker would have agreed that public sector unions are bad.

Most of these Conservatives quoted a 2/19/2011 Real Clear Politics article which stated that "FDR's Ghost Is Smiling on Wisconsin's Governor". Do they really expect us to believe that FDR would have been cool with Walker's partisan union busting? FYI, we know Scott's union busting was partisan because when the Wisconsin Democratic Senators fled the state to prevent a quorm, the Senate Republicans spun off the union busting provision of the "budget repair" bill into a separate piece of legislation. A quorum is only necessary when the legislation in question is fiscal in nature. In other words they ADMITTED that the union busting had absolutely nothing to do with "repairing" Wisconsin's budget.

On 2/21/2011 a Daily Kos blogger authored a post titled, "GOP Lying About FDR Again". In the post the DK blogger made the point that "FDR did not oppose public employee unions. He opposed strikes by federal public employee unions". Said DK blogger further explained that FDR opposed strikes because "Federal [employees have an] obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of government activities".

Government workers provide essential services that (in many cases) the people DEPEND on. In the private sector if a product or service isn't currently available for purchase - because the employees that manufacture the product or provide the service are striking, then the consumer has the option to go to the private sector company's competitor. This isn't an option when the product or service is being provided by government workers. Thus FDR's concern regarding strikes by public sector employees is understandable.

However, aside from being opposed to public sector employees striking, FDR believed "organizations of government employees have a logical place in government affairs", and that "organization on their part to present their views on such matters is both natural and logical". This is according to a letter FDR wrote to Luther Steward, the president of the National Federation of Federal Employees; a letter in which he closes by saying, "I congratulate the National Federation of Federal Employees the twentieth anniversary of its founding...".

Why would FDR congratulate a public sector union on it's founding if didn't believe it should exist? Also, isn't collective bargaining one of the primary reasons for forming a union? WTNPH categorically rejected my reasoning. In response to my argument (as outlined above) WTNPH re-posted the initial FDR quote, this time in ALL CAPS. You can't argue with that logic, I conceded, eventually giving up and bowing out of the discussion.

FDR also once said "a conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward". The point is that times change. In 1962 President Kennedy signed an executive order giving public employee unions the right to collectively bargain with federal government agencies.

In FDR's day the US government stood clearly on the side of labor. Today that is not so much the case. In fact I'd argue that our government is now decidedly pro-corporate (see my 12/7/2010 post, "How The Wealthy Elites Stole Our Prosperity" for that argument). Given this fact would FDR still believe that collective bargaining "cannot be transplanted into the public service"? Even though there was nuance to his position which Conservatives apparently are missing (or are choosing to ignore), I believe his opinion would be slightly different today given the increasingly hostile environment Labor finds itself subjected to.

Linked to on Sue's blog "Hello Mr. President" AKA "The Left In Me" on 6/15/2011 & re my link, Leslie Parsley wrote "w-deverish. Excellent article. Thanks for the link".

SWTD #68, wDel #3.


  1. Why not just pay public sector workers the actual value of the work?

  2. Sounds like a good idea to me! Since we seem to be in agreement on this... I take it you oppose Scott Walker's actions in Wisconsin?


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