|The programs of FDR
not only saved America but made the country better
Quite by accident, I
recently found myself listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio. Like
people, I see Limbaugh as a cigar smoking windbag whose world is
limited to other
wealthy far, far right nutbags whose
the world everyone else lives in were cut long ago. As it happened, on
he was revisiting the 1930s, a glorious time for the truly wealthy.
everyone else was huddled in a soup line, these folks were driving
cars and wondering why Franklin Roosevelt was President.
Limbaugh allowed as
really began its downward slide to socialism during FDR’s
given that it’s the 21st Century you might expect the far right to
offer a more
contemporary argument, but these folks aren’t called conservatives for
As the saying goes, you can tell what kind of conservative someone is
year they want to go back to.
Hot on the heels of
Limbaugh’s trip down memory lane was Ken Burn’s documentary, The Dust
broadcast on PBS, about the awful period during the 1930s when the
states suffered through horrific periods of drought and dust storms of
proportions. It was during this period that Americans starved to death,
what was known as “dust pneumonia”, lost their farms, and lost their
social programs of FDR saved the lives of tens of thousands of
offering food, shelter, and work. The government admitted that its
policies had caused the problem of the Dust Bowl and worked out a
that would take many years to take effect.
Fast forward to
today. Government is vilified as some kind of evil force that must be
aside to make way for “liberty” and “opportunity.” We know whose
opportunity we’re talking about and it’s not the Americans on the
Now is precisely the
time to revisit FDR and examine what worked in the 1930s and what
worked was the government as keeper of the nation’s pride. Let’s not
that the New Deal wasn’t simply a handout. Roads were built. Dams were
constructed. Art was produced. The men who worked for the WPA put in a
day’s work for their twenty-five dollars a month. They were given back
lives and the nation’s infrastructure was expanded. How is that evil?
This country is
literally falling apart. It’s not just the social fabric or the
national electric grid was given only a D+ by the American Society of
Engineers. Millions of Americans go days without power following
will only increase in strength and number as the planet warms. We’re
Third World status as the wealthiest Americans install their own
just like the grandees of Pakistan
We know whose liberty and opportunity we’re
talking about and it’s not the Americans on the margins.
infrastructure is ranked 23rd in the world, behind not only the
European countries but such nations as Oman
We are just ahead of Chile
We are 16th on the Subjective Well-being list of ninety-seven nations,
such nations as El Salvador
but ahead of Guatemala.
The happiest people, as it turns out, live in Denmark,
followed by Puerto Rico.
We already know our
school system is failing. Our aging water treatment and sewage systems
for disaster, as we’ve been warned for years. Our national parks are
shabby. Foreign visitors shake their heads at the condition of our
airports. The only viable passenger train service is in the Northeast,
the tracks are in such rough shape the trains are forced to travel
The solution is so
obvious as to be laughable, if it weren’t for the likes of Limbaugh and
who pay any attention to what they have to say. The hard truth is the
of FDR not only saved America
but made the country better. It is a blueprint for today.
The country is
falling apart. Americans need work. Fixing up America
jobs. Jobs mean pride and prosperity. The truth is Ronald Reagan
dead wrong. The government is not the problem. The government is the
It was true in the
1930s and it’s true now. This land is your land.
Commentator, Larry Matthews, is a veteran broadcast journalist. He is
recipient of The George Foster Peabody
Excellence in Broadcast for his reporting on Vietnam
veterans. He is also the
recipient of a Columbia/DuPont Citation, Society of Professional
Associated Press, and other awards for investigative reporting. He is
author of five
I Used To
Be In Radio: a Memoir. Click here to reach