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BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company…

HARVEY J. KAYE: We need to remember that we’re the children and the grandchildren of the generation that beat the Great Depression and defeated fascism and imperialism in World War II, and went on to create the strongest and most prosperous country in human history. And how did they do that? By making America freer, more equal, and more democratic.

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BILL MOYERS: Welcome. If you’re still reeling from the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision, giving corporations and oligarchs even more power to corrupt democracy with impunity, and if the greatest income inequality since the first Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties has you gasping at the realization that it’s happening in America – again, and if you have trouble reconciling the promise of America – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every citizen – with the facts of America, including the fact of immense power and privilege in the hands of so few; if all these bad tidings have you down in the dumps I have an assignment for you.

Read this book; “The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great,” by Harvey J. Kaye, published this very week, on the 69th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt’s death, the 12th of April, 1945.

At its core is the famous speech FDR made to America less than a year before Pearl Harbor, in 1941, calling on the nation to prepare to protect and defend the four essential freedoms: freedom of speech and religion and freedom from want and fear.

It’s not the first time this historian has reached into the past to find inspiration for our troubled present. His book "Thomas Paine and the Promise of America" was a rousing invocation of the radical patriot who became the conscience of the American Revolution.

Harvey J. Kaye joins me now. He’s a professor of democracy and justice studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and director of that school’s Center for History and Social Change. Harvey, welcome back.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Thank you. It's always great to be here.

BILL MOYERS: You opened fire in the very first sentence, we must remember, and then over and again, we must remember, we must remember, we must remember. What exactly are you asking us to remember?

HARVEY J. KAYE: We need to remember what our parents and grandparents did. We need to remember that they didn't just beat the Great Depression. They didn't just defeat fascism and imperialism. What they actually did is, to go about doing that, inspired by FDR's words, they made America freer, more equal, and more democratic than ever before.

BILL MOYERS: And aren't we living in their long shadow?

HARVEY J. KAYE: Long, long shadow. Absolutely. Look around. Look around America today. So much of what we benefit from, of what we enjoy, which is under siege, we owe to that generation.

What it comes down to is that we've seen that the four freedoms as they're embodied in social security, the rights of labor, in the advances for women's equality and rights in the '60s. I mean, I love to tell my students, all the things that were accomplished in the '30s and all the things were accomplished in the '60s, and you can go one by one and it's an arc. It's an arc. A fulfillment. Okay?

Roosevelt actually on the campaign trail was very revealing. I think most historians underestimate just how progressive he was on the campaign trail. There were no surprises. He didn't come in unaware of what he was going to do. And when he takes office and he begins this hundred days, and he goes on, First New Deal, Second New Deal, he is constantly inviting Americans not just to take up the labors of the New Deal, but essentially to get organized. One of the lines that very few people come across, but it's the line, something like, laws in themselves do not create the new millennium. And what he meant by that is of course that we can pass laws, you're going to have to fight. This fight is not only mine, it's ours.

BILL MOYERS: And he was a fighter. He took on the oligarchs, he didn't mince words. He warned against the economic autocracy, he said, a new despotism had arisen. An industrial dictatorship. He called them economic royalists. He denounced, quote, those few selfish citizens who would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nest. I mean, no president's talked like that since Roosevelt.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Absolutely not. I mean, I have my students read through inaugural addresses, State of the Union addresses, and I start them off with, you know, the 1936 Roosevelt, one speech where he talks about economic royalists. And you know, basically he's saying, they complain that we’re out to, you know, overturn American institutions, what they're really complaining about is we want to overturn their power.

And guess what? They're right. Now what president, other than FDR, would've said that? That's magnificent. I mean, it’s the kind of thing you could just listen to over and over again, and then he goes off to say, I welcome their hatred.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, he was a tough fighter, against the economic royalists, against the aristocracy of wealth. And he came from that part of the country. And I was taken, although I've read this before, I think you said it so concisely, that as a young man growing up, he wasn’t particularly sensitive to the poor or sensitive to minorities or sensitive to the marginalized. But that as a victim of polio, he came to possess this great empathy.

HARVEY J. KAYE: His labor secretary in her memoir of Roosevelt--

BILL MOYERS: Frances Perkins.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Frances Perkins, thank you. She says, knowing him early on, around 1912, and knowing him later, after he was stricken with polio, it was a changed man. A man filled with a new kind of sensitivity and a sensibility. I also think, and I think she mentions it, Frances Perkins, that Eleanor plays a really fundamental role during the 1920s in introducing him to the women that she's meeting down here in New York City, labor organizers, and others. And he's all of a sudden coming to grips with the struggles of working people in the cities. And I think that registered in him.

BILL MOYERS: Why was the Four Freedoms speech so important?

HARVEY J. KAYE: I think the Four Freedoms speech is important in the most immediate sense of 1941, and that's really the call to war. Americans know what's coming. The call to war is we need to create an arsenal for democracy. We need to create a lend-lease program to secure Britain and its allies against Nazi Germany.

And then he says, but don't misunderstand. We have to appreciate that if we're going to prepare ourselves for defense that we don't give up what we've achieved these last eight years. And he lays out new initiatives. What he knew, and what he knew a generation knew, was the only way to defend, secure, and sustain American democracy is you constantly press to enhance it. You test the limits.

We’re the great experiment in democracy. And he knew that. He knew American history. So here he appears. And how does he close the speech? The Four Freedoms. And he actually says that these four freedoms are at the heart of American life. They're at the heart of this ongoing, perpetual, and peaceful revolution dating back to the time of the revolution.

BILL MOYERS: I didn't realize until I read your book, what the importance of the victory medal that every soldier, sailor, marine--

HARVEY J. KAYE: Airman, all them--

BILL MOYERS: --airman received in World War II. And, tell me about that.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Well, this was a medal awarded at the end of the war, to everyone who served in uniform. And this was a medal that on the front looks just like any other war medal. And when you flip it to the backside, it says--

BILL MOYERS: Freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech, freedom of religion.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Yes. And it isn't that this was issued as a propaganda device. The war is over. This was issued because the Roosevelt administration knew that this is what Americans were fighting for. It was in any number of venues that you could see the evidence, letters to newspapers by the wives who stayed home and went to work in the war factories and the men who went off to service. Americans couldn't always recite those four freedoms. But they knew exactly what they were fighting for.

BILL MOYERS: I had to shake my head when I came to that moment in your book when you say that when Roosevelt delivering the speech got to freedom from want no Republicans applauded and some--

HARVEY J. KAYE: At least--

BILL MOYERS: --Democrats didn't applaud.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Right. I think that shook up the Republicans. Samuel Grafton, the New York, the then liberal "New York Post" columnist said, they sat on their hands. And then he got to, freedom from fear, and that was when he said, and I think a good number of Democrats. And you know who those were. They were the white supremacist Democrats in the South.

BILL MOYERS: Yes, because he was talking about freedom from persecution and discrimination.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Right, exactly.

BILL MOYERS: And that's when the Dixiecrats would’ve sat on their hands, the Democrats.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Yes, right. You know what's interesting, Bill, is if you read the exact wording of the speech and his idea of the four freedoms, Roosevelt states them in a way that might not have been so scary to the well-off. But Americans knew they were talking to-- that he was talking to them. And when they said, when they heard, freedom from want and freedom from fear, they had absolutely no doubt what he had in mind.

BILL MOYERS: I remember your quoting something that FDR said to a friend of his I think in--

HARVEY J. KAYE: 1930.

BILL MOYERS: --1930. What was it?

HARVEY J. KAYE: He said to a friend, looking all around him with the devastation of the Great Depression, I think it's time that we make America fairly radical for a generation.

BILL MOYERS: Fairly radical?

HARVEY J. KAYE: Fairly radical. Fairly radical.

BILL MOYERS: Reminded me of Walt Whitman, be radical, be radical. Be not too damn radical. What do you think he meant by that?

HARVEY J. KAYE: I think he meant that it was time to free ourselves of the conservative shackles of the 1920s. That it was time to enable working people to organize. It was time to provide old age pensions. I'm actually reading in my head from his campaign speeches. We needed to create public works projects. We needed to address the environment. Soil erosion. He, agriculture was fundamental to Franklin Roosevelt. Over and over again out on the campaign trail that year, contrary to what historians seem to say, Roosevelt was saying, we need to do these things. That's what he meant by radical. But he didn't mean merely that he would do it or the Democrats in Congress would do it. As we saw in the coming years, he meant we will make America fairly radical for a generation.

BILL MOYERS: Roosevelt didn't call for a revolution although--

HARVEY J. KAYE: No.

BILL MOYERS: --many people thought one was imminent--

HARVEY J. KAYE: No. Yes, they did.

BILL MOYERS: --or possible.

HARVEY J. KAYE: And look, the wealthy were talking about maybe a Mussolini.

BILL MOYERS: Positive--

HARVEY J. KAYE: But not the American--

BILL MOYERS: --positively.

HARVEY J. KAYE: --positively. Absolutely. "Vanity Fair." "Vanity Fair" ran an editorial wondering if we didn't need a strong man like Mussolini in that year. The president, whose name I'm forgetting, of the American Political Science Association gave his annual address and said, perhaps we're going to become fascist or even communist.

You know, Roosevelt in many ways, I have a feeling this goes back to his reading of Jefferson. Jefferson said, in every generation, Americans need a bit of rebellion. Okay? And I think Roosevelt understood that. You know, in 1938 just before the Congressional midterm election, you know, the midterm elections he did a speech on the radio. And Roosevelt said, you know, if we don't keep pushing forward, Tory Republicanism will. And if Tory Republicanism does then communism and fascism have greater chance of taking root in this country.

You know, in 1926, it's not even the Depression, his greatest worry was that if America didn't escape the conservative hold that it was in that he worried for the nation's future. I think there's a trajectory in Roosevelt that's astounding. And I think historians ignore it. In 1932 he talked about an economic declaration of rights. In 1941 he declares, proclaims the four freedoms. In 1944 he calls for a second bill of rights, specifically an economic bill of rights. There’s a tremendous continuity in his thought. He's just articulating it more clearly.

BILL MOYERS: So if he were not calling for a revolution, what was he calling for?

HARVEY J. KAYE: I think he knew that certain ills and injustices needed to be addressed. At one point he gave a speech, I think it was in 1934. He says, real patriotism requires us to make an America where more of us get to share in what this country is about. And he said, real patriotism is about combating the evils and injustices. Now he did that at a World War I memorial. He didn't, you know, try to rally people into some kind of military fever or, he knew. But he had this incredible confidence in his fellow citizens.

He believed that if you could empower working people, if you could afford the necessities to people, that if you could do these things, you create, and I know this sounds cliché, a better America. That, he knew that this country was a grand experiment in democracy.

BILL MOYERS: Going all the way back to 1776.

HARVEY J. KAYE: All the way back. You know, Bill, you and I have this affection for Thomas Paine. And I could tell you, one of the reasons I wrote this is that it was Franklin Roosevelt who was the first president since Thomas Jefferson who, while in office, openly quoted and cited Thomas Paine's name.

BILL MOYERS: But you know that conservatives claim Thomas Paine too. You do know that.

HARVEY J. KAYE: I know that all too well.

BILL MOYERS: And the Tea Party did not come from the left. It came from ordinary people out there on the conservative side of things.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Okay, I--

BILL MOYERS: There’s a paradox here.

HARVEY J. KAYE: --I have a theory. I have a theory.

BILL MOYERS: Historians are not supposed to have theories.

HARVEY J. KAYE: I know, I know.

BILL MOYERS: You're supposed to have facts.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Well, I have a theory and here's my theory. I believe that, I say that Reagan could never have become president if we, if Democrats, progressives and liberals, had not already forgotten and forsaken the four freedoms. The only thing that enables conservatives to appeal to the vast majority of American working people is when that vast majority is disappointed and frustrated and angry.

BILL MOYERS: You write, we have been led to forget. And who has led us to forget?

HARVEY J. KAYE: So over and over again, we saw from right through the '30s, right through World War II, we saw corporate interests constantly trying to either directly suppress the ideas that are going to become the four freedoms, okay? By saying, private enterprise, that's what makes America great. Forgetting the struggle for freedoms, speech, expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear that Roosevelt put into words.

For example, Ronald Reagan. If you look closely at what Reagan does in the course of his presidency, he appears on July 3rd, 1987, at the Jefferson Memorial, at an event sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And he says that he wants to advance four freedoms.

He says, you know, we Americans need to cultivate, we need to remember. He says, we need to remember. And we need to teach our children history and make sure they remember America is about freedom. And what does he say? Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of enterprise. He literally expunges freedom from want and freedom from fear.

BILL MOYERS: So you say in here, "…after so many years of conservative political ascendency and concerted class war from - above more than thirty years of deregulating corporate activity, reducing the taxes of the rich, assailing labor unions, shuttering industries and neglecting the public infrastructure - the democratic legacy of that generation,” Roosevelt's generation, “continues to nourish us." Where do you see evidence of that?

HARVEY J. KAYE: Nourishing us?

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, you say that--

HARVEY J. KAYE: Well, you're over 65, you get social security?

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. I do.

HARVEY J. KAYE: I could take my students on a little field trip. CCC built that. The WPA built that. Milwaukee, the Metropolitan Sewerage District built by the New Deal. Over and over again, hospitals, schools, libraries, parks, I mean, the very things that we take for granted are the very things that young people were mobilized to make happen in the 1930s.

BILL MOYERS: I think this is a very important point you make in here that his genius as a leader was not so much the exact legislation or the particular things that came out of it, but his power to mobilize workers, women, minorities, students, intellectuals, all these people you mentioned in the book. That was the power of rhetoric and empathy, right?

HARVEY J. KAYE: The democratic surge of the 1930s, that in many ways, he calls forth with his rhetoric and his speeches that say, here's what we need to do. That democratic surge when would you find that before on that scale? Civil war to defend the union? Yeah. The American Revolution. Maybe even, maybe it was the greatest democratic surge in American history.

BILL MOYERS: So is this-- have you written this as an agenda for the Democratic party?

HARVEY J. KAYE: I don't know if the Democratic party will attend to it. I want all of my fellow citizens to attend to this argument because I think Americans would respond if they heard it. Over and over again what they hear from leaders is, yes, we can. And then at the moment of, now what are we going to do, they get left behind in favor of Washington, DC politics. Washington, DC politics.

BILL MOYERS: Talk to me as a conservative who has real doubts about the efficacy of government, who really believes that there's a threat from unlimited government and who thinks the New Deal didn't work the way you think it did.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Two things, first of all, let's imagine we're both conservatives, wealthy conservatives. And you know what I would say? I'd say we don't really hate government. It's working perfectly for us. Why should we hate government? Out in public, why do they have this animosity towards government?

Because what this generation did, what this generation did is they harnessed the powers of democratic government to make America freer, more equal, and more democratic. They harnessed the powers of democratic government. You know, they knew how to go about doing it because Roosevelt invited them to do so. And he brought to Washington these new dealers and sent them out around the country. I mean, opened up Washington to Catholics, Jews, African-Americans, women. He made Washington connect with Americans, not simply to have a better political funnel sending out the messages. But to get those people out in the field going.

He would call his friend, Felix Frankfurter, up at Harvard University and say, I need some New Dealers, send them down. And all these young Catholic and Jewish lawyers would come in to see Frankfurter and say, I want to be a New Dealer.

BILL MOYERS: It had been a WASP country up until then.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Absolutely, absolutely. White Anglo-Saxton Protestant. And what was funny was these young Catholic and Jewish lawyers, Frankfurter would say to them, go to Wall Street for two years. Learn about them so you can control them. It was great, right? And they became known as the hot dogs.

BILL MOYERS: Did you write this book to make people fighting mad? Because they're going to be fighting mad on either side of the political spectrum when they read it.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Yes. Absolutely. I want them to be fighting mad. I want them to be fighting mad like Roosevelt was. I want them to say, we need to make America fairly radical for a generation. What we need to do is we need to go back and remember the kinds of things that Roosevelt knew, that there's deep in every American this desire to redeem the meaning of America. And he knew that there are ways of getting people to act because if you can speak to them as an American, remind them of who they are, invite them to offer their labors, invite them to organize.

In the 1930s, organizers went out and said, you’ve got to organize. The president wants you in a union. It worked. Millions joined. And, by the way, living standards rose, workers security improved. We get social security. I mean, look what we've done and look what we're allowing to happen now. This cannot be the America that I imagined and most of my fellow Americans imagined. But they have forgotten not the four freedoms as ideals. They have forgotten what it takes to realize them that we must defend, sustain and secure democracy by enhancing it. That's what Roosevelt knew. That's what Jefferson knew. And no one seems to remember that today. That's what we have to remind people of.

BILL MOYERS: And that's what “The Fight for the Four Freedoms” does, “What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great.” Harvey J. Kaye, thank you for being with me.

HARVEY J. KAYE: Thank you, it's always a pleasure to be with you, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: I remember that day well: the 12th of April 1945. The day Roosevelt died. I was eleven years old and FDR had been president since before I was born. 

My father came home early from work. He had been sitting high in the cab of his truck waiting for the red light to change when he heard someone on the street shouting: “The President is dead. The President is dead.”  He immediately headed back to the garage, left the truck, and walked home in a hurry. Like so many Americans, he sat late into the evening, close to the console radio in our living room, listening for news about the president’s death. 

It was the only time I had seen tears in his eyes, and it was years later before I understood. My father had left school in the fourth grade to pick cotton. His family needed his labor. After they married, he and my mother spent a year as itinerant field hands in West Texas, then returned to Oklahoma as tenant farmers, until they were driven from the land when the bank foreclosed on its owner during the great depression.  It was never apparent that FDR’s New Deal materially made a difference in my father’s life, but this I know, and I know it for certain: he believed President Roosevelt was on his side, fighting for common people like him. This man with a fourth-grade education and calloused hands and fingers with nubs from an accident at the cotton gin—he thought “that fella in the White House” -- born in New York’s lush Hudson Valley, the son of landed gentry, Harvard educated, with pince-nez glasses and a long, slender cigarette holder aloft above his jutting jaw – he knew “that fella in the White House” was his friend and champion. They, of course, never met.  But on that Thursday afternoon in April, my father wept.   At our website, BillMoyers.com, Harvey J. Kaye will be joining us for a web chat this coming Tuesday at 2:00PM Eastern time. Send us your questions in advance, and join the conversation. I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.

Full Show: Fighting for the Four Freedoms

April 11, 2014

If you believe America desperately needs a great surge of democracy in the face of fierce opposition from reactionary and corporate forces, then remembering and reviving the spirit of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died 69 years ago this week, is in order.

In January 1941, FDR’s State of the Union address made it clear that a fight was inevitable, a fight to preserve, protect and defend four essential freedoms: freedom from fear and want and freedom of speech and religion.

This week, Bill speaks with historian Harvey J. Kaye, author of the new book, The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great, about how FDR’s speech was a rallying cry to build the kind of progressive society that Roosevelt hoped for but did not live to see at war’s end.

Kaye says the president was able to mobilize Americans who created “the strongest and most prosperous country in human history.” How did they do it? By working toward the Four Freedoms and making America “freer, more equal and more democratic.”

He believes Americans have not forgotten the Four Freedoms as goals, but have “forgotten what it takes to realize them, that we must defend, sustain and secure democracy by enhancing it. That’s what Roosevelt knew. That’s what Jefferson knew. And no one seems to remember that today. That’s what we have to remind people of.”

Producer: Candace White.  Segment Producer: Robert Booth.  Editor: Sikay Tang. Outro Producer:Lena Shemel. Outro Editor:Rob Kuhns.

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  • Anonymous

    Not everyone can work, due to health or circumstances, and there simply aren’t jobs for all who need one. What should we do about these — the long-term unemployed and unemployable, our “surplus population”? This generation rejects the idea of “freedom from want.”

  • Anonymous

    Better:
    freedom of speech and association; and
    freedom from fear, including the right of self defense,
    freedom both of and from religion, and
    freedom from both economic tyranny and NEED.

  • Anonymous

    Additionally and specifically among the “circumstances” is discrimination, specifically including but not limited to age discrimination, may be unlawful but it exists.

  • Anonymous

    New Deal 2.0. American’s need a Hero. Not another zero.

  • Anonymous

    jtenn: I suspect that B.Obama was a fresh Chicago lawyer discovered by billionaire
    Penny Pritzker and groomed by her and her
    conservative friends and fully supported to
    become POTUS to further the conservative
    program in the US. He has done everything
    they wanted. With Clinton, Bush, Obama, and
    Hilary to come, they’ll have tied the bow. Wo
    is us.

  • Anonymous

    The thought of “surplus population” is
    anathema to me.

  • Anonymous

    Part of the problem, besides forgetting that our freedoms were not given to us, is convincing people that they deserve these freedoms. Corporate, monied interests are not named in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Yet, people, including many Supreme Court justices, believe that they are. This fallacious belief comes from many years of dedicated propaganda.

  • Anonymous

    “Want” in the four freedoms does not refer to desire, so, you’re probably right that people mistakenly assume that it does.

  • Vera Gottlieb

    A bit too much jingoism for my taste. As for the ‘Four Freedoms’…well, they certainly are being dismantled bit by bit. ‘Democracy’ = the will of the people. Is it still?

  • Charles Shaver

    Bill and Prof. Kaye, in all due admiration and respect, from the perspective of a fairly successful primarily diagnostic industrial electrician of more than thirty years, overlapped with thirty-eight years and counting of secular mind power practices with many particular personal ‘insights,’ I find I must take issue with the two of you about what are ‘essential freedoms’ in 2014. Clearly, FDR (LBJ after him), fought the wrong battle or, in the bigger picture, we would not be repeating that.

    Based on that which I am also privy to, as they apply to the average citizen, the ‘Four Horsemen of the American Apocalypse’ are: 1.) religion, 2.) economics, 3.) higher education and 4.) politics. Most disturbing to me is religion, for a few obvious reasons. First, most of us are introduced to religion about the times of our births. Second, after that, it tends to be continuously reinforced to become dogmatic. Third, and most problematic, the stronger the religious faith the more it tends to rule out self-determination and rule in self-destructive apathetic dependency on the flirtatious good will of some unproved and/or absentee almighty guardian. The other three ‘horsemen’ affect most of us similarly but, generally, less so. No offense intended, factually, it just is what it is.

    Now we have a vast majority of electorate who don’t know or care about constitutional law, and end up voting along party lines for one of two major crime families, or not at all. Agreed, freedom of religion is a right to be defended but is that really an issue in 2014? The real issue, I believe, is can the religious majority still be called upon to defend themselves against a falsely self-professing ‘Moral Majority’ that, in reality, is quite obviously an ‘Immoral Minority’ out to enslave us all?

  • Anonymous

    I think the closest politics we have today to those of FDR’s 4 Freedoms and the New Deal are embodied in the Greens ….

    As Kaye said – he doesn’t think the Dems are paying any attention …. But no surprise there – they haven’t for a long time ….

  • Anonymous

    As I watched this I found myself thinking of my grandparents and how they struggled. I then thought of Moyer’s reference to the fading legacy of that generation. It seems this generation has become fat and lazy without any knowledge of where we’ve been. Our county is in trouble. Our people are undisciplined. Seems the awakening will be ugly.

  • Anonymous

    If those freedoms were not given, then they are not deserved, either. The thing about rights is that they are rights, not honors our awards, not earned or deserved. They are accorded to everyone regardless of their character, work ethic, legal status, etc.

  • Anonymous

    It just seems as if our Supreme Court has been determined to deliver the death blow to this “experiment” of a democracy. The Democrats, caught themselves under the grip of big money, and corporate controlled media – no longer fight like FDR once did or could.

    I find myself despondent more often than not these days. I just don’t see anything in the near future escaping the iron grip monied interests now have on our US government, and over our economic system – which is slowly turning most ordinary Americans into nothing more than working class serfs – while a slim few continue to accrue an absurd amount of wealth.

    I really do believe the experiment is over – especially if another Wall Street democrat succeeds in putting themselves in the White House. Not even the much ballyhooed “Obamacare” is good for America, as it puts a bandaid at best on our Health Care system – and kept in place (if not gave more tax dollars) to the corporate health care vampires that are literally killing Americans each day just so they can make billions in profits each year. When clearly what was needed – was single payer. But this latest Wall Street democrat health care sponsored system we now have – will stay in place for at least another decade or two, and our American health care system will continue to be among the worst of all advanced nations.

    But perhaps most ominous of all, is the rapaciousness of uncontrolled corporate greed that is now literally destroying our earth’s ecosystem. Not only is the next generation of Americans going to find that they live in a new plutocracy, where they will work like robots all their lives (the vast majority of them) but they and their children will be subject to more and more catastrophic climate change events – all because greed was more important that perhaps even the survival of the human race.

    As for me … well I’ll be moving on. What it was all about – perhaps I’ll never even know.

  • Melwoolf

    Sadly this comment above is absolutely accurate and depressing. Living in Europe has made me so aware of the social infrastructure for all Europeans which has been in place since WWII. The American Dream/Myth tends to mean we do everything better than any nation. I can assure you that is not the case. I have been back and forth from UK and France to the States for 40 years and my relief at being back in Europe from the U.S. is huge. I love the idea that people are a little more gentle, respected and that their lives are considered important enough for their governments to provide healthcare for every one of them.

    We Americans simply like to think of No. 1 and that if we have more than others then we deserve that “more”! The idea that poor people “deserve” to be poor or don’t work out of choice is ridiculous. Do read a book called “The Other America” written in early 1960′s by Michael Harrington. It could have been written yesterday – it is so in tune with the way America is today.

    I enjoyed Moyers show today but what really brought tears to my eyes was Harvey Kaye’s comment that all we Americans enjoy today is thanks to our parents’ generation and of course FDR himself. Our Sixties’ Generation tried to make more happen but the propaganda machine of the Republican years and all the money that poured forth stopped much in its tracks. I’m hoping our grandchildren will wake up and realize that this is no way to run a country. We all “all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” JFK’s brilliant quote. But will American fight back?

  • pointofgrille

    And, the current crumbling infrastructure of our nation provides another opportunity for our nation to put everyone to work. We need the political and moral courage to side step corporate America, in order to take the people and the nation on a progressive journey of rebuilding our nation’s social welfare and infrastructure.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not time to give up it’s time to fight in a smart way. We need to form worker owned cooperatives and start to beat these vulture capitalists at their own game. We have enough out of work older people with skills to bring this together. People need to organize.

    Retired teachers should organize, form non-profit worker owned cooperatives and go after the contracts of the public schools as the oligarchs sell off our schools to private interests. It’s the only way to save the commons from those who would see our children and grandchildren go without education.

    We need to organize our communities. Pitching in to help each other out as if the futures of our communities depend on it, because they do.

    We need people to band together to form worker owned cooperatives that will save what’s left of our manufacturing base before it is outsourced to China and raped by the vulture capitalists.

    Contracts with employees should have to state unequivocally that pensions are not to be used as assets and allowed to be stolen by vulture capitalists.

    No now is not the time to give up because the minute you give up you’ve already lost. It may not seem it but there are many more good people than bad. We need to remind those people who have been psychologically screwed with by the corporatist propaganda who they are by talking to the souls and hearts. We must talk to the part of them that knows what is right and wrong. The part that has empathy for others. We need to speak to it and nurture it and it will help them to see what needs to be done and what is important.

    Don’t count of the politicians to change this because it won’t happen. It’s up to us.

    We need to get about the business of providing for human needs and letting corporate greed die by neglect. Don’t support businesses that don’t support working people.

    Here is a good place to start http://globalclimateconvergence.org/

  • Anonymous

    By “us”, of course, I mean “U.S.”. Before we existed and before the Founders thought to include them in our Constitution, so-called unalienable rights did not exist. The “Bill of Rights” was a marked improvement on what had existed prior. And, in the ensuing 200 years, many more rights have been added to that document, all of which were fought for. None of it was given, it was all fought for.

  • Anonymous

    Is your argument a joke? You point out a mistake Roosevelt made and then want us to believe everything else the man said or did was also wrong?

  • Anonymous

    The right is ahead of the left when it comes to organizing the disaffected. More hardship might simply mean more scapegoats. Jim Hightwower’s approach, to emphasize populism and top vs. bottom as opposed to left vs. right will probably prove more fruitful.

    And jamenta is correct. We have very little time, if indeed it is not already too late.

  • Anonymous

    I deplore the internments and they were a grave misstep. But most Americans do not realize the climate FDR was operating in. Much of the American business class supported staying out of the war, and many had in fact helped Hitler and Mussolini in their rise to power. FDR realized fascism was an evil that needed to be fought, while businessmen were saying things like “We need a man like Hitler in America.” FDR made other errors and we should not canonize him. But his results were far better than could have ben expected and the wisdom of the Four Freedoms, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and of expanding the meaning of “We the People” to every (human) American remains incontrovertible.

  • Karin Wolf Brain

    need to be more radical than that..how about calling forth a one day boycott of Walmart, for example? post on social media, write on paper money, put up/circulate posters/flyers, etc… What happened to sit-ins, marches, teach-ins, etc? Grassroots formation of a new political party?…of the people, by the people, for the people (check out Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont, who’s considering running for Pres. in 2016) Read Howard Zinn, William Blum, Noam Chomsky for inspiration…

  • Karin Wolf Brain

    check out Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont!!

  • Invasive Evasion

    He also tried to do an end run around the judicial branch by attempting to increase the number of justices, and pack the court with his supporters. The wrongness of one position, (even being horrifically wrong in the case of your example of prison camps), doesn’t negate the rightness of a different position. You can probably find some things that even Hitler or Stalin said which were reasonable.

  • Invasive Evasion

    What constitutes “enough people” is not just a matter of numbers, but also a matter of who those people blame, of what they see as the cause of their problems. Right wing propaganda has very successfully directed the anger of many hurting people at a long list of scapegoats, and kept their attention away from the real causes. If all of the people currently hurting correctly identified the reasons for their pain, the country would radically change in one election cycle.

  • pointofgrille

    Sanders/Warren or Warren/Sanders either ticket the best for 2016.

  • pointofgrille

    WE, as a society, have been and are being manipulated by our corporate owned media and $$$$ owned PACS, to remain divided politically over single issues. Until we find the resolve to compromise on some of our most “cherished” beliefs, it will be difficult to mobilize large grassroots organizations that transcend these differences.
    The number one priority must be remove the MONEY from our political process, and that will only be accomplished if the people are willing to put aside our differences until we get $$$$ out of politics, and elect representatives that are responsive to the needs of the people rather than the wants of the Oligarchical wannabes.

  • Karin Wolf Brain

    I so agree with you on all points; however, as we see with the elected representatives, the wants of the oligarchical forces are always considered above any radical changes needed for the 99%….ie., minimum wages, tax reforms, etc. And the MONEY isn’t being removed from politics as we’ve seen with the favorable rulings of the Supreme Court with Citizens United, and the most recent McCutcheon ruling—-so where’s the outrage from our elected officials? It’s been the same old song and dance for years–Occupy Wall Street was just a glimmer of what needs to happen for the 1% to realize something will eventually burst wide open if elected representatives keep ignoring the realities of the 99%….one example>look how long it’s taking to raise the minimum wage!

  • pointofgrille

    Our constitution gives us the ability to force some outrage on our elected officials. If the people can set aside our single issue differences long enough and effectively enough to throw all the bought for, elected officials out of office (the GREAT majority of our elected officials), the newly elected congress will know where the power is and respond to the wishes of the electorate rather than the Oligarchical wannabes.
    The obstacle we need to overcome is our inability to compromise on single issues that are used very effectively to keep certain factions of the populace at odds with each other.
    Put aside our differences to throw the ba$#^&>s out, and then we will have elected officials that will know they must respond to the wishes of the people and they can legislate to get the money out of politics. After that, we can begin to have rational discussions about how to compromise on our differences, instead of arguing while being fueled by special interest money. Not an easy solution, but possible. It was part of this experiment in democracy that we call the USA. The vote gives us that power, we must learn to use it responsibly and effectively. The biggest ally the monied special interests have are those who loudly proclaim that voting is useless and meaningless. That is only true as long as we allow that falsehood to be parroted by those who do not want change. Time for Americans to mature into electing a truly representative government that allows difference without using those differences to divide and conquer. WE are allowing the oldest maneuver, of those who historically seek power and wealth, divide and conquer, to negate the will of the people and dictate to US what government must be. the VOTE has the power to win this battle-if we use it.

  • Charles Shaver

    From one seemingly kindred spirit to another, a sad commentary on modern Americans. Thanks for replying.

  • David

    I just finished reading The Four Freedoms. It was an excellent read. It was also sad; seeing what has taken place since the 1970s. My father, who came of age during the depression, always told me that FDR saved America. By contrast, the Republicans fought him every step on the way on Social Security, Unemployment Benefits, union membership, etc., etc. Then, they called his policies socialistic and left unchecked will destroy the business foundation. So sad we have no FDR today.