Friday, 30 March 2012

The Wisdom of Teddy Roosevelt & Today’s Cannot-Kill Oil Subsidies

I’m a big fan of President Theodore Roosevelt, and am eternally boggled by the current Republican Party’s insistence of co-opting him as one of their exemplars. Now, to be fair, TR isn’t as popular as James Madison at the moment – there are currently at least three relatively-high-profile new biographies of the fifth president currently on the “New Biography” and “New History” stands, so popular is Madison. Roosevelt, alongside Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, are boosted as the greatest Republicans – even though TR and Lincoln’s policies don’t bear too much resemblance (if any) to Reagans. Especially when it comes to the economy. (I’ve written about this before.)

I was reminded of this by yesterday’s Chris Hayes-hosted Rachel Maddow Show (Maddow herself was at a signing at Union Square Barnes & Noble, which I had intended to attend until I saw just how busy it was, and decided to just buy Maddow’s new book, DriftUS / UK).

Hayes was discussing the filibustered bill to end Oil Subsidies, and shared this snippet from President TR:

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And here’s proof that what President Roosevelt was attempting to avoid has, sadly, come to pass (again, from the same episode of The Rachel Maddow Show):

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Here are a couple more quotations about TR’s political and economic philosophy, from Aida D. Donald’s superb The Lion in the White House (Basic Books):

“He sought laws to break monopolies and to oversee accounting reviews to get corporations to pay their taxes. Not incidentally, he thought he made corporations more moral by making them pay their fair share. Roosevelt also knew corporations would now have less money with which to corrupt politics.”

Roosevelt’s wariness of money in politics was not birthed by his experiences in Washington, either. They started long before that, and informed his whole political career:

“He had demanded accountability from corporations when he was governor of New York, when they overvalued stock, watered stock, and fooled investors with corrupt practices, and he would take his battle against what he called ‘bad’ trusts to the larger playing field.”

Roosevelt was never shy of letting people know when they didn’t meet his high standards:

“The high court was antilabor, probusiness, laissez-faire to the extreme, and prohibited most union activity. In doing so, it put private property above individual or community rights, which Roosevelt thought was wrong.”

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