The tears of millions of Americans stripped of livelihoods and healthcare remain hidden from view, unlike the tearful special pleading of the unscrupulous leaders of the finance sector, and this week, of the auto industry CEO’s. The latest unemployment numbers to emerge from the Dept. of Labor imply immense pain and anguish; and emotional, mental, familial and even social breakdown. For those of us in other G8 countries cushioned by a public health service that is still, mercifully, largely free, it is hard to imagine how Americans cope with the shock of losing a job, and also their health care. As we await Barack Obama’s inaugural speech, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 speech becomes more and more striking for its relevance. I have used it often, but do so again, unashamedly.
But first, a brief whinge: on successive visits to the US, I have struggled to get biographies and speeches by FDR. I hope that is changing. US citizens should be proud of the fact that a time of grave global financial crisis, when Europe moved to the right, towards fascism, the United States, under Roosevelt’s leadership, moved in a progressive direction.