The Opportunity for an FDR Shift
By Nancy Spannaus
Sept. 9—Those millions of Americans who voted in last fall’s presidential election for a shift from the Wall Street policies which have crushed them over the last 16 years, have every reason to believe they have been betrayed big time over the last eight months. The Democratic Party, with rare exceptions such as Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), has been consumed with the fraudulent Russia-gate, and refused to fight for policies of a real economic recovery. Meanwhile, President Trump, despite his campaign rhetoric about massive infrastructure construction and Glass-Steagall, has instead colluded with the Republican Congressional leadership and Wall Street in attempts to slash the budget and taxes, leaving his working class constituency in the lurch.
Over this same period, the conditions of life for a vast portion of Americans have gotten a lot worse–as the horrendous flooding in Texas, the transportation crisis in New York City, and the ever-present, expanding opioid addiction epidemic attest. While the statistics show some uptick in business capital spending, and goods-producing jobs over the last eight months, the costs of criminal neglect of the nation’s massive infrastructure deficit, and investment in cutting-edge technologies, are mounting disastrously. That is not to mention the looming blowouts of various debt bubbles—corporate, auto, or student debt–which demand immediate action on Glass-Steagall.
It should be well-known that the only potential for positive results from the current deep political crisis in the United States lies with the emergence of a Democratic Party leadership which fights for the real economic well-being of the nation, starting with the reinstatement of FDR’s Glass-Steagall, and the creation of a credit institution that could fund the trillions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure the country desperately needs. Under those conditions, President Trump—who has to know that he had better begin to deliver to his political base soon if he wants to survive politically—might well “make a deal” that could save the nation. Sane (and desperate) Republicans will come along, as they did in the FDR era.
The recent temporary deal reached between the President and the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to provide emergency funding for victims of Hurricane Harvey and extend the debt ceiling for three months, represents a hopeful sign that such a conjuncture may be approaching. The President has also met with New York legislators to discuss a major, long overdue infrastructure overhaul for New York City.
In the weeks leading up to these developments, there have been some signs that a few Democratic Party leaders are breaking from the lockstep stance of seeking impeachment through McCarthyite “Russia-gate” attacks on President Trump, and virtually anyone who dares advocate improved relations with Russia.
Most noted in the national media was the action of senior California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who recently stunned a San Francisco Democratic audience by not only refusing to call for Trump’s impeachment, but by saying: “The question is whether he can learn and change. If so, I believe he can be a good president. We’ll have to see if he can forget himself enough and have the type of empathy and direction the country needs.” If he doesn’t, “there are things that can be done.”
More important has been the decision by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to go on the warpath to mobilize for a shift in Democratic Party economic policy. Sanders, campaigning in Rust Belt states, has invoked FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights, and urged Medicare for All. He has pledged to introduce a companion bill to Rep. John Conyers’ HR 676 during September. Warren has gone on the hustings across Massachusetts, and released a book where she calls for an all-out fight against the Wall Street policies which have devastated the U.S. middle class.
In addition, Warren has announced she will cosponsor Sanders’ imminent bill for a single-payer health care plan. Sanders is one of eight cosponsors for Warren’s 21st Century Glass-Steagall legislation (S. 881).
There are strong indications that the Democratic Party base is ready to respond to such a mobilization for FDR policies. Many polls report that the base is sick and tired of Russia-gate, and the recent natural disasters have had the useful effect of focusing people’s minds on the massive national economic agenda that must be tackled.
As for President Trump, although he has been freed of some of the right-wing ideologues in his Administration (Bannon and Gorka), he still faces heavy Wall Street opposition to taking up the FDR policies required, should he decide to push them. Early on in his Administration, some significant Democratic leaders—including Warren, Sanders, and the AFL-CIO—had signaled their willingness to work with him on launching a gigantic infrastructure program, and overturning the (Wall Street) policies which have devastated the “forgotten men and women” of the United States. President Trump’s failure to even propose credible policies like Glass-Steagall and great infrastructure projects, left these offers to die on the vine.
American System policies have always required breaking out of partisan politics, and putting the interests of the nation as a whole first and foremost. FDR and other American System leaders constantly had to fight with their own parties, to push for the necessary policies of economic revival. Now there is visible potential to revive that perspective.