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Steven Rockford

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AUGUST 31, 2010 5:32PM

Teddy Roosevelt warned us about corporatism.

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Theodore Roosevelt at Osawatomie, KansasAugust 31, 1910

One hundred years ago today, ex-President Theodore Roosevelt warned the nation that “ruin in its worst form is inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few.”  Roosevelt was speaking at a gathering of 30,000 people in Osawatomie, Kansas.  It was at this event that Roosevelt coined the term “Square Deal” to describe the progressive message of his post-presidency. 

Some of the memorable passages from his speech: 

“The prime problem of our nation is to get the right type of good citizenship, and, to get it, we must have progress, and our public men must be genuinely progressive.” 

“I stand for the square deal. But when I say that I am for the square deal, I mean not merely that I stand for fair play under the present rules of the games, but that I stand for having those rules changed so as to work for a more substantial equality of opportunity and of reward for equally good service.”  

“Now, this means that our government, national and State, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests. Exactly as the special interests of cotton and slavery threatened our political integrity before the Civil War, so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests out of politics.” 

“For every special interest is entitled to justice, but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office.” 

“We must have complete and effective publicity of corporate affairs, so that people may know beyond peradventure whether the corporations obey the law and whether their management entitles them to the confidence of the public. It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced. Corporate expenditures for political purposes, and especially such expenditures by public-service corporations, have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs”. 

“I believe that the officers, and, especially, the directors, of corporations should be held personally responsible when any corporation breaks the law.” 

“I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective - a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate”. 

“Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”  

“Moreover, I believe that the natural resources must be used for the benefit of all our people, and not monopolized for the benefit of the few.” 

“..[T]here are many people who will go with us in conserving the resources only if they are to be allowed to exploit them for their benefit. That is one of the fundamental reasons why the special interest should be driven out of politics.” 

Roosevelt also quoted Abraham Lincoln in part of his speech: 

"I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind." 

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

 

The concentration of wealth in America in 1910 was almost as great as that which exists in 2010.  It is amazing to hear Teddy Roosevelt (and Abraham Lincoln) speak to the problems that exist today. 

It is even more amazing knowing that both of these presidents were Republicans.

 

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Great piece of research. And Republicans saying that in this century????
"It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes"
Good work.
"but that I stand for having those rules changed so as to work for a more substantial equality of opportunity and of reward for equally good service.”

So very few realize that the Constitution is a progressive document that needs to change with the times. Instead, they believe as they do the Bible, Toarah, Quran, Book of Mormon, etc. that its words are in stone, never to be changed, never to be questioned.
Bravo! Thanks for researching and posting this!
There's Republicans and Repugnicans 2010 version who are IMHO controlled by Neoconservatives who are again IMHO more fascist than anything else. They are represented on the Supreme Court and have ruled that corporations are people and can spend any amount of money to help elect candidates that will advance the fascist agenda.
Our electorate is well schooled by RT Wing radio and even mainstream media. Our electorate elected W twice.
WE COULD WAKE UP ONE FINE DAY TO LIVE IN A FASCIST STATE.
Posts like this one could help but don't get the coverage they deserve.
Republicans now are dim shadows of what they once were and what they once stood for. In fact, they are completely dark forms stealthy murdering every last vestige of their former selves. R
Very timely and salient post Steven. Among the many needed legislative reforms, election financing is as important as any, well, excepting measures to address global warming.

My preference would be to outlaw all donations from organizations - flesh and blood people only. And limit it to, say, $10,00 annually. That would aso require public funding and probably an independent Electoral Commission so you couldn't have the absurdity of Bush's 2000 Florida campaign manager also officiating over the recount procedures. But is any of this constitutional?
modern republicans have messed up two basic structures he put in place.. graduated income tax with high tax brackets and the inheritance tax.
the inheritance tax is basically a defense against dynasties. today we have dynasties, except *covert*.
many more links/refs on rising wealth disparity in my blog
TR was a great American. Our national parks are one of his more enduring legacies. I used to think he'd have approved of Ralph Nader.

"Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us" that was worth reading again, now, wasn't it?
So we elect a Democratic Congress and president and wealth is, well pretty much the same. Same basic tax rates. Oh well. It was worth the pretense of trying.
And Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the term Military-Industrial complex and warned that they would get the bit in their teeth like some battle-scarred old war-horse and run the world.
(R)ated because I liked Ike!
Contrast the generosity of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet and Ted Turner, et al who freely share their fortunes with the human race and the Lloyd Blankfeins of neocorporate Amerika and a sad picture emerges of the carnivorous greed present in our corporate boardrooms and, sadly, the halls of the Capitol.
Good quick research and composition. Rated 4A . Was this stuff somewhere on wiki-something or what?
they always wait till they are out of office to mention, "btw, the wheels are falling off..."
This post could have used a little historical perspective. In Theodore Roosevelt's time corporations exercised far greater control than they do today, and quite a bit of legislation has been passed in the intervening century that has created a more equitable distribution of power between capital and labor.

The government now controls so many things that we are as beholden to our political overlords as we are to are corporate ones. I wonder what Mr. Roosevelt would have thought of someone like Tom Daschle. What does it say when a senator who was voted out of office manages to turn around and milk his government contacts for $1 million dollars a year in lobbyist money?
Actually GreenT6, I think the historical perspective of my post was well established in the linked Roosevelt speech. The railroad and banking trusts of that day were huge and had significant control over government. I agree that the power of these trusts was reduced due to the trust-busting efforts that were made by the federal government in the early part of the twentieth century. I also agree that the strength of labor increased considerably since Teddy Roosevelt’s day, especially during FDR’s administration.

However, all of this has been reversed in the past few decades. There really isn’t any significant anti-trust legislation anymore. Any company can merge vertically or horizontally in their own marketplace without any government objection. Plus, the recent Citizens United ruling has placed corporations in an even higher political standing than they enjoyed in Teddy Roosevelt’s day.

Furthermore, unions don’t have nearly the power they had fifty years ago. Most of our current sales, finance and service sector jobs, which dominate our current business environment, are non-union. And the big-industry unions, e.g. steel and automobile, have lost significant clout since most of the employees in these industries now live overseas.

We’re pretty much back to where we were 100 years ago.
.