Learning from Roosevelt(s)

Learning from Roosevelt(s)

Obama could don the mantle of two Roosevelts at once.


The President has a Rooseveltian opportunity, columnist Frank Rich wrote this weekend. Teddy Roosevelt was on his mind: stand off against the Titans of oil, Wall Street and mining, suggested Rich. The field is empty.

But the fact is, Obama could don the mantle of two Roosevelts at once. Channel FDR and announce a jobs program — against the polluters. Why not? Politically, unemployment may be danger number one.

According to recent Gallup polls, the enduring unemployment crisis is hitting Obama’s base where it hurts: among the young – the very people who showed up for him in 2008. As unemployment’s risen up about 4 percent, the president’s approval rating among Americans 18 to 29 is down 8 percent. And that’s an indication that the Democrats may be losing ground in the long term.

While some economists were predicting as many as 180,000 new jobs for May, the actual increase came in at 41,000. And the number out of work for 27 or more weeks remained at its highest level since the 1940s. Unemployment for teenagers was 26.4 percent in May – – and keeps going up. It’s going to be a long hot summer, with jobs in decline as well as social services.

On the rise: the so-called "skip-college" movement. Why, this theory goes, spend all that money on a college education when jobs are so scarce?

But former Labor secretary Robert Reich had a better suggestion: why not create a new Civilian Conservation Corps on the Gulf Coast, putting young people to work cleaning up after the oil spill — and send the bill back to BP? Channel Teddy Roosevelt and stick it to the polluters and channel FDR and put people back to work — and create programs that create goodwill for generations.

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