Not since Abraham Lincoln has the need for effective leadership and prompt, vigorous action been more imperative.
Frankln D. Roosevelt’s, statesmanship will be tested immediately upon. his taking office. Not since the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln has the need for effective leadership and prompt and vigorous action been more imperative. It may fairly be said that today’s problems are more complex and difficult than those of 1861. So steadily has the economic crisis been aggravated that measures which conceivably might have checked the downward trend two years ago will no longer be adequate. The country faces the gravest crisis in its peace-time history.
Within a few hours after inauguration the nation should be able to gauge fairly well, whether Norman Thomas’s taunt that the political star of Franklin D. Roosevelt would begin to set on March 4 was justified. The selection of his Cabinet, for one thing, will be highly significant. If it is composed of great names—great in the dear departed past—it will indicate that Mr. Roosevelt’s policies and program are to be merely a slightly warmed-over Republicanism. His major appointments will provide an acid test of his understanding that we are passing through, not a depression, but the end of an epoch. If, for instance, he appoints Miss Frances Perkins as Secretary of Labor, it will demonstrate that her superlative qualifications for that post outweigh political considerations, and that he has been strong enough to resist that type of pressure. If, on the other hand, he nominates Daniel J.Tobin, for many years president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Stablemen,, and Helpers, it will be evident that the same shortsighted and ineffective policies which have brought about the deterioration of the American Federation of Labor will shape the labor program of the Roosevelt Administration.
Similarly, the appointment of an Attorney-General with the public record and social viewpoint of Senator Thomas J. Walsh or Felix Frankfurter will serve notice that a few score corporation heads will no longer continue to be superior to law and government. A vigilant Attorney-General would have proceeded against Samuel Insull long before his flight to Greece. And there are “blue-sky” practices through which other utility magnates and financiers have robbed the public of millions, that cry aloud for prosecution, so that this plunder shall cease. The Progressives —who have borne the Republican label—should be represented in the Cabinet. It is they who, for a decade, have fought for a “new deal” for the American people. Philip F. La Follette, former governor of Wisconsin, or Bronson Cutting of New Mexico would greatly strengthen Mr. Roosevelt’s Cabinet.
The utter futility that has marked not merely the present lame-duck session, but the relations of President and Congress for the four years of the Hoover Administration should be a warning to Mr. Roosevelt that he must never relinquish the tiller. His chances of obtaining and preserving Congressional party harmony—essential for the prompt adoption of relief measures—depend largely on the vigor of his leadership, the definiteness of his program, and the speed with which he inaugurates it. The very gravity of the crisis and the need for action are factors in his favor, if only he will take advantage of them.
Measures which obviously require immediate action are pettlement of the war debts, downward revision of tariffs, arms reduction, the recognition of Russia, banking reform, farm and unemployment relief, and necessary government economies. Reemployment is, of course, the, overshadowing need. The often proposed several-billion-dollar bond issue for direct relief or for indirect relief through public works, slum clearance, and so on may be a “nostrum” to the spokesmen of the vanished new era who want at all costs to avoid higher income taxes, but their own remedies have been flat failures. The character and direction of the financial relief they extracted from Mr. Hoover need to be fundamentally altered. More important than the bolstering of bankrupt railroad securities and the dumping of large sums of the people’s money into insurance companies and banks (which continue to close) is the relief of the hungry and destitute and of farm and home owners, thousands of whom have already lost their properties. Further dispossessions, either because of inability to pay mortgage interest or taxes, must be stopped at once.
For nearly three and one-half years Mr. Hoover and the giants of finance and captains of industry have been in charge of national affairs. The resulting debacle has been complete. Their fiscal and economic policies have been ruinous. The life of the country is at low ebb. Mr. Roosevelt need not fear to try new leaders and new ideas, and to venture boldly into untrodden paths.