Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
At Hyde Park, N.Y., this past weekend, hundreds of young and old New Dealers gathered to mark the 70th anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech. Delivered in January 1941, it laid out a bold commitment to freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Roosevelt followed it three years later, amid World War II, with his remarkable elaboration of a basic “Economic Bill of Rights” for all Americans. This is still the message of tomorrow.
In so many ways, FDR’s leadership offers more than nostalgia. He demonstrated what we yearn for so clearly now: a moral voice, grounded in basic values; a clear stance on the side of working people; and a willingness to challenge the entrenched interests that stand in their way.
Over the past few weeks, President Obama has reached for that voice. He has now framed an argument that, given its scornful rejection by Republican leaders, will define the 2012 election debate. He would “jolt” the economy now to put people to work, by investing in teachers and infrastructure, cutting taxes on payrolls and small business, and extending help to the unemployed. Republicans dismiss these common-sense and popular proposals, calling for more spending cuts and less regulation.
To get our books in order, Obama would raise taxes on the rich while gaining savings by ending the wars abroad and reducing Medicare and Medicaid’s unnecessarily high payments to drug companies. Republicans rise in defense of tax cuts for the wealthy and insist that deficit reduction come solely from cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and other “entitlements.”
The president stands for shared sacrifice; the Republicans for sheltering the privileged few. Progressives will have no problem standing with the president in this fight.
But with a head filled with the clarity of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms and Economic Bill of Rights, I can’t help challenging the definition of this debate.
Editor’s Note: Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
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