SASHA DEBEVEC-McKENNEY, Opinions Editor
On this day, one hundred and thirty years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born. As much as I would love to walk you step-by-step through his life, we’ll skip ahead to the present day. In the present day, I make myself sit through the Republican primary debates, and even though I should be angry about some of their sexist, homophobic views, what I really get angry about is how they continually trample on FDR. Maybe I’m biased—first off, I love presidents. Secondly, both of my parents and two of my sisters are or have been employed at the Department of Social Services (DSS), which is a direct descendant of FDR’s New Deal programs.
I’m a sucker for the New Deal because I believe the government should take care of its people. The government has a moral obligation to make sure its people are healthy, can afford food and can support their families. Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich do not believe this. (Side note: For the reason that he is imaginary, Rick Santorum will not appear in this editorial.) They believe in cutting the programs for which the New Deal paved the way: food stamps, financial assistance for the elderly, disabled and families with children, medical assistance to children, nursing home care, and ongoing investigations of financially/emotionally/physically abused elderly and disabled people. Those are only some of the programs DSS takes care of. For example, in my home state of Connecticut, 80 percent of the Social Services budget goes to nursing home care—not, as conservatives will have you believe, to drug money for minorities who just can’t stop having children.
I look up to my parents especially because they both dedicated their working lives to taking care of the people in the community. Through his job at the state, my Dad was involved with funding a program called the Fatherhood Initiative of Connecticut, which, among other things, prepares teenage fathers for new responsibility and helps transition men coming out of prison into fatherhood. The state also helps pay for breast cancer treatment and HIV/AIDS medication.
Without FDR, I’m sure we could have gotten to these positive things eventually, but not fast enough. I don’t want to live in a country where all of these programs are cut. I want to know that if I lose my job temporarily I can depend on the state to help me until I can get back on my feet. Our country may have been founded on individualism but with the help of leaders like FDR, who weren’t afraid to use executive power, we have progressed to something even better.
I’m not saying FDR was perfect, but he was progressive at a time when this country truly needed a progressive president. He didn’t stick to the beliefs of his upper-class peers or (for the most part) the pressures of the Southern Democrats in Congress. He also put the Japanese in internment camps and tried to kick old people off the Supreme Court—like I said, he wasn’t perfect. But he was better than any and all of the Republican presidential candidates I watch trying to out-conservative each other once a week on national television. (Side note: why are these debates still on national television? Seriously.) These men should stop quoting Ronald Reagan out of context and try reading some Fireside Chats instead. People like Ron Paul want to go back to the kind of government we had before FDR was president—but what’s positive about moving backwards? Why does Romney try and pretend he didn’t implement health care in Massachusetts? Why does Gingrich try and hide the fact that he worked with Nancy Pelosi on a global warming bill? I can only hope that on his one hundred and thirtieth birthday, the three Republican frontrunners can learn something from what made FDR great.