Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hope and Fear

In his first inaugural address, Franklin Roosevelt said "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself", which is interesting because fear itself elected Roosevelt, fear kept him in office and fear gave him the political clout he needed to enact his political agenda.

Fear for the environment (the dust bowl), fear for the economy (the depression) and ultimately, fear of foreigners (WWII) were key elements of Roosevelt's popularity.

Historians almost unanimously credit Roosevelt's New Deal with resolving the Great Depression. Economists are less generous. The numbers by themselves support the economists' view, but, at the very least, Roosevelt did with the New Deal what any competent physician would do, which is to treat the symptoms until they can find a cure for the disease.

Although the catchphrase of the Barack Obama campaign was "hope", since his election, all of his speeches featured fear prominently, falling just short of the old action hero line "follow me if you want to live!"

I favor big chunks of Obama's recovery plan, but his rhetoric is beginning to bother me. Certainly he faces an uphill political battle on a lot of it, but one of the "changes" he promised us was more sincerity, honesty and responsibility in leadership and trying to energize his legislative agenda by frightening the public won't cut it.

So Mr. President, what we want is more hope and less fear.

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