Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) came to power when the old rules died on Wall Street. His presidential administration evolved without having a predetermined concept of where it would lead. What was obvious was that what had been no longer served the interests of the people, corporations, the nation nor the citizens of the world.
Within the first 100 days of FDR coming to power, legislation passed at a rate never before encountered. Many of the new programs, laws, rules and statutes resulted in battles winding up before the Supreme Court, which overruled the Administration. FDR, in a frustrated response, sought to "pack" the Court by expansion, hoping to tilt its backwards leaning to more favorable rulings.
The people reelected Roosevelt in 1936, recognizing that though not everything worked, there was an ongoing attempt to change the playing field that had blindly brought the nation and the world to chaos and was the cause for the rise of extremist nationalistic movements in Germany and Italy.
Ronald Reagan confronted the failed policies of President Jimmy Carter and interest rates in excess of 20 percent. Though few recall it in the haze of memory, the economic changes powered through Congress by Reagan required several years to show results. The Reagan years have been the hallmark of every subsequent presidential election.
The Clinton years brought balance between a trickle-down economy and a tax structure that had the wealthy pay more in taxes. As a result, the overall economy benefited and the nation as a whole experienced increased wealth. At the end of Clinton's eight years, the deficit was greatly reduced and a surplus of trillions of dollars remained.
The Bush tax cuts have witnessed the wealthy becoming richer, the poor poorer and a doubling of the national debt, with yearly deficits increasing. Budgets under the Bush Administration were illusionary by adding spending below the line by the expediency of supplemental expenditures that should have been included in the budget. The Republicans during the Bush years expended over $6 trillion and doubled the national debt while permitting abuses by financial institutions that have today come home to roost.
Barack Obama is more than a new and different president. He is required to build our fundamental national structures and institutions. To do so he must remove the cancer that has metastasized, infecting the entire mode of how government-operated businesses served small and selfish purposes, while creating from the debris the means for recovery and growth.
It will be a troubling and tense time, with false starts and failures. Roads never before traveled will be tested. Plans that work will be pursued and the failures will be acknowledged and dropped. The naysayers and the antagonists of change who believe the old ways being given a renewed chance is the only way will be heard from, loudly decrying the efforts. With time and, hopefully, success their plaintive voices will grow faint.
The nation, as Warren Buffett has said, is confronting an economic Pearl Harbor, threatening our way of life. Those who oppose change represent an epoch that began more than 30 years ago and died in the subprime debacle. It is time for new ideas and opposition founded upon principles, rather than party ideology. Though some of these Neolithic individuals will not change, America has.
Edward Horn, a resident of Baldwin, Long Island, is director of sales and public relations at St. Michael's Cemetery, East Elmhurst