We do well, when we all do well

Beginning tonight, Ken Burns’ documentary series called “The Roosevelts” will be aired on PBS. The series highlights the impact President Teddy Roosevelt, President Franklin Roosevelt and Teddy’s niece and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had on America and the world. While all three were “to the manor born,” they each took up the cause for the marginalized and disenfranchised people in America, even while Teddy was a Republican and FDR was a Democrat. But, Eleanor could hold her own and her influence and ambassadorship to those in need spoke volumes as she is noted as our greatest First Lady.

On CBS Good Morning, Burns was talking about the forthcoming documentary and he quoted a line which embodied their mantra – “we do well, when we all do well.” This line is so very pertinent and is one which I believe to my core. It also shows that the time of greatest growth in our country occurred when more of us did well and were out buying goods and services, moving into our homes (not necessarily estates), and living a heretofore idealized version of the American dream.  It also reveals why our recovery has not benefitted everyone equally, with the top 10% of our country doing quite nicely, but everyone else treading water or sinking below. Since we are not “all doing well” fewer goods and services are bought, so our recovery is not quite as strong.

It should be noted that both Roosevelt presidents are known for eco-energy measures and protecting our environment. Teddy is known as our greatest “water” president, by buying up land for national parks and watersheds and overseeing the construction of the Panama Canal, which is a heavy contributor to US naval power and sea trade prominence. FDR constructed more dams on his watch as part of the New Deal which helped provide jobs and infrastructure. FDR’s infrastructure investments were carried forward by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower which helped contribute to the aforementioned period above.

It is for these reasons we need to move forward down a path of doing more of what made America great. Investing in ourselves, our infrastructure and our future. This is the key premise in Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s book “That Used to be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How it Can Come Back.” This book highlights the co-investment in America’s infrastructure between private and public funds to maintain, restore, rebuild, and build anew our infrastructure to support business development and job creation. But, as history has shown us, we need to do more to help those who seem to get lost in the future growth or never get the same opportunities. Our history has also shown us the “haves” will take advantage of the “have-nots” to move ahead.

So, clearly we need to invest in ourselves and our future. Even while we cut expenses elsewhere, we need to invest in our infrastructure and development. But, we need to do some or all of the following, as well:

– Raise the minimum wage. Going to $15 an hour is a pipe dream, but following the recommendation to phase up from $7.25 to $10.10 is doable and has bipartisan support. It will create more spending and lessen pressure on public assistance programs.

– Invest more in education, not less and make sure after school programs are robust to attract kids and keep them engaged. Also, we need to improve access to pre-K reading programs which have shown to be impactful. But, most of all listen to teachers and not politicians. For example, teachers have noted the ideal class size is between 18 and 24 students. More voices can be heard and break out groups are easier with those sizes.

– Clamp down on pay-day lending who prey upon who Jesus called the “least of these.” Pay day lenders also prey upon our military families. Please know that pay-day lenders are a form of usury and they are one step above leg breakers. They also fund a lot of politicians who are blinded by the money to recognize what they do to poor people.

– Limit for-profit colleges who also prey upon people using government funding. People may find of interest the graduation rates from for-profit colleges are abysmal and they spend more money on marketing than teaching. And, when one area of funding was tightened up, they moved over to follow the pay-day lenders lead and are preying upon veterans and military people who have financial benefits since coming home.

– Educate people on what state lotteries are. They are a regressive tax taking a disproportionate share from people in poverty. Too many people throw money they need away on something extremely unlikely to happen. Ten lottery tickets per week may increase your chances by tenfold, but it is still a 10 out of 10 million probability, which is a likelihood of .000001

– Invest even more in our community college systems who are more geared toward career retraining and development. The former Clemson University president partnered with area community colleges as they knew how to reach out to industry better to help train the new work force. The President deserves credit for some of this, but we need more.

– Finally, per the lead in and the Roosevelt’s legacy, invest in our infrastructure and assets. Asset Based Community Development should be enhanced  and incented.

The Roosevelts’ legacy is significant on America. We are better as a country because of them. I look forward to seeing the series. Please join me as it may spur some more ideas. Some or all of the above would make us better and give us each more opportunity. We do well, when we all do well.




15 thoughts on “We do well, when we all do well

  1. Nicely done. We had an open health fair in the area yesterday, with all sorts of medical care available, from eye exams to physicals to dental work to mental health. The line was over 50 people before it even opened and grew all day long.. These were not immigrants or illegals, these were our neighbors and friends, from young children to very senior citizens. Seeing all these people needing medical help should shame the rest of us, and in particular the TeaBaggers doing the handiwork of the Koch brothers in cutting off help to the middle class.

  2. I love how you connected this to the truism Burns shared in his interview. I’m just super excited about this documentary and I plan on watching it tonight! I didn’t hear about it until yesterday on NPR, but since then it has been on my mind and I can’t wait to learn more about these Roosevelts. In an interesting connection, I grew up in a small town called Roosevelt, named after Teddy. I hated growing up there, but it has a cool name. 🙂

    • Thanks Emily. It is a cool name. Burns is using some big actors to do the personal voices of the three when needed and Peter Coyote will be the narrator. It should be very informative. Thanks, BTG

  3. Pingback: We do well, when we all do well | Gaia Gazette

  4. Note to Readers: I saw the first episode last night and it looks to be very good. Burns has done a good job of sharing the whole story – these are not perfect people, but no one is. Teddy had a large ego and would commit acts of commission rather than omission, but did more before the age of 30 than many do in a lifetime. The historians say this is possibly due to the belief instilled by his father, that Teddy felt being active would help his poor health, which it seemed to do. He also detested corruption which was rampant in politics and public service at that time and did things about it.

    Franklin was an only child due to complications in birth for his mother. And, his father fell ill during his childhood, so his bond with his mother was strong and, as noted, breaking away from that protection proved tough for FDR. Teddy lost his mother and first wife to different illnesses on the same day, just following the birth of his daughter. This devastated him. Eleanor was Teddy’s niece and his brother (her father) had some mental issues that led to his demise. And, Eleanor lost her mother, too. So, all three had challenges at early ages.

    I am looking forward to the next in the series.

  5. The quote reminds me of Richard Bransons book (which I’ll admit I have not read- just heard interviews with him) “Doing well by doing good”.

    And another thought that instantly popped into my head- the Apple shareholder meeting earlier this year where a conservative contingent of investors demanded Apple abandon things such as alternative energy for their data centers, conflict free minerals, worker rights at their asian suppliers/partners- basically any decision that wasn’t made solely on a profit basis. http://goo.gl/18Rshg

    Back to the Roosevelt’s though- great men- both of them I doubt FDR, in his wheelchair, would ever have had any chance of being president in our modern age- when people would see him in a wheelchair. And while I’ll admit in countless ways the damns were a great sucess- I’d argue they were a grave mistake- one we still are and will continue to pay for in many ways. But that’s a much longer reply.

    I don’t have cable. nor over the air TV…so I will see what I can do about finding these. And add more thoughts later…

    • Good comments. I find it of interest when I see comments by people who say don’t do those good things as it is not accretive to profits. Those folks need to read “Built to Last” about successful companies that dwarfed the success over time of their nearest competitor. A key tenet is “be more than profits” and it has numerous examples of how being good community citizens through helping people in need, being good environmental stewards, etc. are accretive to profits. Employees want to work for a company that does good things, so attraction and retention is improved, communication is improved and innnovation is improved.

      On the dam issue, I understand fully the downsides with down river water flow. The cost/ benefit equation on this would be good to study. Cleaner, relative cheaper energy, at the expense of water loss down river and that echo effect. This is a huge problem out west, and elsewhere, such has Egypt and China. Even wind energy has the migratory bird concerns, but the upside is huge.

      The series is showing the great many good things, but these folks were not perfect and did some questionable things. I was unaware that Teddy won the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering peace between Russia and Japan, e.g. When that is added to his protections for the common worker (everyone deserves a square deal – equal opportunity), the Panama Canal, the purchasing of watersheds, national monuments and land for parks, etc. – he did a great many good things. It is worth the watch.

  6. Note to Readers: I came across a statistic from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, as reported on Politifacts, which noted the median age for someone making the federal minimum wage is age 24. They note if the state minimum wage levels higher than $7.25 is used, the median is likely higher. So, at least half of the minimum wage earners are at least young adults (using the median of age 24) with more if the age is reduced to age 21.

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