08/16/2012 04:07 pm ET Updated Oct 16, 2012

Biden Much Milder Than FDR's 'Economic Slavery'

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. (FDR, Speech to the Democratic Convention, 1936).

Let us put a quick end to the invented right-wing caterwauling about Vice President Joe Biden's remarks regarding Romney-Ryan's plans to allow banks to again "chain" Americans by recalling one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's most famous speeches best known for the phrase, "Rendezvous with Destiny".

(Today, of course, one cannot utter the word "rendezvous" in any political speech because the right-wing will then hoot and holler that the speaker is "French", you know, those people who helped us win the Revolutionary War. Mitt Romney, who avoided the Vietnam war draft by becoming a Mormon "missionary" in France, speaks fluent French, but he will never reveal it.)

FDR is lauded as the greatest president of the 20th century, by Republicans and Democrats alike.

It was 1936 in Philadelphia. In his "Rendezvous with Destiny" address to the Democratic National Convention, accepting his nomination for a second term as president, FDR also said this:

And so it was to win freedom from the tyranny of political autocracy that the American Revolution was fought... Political tyranny was wiped out at Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

He made the analogy between the royalty of King George III and the new "economic royalists" in America:

... out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital -- all undreamed of by the Fathers -- the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

FDR then described the consequences for freedom and democracy, that would be as true of the Koch Boys and their fellow travelers today, as it was about their counterparts in the early and mid-20th century:

It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man... The savings of the average family, the capital of the small-businessmen, the investments set aside for old age -- other people's money -- these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in...

Seem familiar? FDR then provided a distinction, between private enterprise and privileged enterprise, that might be employed today:

... Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.

And, what about the consequences for individual liberty?

An old English judge once said: "Necessitous men are not free men." Liberty requires opportunity to make a living -- a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.


For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor -- other people's lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.


Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it.

Dodd-Frank, about which Biden was speaking, hardly represents an "end" to such power, just a little tap on the wrists. And, if one does not believe the above rendered Vice-President Biden's comments quite mild and temperate, consider FDR's characterization:

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted that the government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.[Emphasis added]

Note, next, that Republican voter suppression today is even turning against the right to vote, so the vice president should have even sharper axe to wield than in FDR's statement:

Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.

FDR was far superior to modern commentators at stating clearly and, in so doing, dismissing the phony complaints of the opposition:

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.

No, VP JB, did not go over-the-line of mainstream political comment in our society, nor did he, in this case, commit a gaffe. Indeed, he was quite mild. Even the Republican opponents of the New Deal did not deliberately try to screw the American people so that FDR would not be re-elected.

BIden told the truth. Only those who serve big banks' interests would feign offense.

That is because the truth hurts.