Theodore B. Olson recently wrote a Wall Street Journal column entitled “Obama’s Enemies List.” According to Olson, Charles and David Koch are near, if not at the top, of the Great One’s list, exceeding even Fox News and talk radio as the punching bag du jour.
The Koch brothers are businessmen and prominent free marketers who donate to organizations espousing that point of view. Olson writes that they have been attacked by the president and his surrogates and investigated and abused by agencies of the government, including the Internal Revenue Service.
Gibson Guitar Company CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, not incidentally, a contributor to the Republican National Committee, knows a thing or two about being a government target. Armed agents from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service raided Gibson’s facilities in Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee and seized more than 10,000 guitar fingerboards made from Indian Rosewood along with computers and other records. The government claims that Gibson violated the Lacey Act by purchasing and exporting Fingerboards from India. Gibson denies the accusation and says the company has imported the same wood without incident for the last 17 years, as have several of its competitors, who have not been raided by federal agents. To this writer’s knowledge, the issue has yet to be resolved.
The campaign against the Koch brothers and more particularly the Gibson raids prompt the memory of FDR’s 1944 attack on Sewell Avery, chairman of Montgomery Ward & Co. and a vocal opponent of the New Deal. Avery had refused to comply with government labor regulations, earning Roosevelt’s wrath. With national elections in the fall, FDR needed the labor vote. He issued an executive order (one of many during his tenure) to take over MW’s corporate offices “for the successful prosecution of the war.” Soldiers with fixed bayonets stormed the Chicago headquarters and when Sewell refused to leave, carried him out of the building. The incident became the subject of an iconic photograph.
The problem for Roosevelt was that Montgomery Ward did not manufacture anything essential to the war effort and everyone knew it. The public overwhelmingly backed Avery and the occupation of the offices ended quickly. However, the government maintained the right to direct the company’s operation until the war ended.
These events and others indicate that, next to the teleprompter, Obama relies heavily on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s playbook. There is little Obama has said or done – from his relentless conduct of class warfare to favoring political cronies with federal cash – that FDR didn’t do, or attempt to do.
FDR, like President Obama, spent lavishly on programs to reduce unemployment, and like Obama’s stimulus spending, failed to do so. The Depression was prolonged and, arguably, so is the recession now.
FDR drastically cut defense spending in an effort to bring down the deficit, as President Obama is doing now. Roosevelt urged Congress to enact a high excess profits tax. H.R. 3784, now before Congress, would apply a windfall tax on the sale of oil and gas that ranges from 50 percent to 100 percent on all surplus earnings exceeding “a reasonable profit.”
A Journal editorial summarized Obama’s economic strategy as follows: “Call for ‘stimulus’ to rescue the economy, run up the debt with the biggest spending blitz in 60 years, and then when the deficit explodes call for higher taxes.”
FDR would be proud.