Advice to President Joe Biden

From President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as President, March 4, 1933
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Official Portrait of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“Three steps, all interrelated, were necessary: first, by drastic measures to eliminate special privilege in the control of economic and social structure by a numerically very small but very powerful group of individuals so set in authority that they dominated business and banking and government itself: second, to war on crime and graft and to build up moral values; and third, to seek a return of the swing of the pendulum, which for three generations had been sweeping toward a constantly increasing concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands — a swing back in the direction of a wider distribution of the wealth and property of the nation.”

While they both faced seemingly overwhelming crisis upon taking office, the circumstances under which they began their Presidencies are very different. FDR rode a popular wave in 1932 which resulted in strong Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. In his book he was able to report that “The first act of the Administration was the swearing in of the new Cabinet . . . immediately after the close of the Inaugural Parade.”

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Today, President Biden can unite the country, spur the economy, and address climate change by establishing a large scale project on the TVA model. By that, I mean large-scale, publicly (NOT privately) operated project(s) designed to improve the communities in which it operates on a long-term basis. To this TVA model from FDR, three modern criteria must be added:

· The project must be environmentally sustainable, and carbon-negative. That means it will reduce the carbon in the atmosphere and thus work to slow climate change.

· Unlike the original TVA at its inception, the jobs and benefits of the project must be shared with all, without racial or other discrimination.

· It must be targeted to those states and communities where the worst climate-damaging industries — coal and petroleum- currently operate, designed to more than replace the jobs lost by the elimination of these industries.

It just so happens that the states where coal and petroleum industries are concentrated are also red or purple states. The top five coal-producing states are Wyoming, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Kentucky. The top five petroleum-producing states are Texas, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado. Members of Congress from these states would be hard-put to oppose such a large injection of development and resources towards their constituents. No matter their party, they should be anxious to provide their constituents with jobs paying a living wage, with health benefits, sick and family leave.

While the perpetrators of violence must be aggressively prosecuted, President Biden must address the underlying economic ills, and not just blame others, as Trump did. A 21st Century TVA is a way to do this.

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Photo by Globelet Reusable on Unsplash

“Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.”

FDR Inaugural Speech, March 4, 1933

Representing the Working Class as a lawyer since 1982. Author of

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