Why We Need a Fighter in the White House

Governor Paul LePageWhy Governor LePage Can’t Erase History, and Why We Need a Fighter in the White House

Maine Governor Paul LePage has ordered state workers to remove from the state labor department a 36-foot mural depicting the state’s labor history. Among other things the mural illustrates the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston. It also features the iconic “Rosie the Riveter,” who in real life worked at the Bath Iron Works. One panel shows my predecessor at the U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, who was buried in Newcastle, Maine.

The LePage Administration is also renaming conference rooms that had carried the names of historic leaders of American labor, as well as former Secretary Perkins.

The Governor’s spokesman explains that the mural and the conference-room names were “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals.”

Are we still in America?

Frances Perkins was the first woman cabinet member in American history. She was also one of the most accomplished cabinet members in history.

She and her boss, Franklin D. Roosevelt, came to office at a time when average working people needed help – and Perkins and Roosevelt were determined to give it to them. Together, they created Social Security, unemployment insurance, the right of workers to unionize, the minimum wage, and the forty-hour workweek.

Big business and Wall Street thought Perkins and Roosevelt were not in keeping with pro-business goals. So they and their Republican puppets in Congress and in the states retaliated with a political assault on the New Deal.

Roosevelt did not flinch. In a speech in October 1936 he condemned “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.”

Big business and Wall Street, he said,

had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred.

Fast forward 75 years.

Big business and Wall Street have emerged from the Great Recession with their pockets bulging. Profits and bonuses are as high as they were before the downturn. And they’re spending like mad on lobbying and politics. After the Supreme Court’s disgraceful Citizens United decision, there are no limits.

Pro-business goals are breaking out all over. Governors across America are slashing corporate taxes as they slash state budgets. House and Senate Republicans are intent on deregulating, privatizing, and cutting spending and taxes so their corporate and Wall Street patrons will do even better.

But most Americans are still in desperate trouble. Few if any of the economic gains are trickling down.

That’s why the current Republican assault on workers – on their right to form unions, on unemployment insurance and Social Security, on public employees, and even (courtesy of Governor LePage) on our common memory – is so despicable.

And it’s why we need a President who will fight for workers and fight against this assault — just as Perkins and FDR did.

Robert ReichBy the way, Maine’s Governor LePage may be curious to know that the building housing the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington is named the “Frances Perkins Building.” He can find her portrait hanging prominently inside. Also portraits and murals of great leaders of American labor.

A short walk across the mall will bring Governor LePage to an imposing memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt, should the Governor wish to visit.

Governor, you might be able to erase some of Maine’s memory, but you’ll have a hard time erasing the nation’s memory – even if it’s not in keeping with your pro-business goals.

Robert Reich
Robert Reich’s Blog


  1. Ken Bear Cole says

    2+2=17. Either the answer is incorrect or the full equation is not divulged.

    I agree with President Roosevelt. When public and private unions use the dues from their members to back political canidates, it does look like mobster activity; especially when their members turn violent. President Roosevelt also said that no government workers should be allowed to unionizie. He said it was “unthinkable and intollerable.” (see NY Times articel http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/02/18/the-first-blow-against-public-employees/fdr-warned-us-about-public-sector-unions). George Meany — the former president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O — in 1955 said, “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” SEIU was formed to drive “Progressive” political views by political contributions.

    You are right, we do need a fighter in the White House and President Obama is not even an adequite leader, much less a fighter. So why contribute to his political campaign? Why back a Presidential canidate who will not step up and fight for Progressive views. To Hell with the hundreds of millions of voters that want to reduce the debt. We need this countries economy to fail so the new world monitary system can be intoduced. I am sure all of the union brothers will be willing to share the wealth with those in China who work for less then $50 per week. Then they would qualify for government aid and be able to call in a cordboard box home.

    No we need businesses profitable so they can hire more people. China is flurishing under Capitalism. Their standard of living is rising dramatically, while our’s is falling due to government uncertanity. American businesses are cautious about hiring because they are not sure of the impact of continued government intervention.

    Mr. Reich, (sounds like a former German government group) you should understand that a strong business employs lots of workers who pay taxes, which funds our government. Every government worker is a burden on all taxpayers and their union leaders are looking more and more like the Mobsters mentioned by President Roosevelt.

    • gwaz says

      Ken Bear has been known to be off his medication occasionally. He still thinks George Bush was a great President. Now do you understand why I am concerned that he is not taking his medication, he writes well but has no depth of knowledge for which he speaks – don’t be discouraged – this is the standard right wing talking points – Go George Bush – Oh, he is at the ranch in Crawford cleaning shrubs again, why he had done that photo bit so often that the local help has a hard time finding enough shrubs for him to clean while he is riding the outback trails – Go George – Ken loves you!

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