On November 3rd, the president of the United States spoke at the Hotel Lowry in St. Paul, Minnesota, in what was billed repeatedly as a bi-partisan address. The president ridiculed reactionaries in Congress who he claimed represented the wealthy and the powerful, and whose “theory seems to be that if these groups are prosperous, they will pass along some of their prosperity to the rest of us.” The president drew a direct line between prosperity and increased “fairness” in the distribution of wealth: “We know that the country will achieve economic stability and progress only if the benefits of our production are widely distributed among all its citizens.” The president then laid out an ambitious agenda focused on creating jobs, improving education, expanding health care, and ensuring equal rights for all.
Addressing his opponents in Congress, the president said “[t]here are people who contend that . . . programs for the general welfare will cost too much,” but argued “[t]he expenditures which we make today for the education, health, and security of our citizens are investments in the future of our country . . . .” Giving a specific, and favorite, example, the president argued that government investments in the areas of energy are “good investments in the future of this great country.” Building on the meme about great countries doing great national projects, he praised the Louisiana Purchase, which brought Minnesota into the Union, and compared congressional critics of his past and proposed spending to those who argued President Jefferson should not have been allowed to borrow to buy “Louisiana” from Napoleon.
The speech was given on November 3, 1949, and the president was Harry Truman. But it could just as easily have come from the mouth of our current president, despite the fact that President Obama’s December 2011 speech in Osawatomie, Kansas was allegedly invoking President Teddy Roosevelt. In fact, we could play a game – call it, “Harry or Barry?” (as the president was called for most of his life) – to see how little has changed since 1949: