My grandfather would frequently remind me that had it not been for Franklin D. Roosevelt, that house would not have existed for my father or for me. Even with all his other indefensible beliefs, particularly when it came to people of color or women’s rights, my grandfather did have one belief that I still carry with me: He believed that paying taxes was an investment, and he expected his government to use his tax dollars to protect its citizens from disasters, both external and internal.
When my children were small, I used to take them hiking in Bastrop State Park. I marveled at the stone cottages built in the 1930s that are still rented to the public for camping. Those charming cottages, built by crews put back to work under FDR’s federally created programs, have housed many a family reunion and slumber party. The froth-spitting fury of industrialists over the FDR New Deal should not have been unexpected. It cut profit out of the picture while this country tried to recover from the 1929 Depression and concurrent natural disasters. Unthinkable! Profit was set aside, and human need was made the most important figure in the equation. And the industrialists are still smoldering over this injustice toward their bottom line.
A friend in El Paso told me of sessions around her office water cooler, where people stood around in the air conditioning and, with straight faces, talked about how they don’t understand the furor over the victims of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. After all, these people are “indigents.” They are “just people on welfare.” Some of her co-workers said they were doing what they could by donating their used clothes to their church. There – that should fulfill their obligations to their fellow human beings.