And now, a message from Teddy Roosevelt
Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the U.S. from 1901 to 1909, led the U.S. at a time when the concentrated wealth of corporations, monopolies, and some individuals was so great that, in large part, they determined the course of the country.
Contrary to what Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and the Tea Party would have you believe, life was not a free market paradise except for those at the top. The game was rigged from top to bottom by the wealthiest. Most Americans had the privilege of suffering from the financial crimes and whims of the rich and their monopolies; the poor and working poor lived lives of desperate poverty.
Despite his patrician background and the fact that he was a Republican, Teddy knew that the real enemy of democracy – of our freedoms — was the unregulated power of wealth, concentrated in the hands of a few. He called such people and companies “The Malefactors of Great Wealth.”
Here’s what he had to say about them.
“Too much cannot be said against the men of wealth who sacrifice everything to getting wealth. There is not in the world a more ignoble character than the mere money-getting American, insensible to every duty, regardless of every principle, bent only on amassing a fortune, and putting his fortune only to the basest uses . . . to speculate in stocks and wreck railroads himself. . .
These men are equally careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and of the State, whose existence they imperil. There are not very many of them, but there is a very great number of men who approach more or less closely to the type, and, just in so far as they do so approach, they are curses to the country.
It may well be that the determination of the government (in which, gentlemen, it will not waver) to punish certain malefactors of great wealth, has been responsible for something of the trouble; at least to the extent of having caused these men to combine to bring about as much financial stress as possible, in order to discredit the policy of the government and thereby secure a reversal of that policy, so that they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own evil-doing. . . .
I regard this contest as one to determine who shall rule this free country—the people through their governmental agents, or a few ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization.”
For an update on how the malefactors are doing these days, check out Alex Pareene’s article on Salan.com America’s Idiot Rich.