Bookends

I was born late in Franklin D.Roosevelt’s second term. There are those in the media who are comparing our current president’s accomplishments and aspirations with FDR’s, which seems almost unbelievable at this point. From my perspective, at age 82, I can’t help wondering if, FDR having been president at my birth, Joseph R.Biden, Jr. might be my last. No. I do not have a terminal illness, but let’s face it, how much longer do I have?

Even comparing the two at this point in Biden’s term appears to be ludicrous, but it seems to be happening. There are similarities. An old metaphor from my Navy days speaks of the relieving watch officer being handed a “wet bag” (this is well before the widespread use of plastic bags…). The bag is handed off to the relieving officer, and the bottom falls off, spilling the contents…you get the drift. Both men were handed wet bags. Roosevelt faced a collapsed financial and banking structure, massive unemployment, near starvation of much of the citizenry, to name a few. Biden was handed a pandemic which killed off somewhere north of a half million Americans. While vaccines had (miraculously) been developed, no mechanism had been set up to get them into folks. Shutting down the country to try to slow the spread had resulted in massive layoffs and unemployment.

FDR was lightly regarded by much of the pundits when first elected. Not much was expected by many of this upper crust lightweight, who, by the end of his first term had many complaining that he was “a traitor to his class”. Biden, on the other hand, was largely to be a placeholder. At 78 years of age when inaugurated, he was considered a genial bumbler. His greatest virtue in the eyes of many was that he wasn’t Trump. Unlike FDR, he was a product of an Irish-American working class family, a state university alum, the first since Ronald Reagan not to have Ivy League creds.

When it became time to build up the military, FDR was shocked to find that a large percentage of men called up for service failed to qualify physically, due to inadequate diet, caused by the Great Depression. Biden inherited modern day breadlines, 21st century style, consisting of long lines of cars waiting for food baskets.

One major difference is that Biden seems to deal in trillions, while FDR spent millions. There are, of course, about three-plus times as many of us. Both men faced flak about overspending, this from the other party which, then as now, has no problem bestowing lower taxes on corporations; a rising tide lifts all boats, after all, (except I have never seen this work).

There are other similarities, and differences, between the two. Biden has only had the job for about four months as I write this. A good start. Let’s see what happens.

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