Wednesday, 30 January 2013

President Franklin D. Roosevelt: London statues and birthday

He was born on this day - 30th January - in 1882 at Hyde Park; in New York, that is, writes Paul Coleman.
   One statue of him stands on a plinthe in Grosvenor Square. But many Londoners know his Mayfair statue better. Indeed, every day people pose for a photo by squeezing between the amiable bronze figure of Franklin Delano Roosevelt sat beside his relaxed counterpart, Winston Churchill.
   By 1921 polio had paralysed FDR's legs. But polio did not stop FDR from becoming the 32nd United States President in 1933. Roosevelt led the United States out of the 1930s Great Depression with his New Deal. He centralised power so the Federal Government could halt bank runs, regulate shares, farm prices, wages and create jobs to help  America's 13 million unemployed.
   Today's 'austerians' on the political right deride FDR for leading America towards socialism. The left denounce Roosevelt for saving capitalism instead of allowing the 'beast' to die. 
   Both right and left claim economist John Maynard Keynes influenced FDR. But people who knew him best say FDR acted instinctively in the interests of the jobless, poor, homeless and hungry. Roosevelt, they say, wasn't a great reader. 
  Looking at Roosevelt's face on his London statues, I wonder what kind of world would've emerged without FDR's instinctive New Deal rescue? And, what would Roosevelt have thought of the global financial mess we now face and our political responses to it?

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, January 2013

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