POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

We Can Do It!

by David Trumbull

April 22, 2005

Television's History Channel recently has featured President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. While watching, I found myself drawn to FDR's optimism even during the economic depression of the 1930s. Historians, economists, and partisans still argue whether Roosevelt's economic policies did more harm than good at the time and in the years to come. But one thing seems clear: he rejected the hypothesis that Americans were helpless against inexorable economic forces. It was that --his belief in the American people-- that gave hope more than any specific policies or actions.

The American belief in the power of each individual and of our society as a whole to shape our own destiny is powerful. FDR understood that. So did President Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was elected in 1980 he reassured the common people that the dream of American greatness was not dead. Elite opinion at the time spoke of an America in decline, subject to unstoppable forces. Reagan reminded us of what we already knew --that far from being finished, we were just starting.

We see this same American impulse at work locally when people rally to save a church slated for closing. American's just simply will not take as an answer "this is the way it must be." We fight. Sometimes we prevail; sometimes we do not, but we don't give up without a fight.

And it does take a fight to achieve any real change in a bureaucratic system.

Today one of the biggest battles is that over reform of Social Security. As President George W. Bush has observed: "If we do not act to fix Social Security now, the only solutions will be dramatically higher taxes, massive new borrowing or sudden and severe cuts in Social Security benefits or other government programs." Opponents of reform believe there is nothing we can do. According to them, when the money runs we'll have no choice but to raise taxes or cut benefits.

But they are wrong! We have choices. President Bush rejects the hypothesis that the retirement program so many Americans rely on is governed solely by impersonal economic forces beyond our control. Surely the society that has produced the biggest and richest economy in history can find ways to modernize a retirement system that goes back to the days of the wind-up phonograph and cars with running boards.

To read more about President Bush's plan to keep the promise of Social Security alive for our children and grandchildren, see the website


David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee; he may be contacted at (617) 742-6881 or Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.