POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Remember the Forgotten Man

by David Trumbull

January 12, 2007

"The truth is that American families are in hock to foreign countries to the tune of $2.5 trillion. That’s $21,875 for every household, enough to pay the tuition for your child’s four-year college education."

The statement above is from the American Trade Action Coalition ( It continues,

"How did we get to this point? It's blind faith in ‘Free Trade’ policies that ship our manufacturing jobs overseas and expose our markets to unfair competition -- policies that forget the primary goal of U.S. trade policy should be to ensure the prosperity of each and every American’s future."

From many quarters one hears that these effects of globalization are due to inevitable and unstoppable forces. Such claims are not new. The twentieth century saw both the National Socialists and the International Socialist using the arguments of historic inevitability and economic necessity to justify repressive regimes. Freedom-loving people put the lie to those proud claims. America especially stands out for rejecting blind faith in economic theory that denigrates human freedom.

Not that we haven't been tempted. In the depression of the 1930s some saw the failure of our free system. But we resisted. The policies of Republican presidents in the 1920s brought prosperity. And when changed circumstanced called for changed policies, we never seriously tilted toward fascism or communism. We elected a congress and administration pledged to making our free system work for all Americans.

Historians and economists still argue whether President Franklin Roosevelt's economic policies did more harm than good. But one thing seems clear: he rejected the hypothesis that Americans were helpless against inexorable economic forces. And that optimism captivated people, including creative and talented people such as Harry Warren (born Salvatore Anthony Guaragna in 1893 to Italian immigrants).

Turner Classic Movies recently ran a marathon of movies featuring the music of Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin. The fabulous Gold Diggers of 1933 climaxes with a musical call to "Remember My Forgotten Man," the story of a serviceman returning home to find no employment.

Today the Great Depression is not even a memory for most Americans. We hear daily of our wondrously strong economy. Yet, many question where our staggering trade deficit and loss of manufacturing and other jobs is leading us.

Political commentator Pat Buchanan observed: "What the election of 2006 demonstrated, in Ohio and Michigan and among the Reagan Democrats, is that Americans are fed up with being played for free-trade fools by the rest of the world." But it is yet to be seen whether the permanent political class in Washington gets it.

Perhaps what we need a Harry Warren today to put to music our vague fear that we have built a house of credit cards. We need someone to remind us that we are the masters of our economic fate; that we need not continue to follow economic policies that no longer serve all Americans.

As for the Harry Warren of those marvelous 1930s musicals. He continued to write popular songs for decades. In the 'fifties he returned to his Italian roots to pen "That's Amore" (lyrics by Jack Brooks). He died in 1981 and is buried in Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park outside of Hollywood, near, appropriately, Dean Martin.