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Where's TR when we need him?

Oct 7, 2012 - By Randy Tucker

America is ready for a different kind of political candidate.

Ever wonder where the root causes of the cynicism we so routinely accept as part of our daily existence originate?

It seem that nothing is ever really as it seems. You wonder at the creativity, craftiness and downright deviousness of whoever set the backdrop that allowed this cloud of skepticism to rule the day in America.

You wonder, then you drive to a gas station, fill up your car or truck, and you don't wonder anymore. There it is in spinning dollars and cents.

Polite conversations used to be commonplace when filling up your vehicle. But those days of civil discourse have gone the way of the man checking your oil and putting air in your tires. The gas pump has become the symbol of corporate greed in America and, indeed, the world. There is nothing, seemingly, that any of us can do about it.

The price per barrel hasn't been accurately reflected at the pump since 2003. A few out-of-touch people still attempt to blame OPEC for raising the price at the pump but the truth is that the U.S. took care of foreign price hikes when we took out Sadam Hussein.

Princes, kings and ayatollahs no longer set the price at the pump. The boys in Houston do. And they do it much better than anyone in the transSaharan region could ever imagine.

In previous decades, gasoline experienced boom and bust based on the antiquated concept of supply and demand. Just like any other commodity. This idiom like many of the others that extremist zealots desperately cling to, is no longer true.

Name an industry outside the energy realm that can raise prices because demand is low and then raise prices again when demand is high, or that can use a storm a thousand miles from their nearest facility as an excuse to hike the price. You can't, they don't exist.

We've entered a new era, an era when politicians can refer to corporations as people with a straight face and not even get challenged by that ridiculous statement by most of the population.

The sense of helplessness is simply overwhelming.

Yet this period of price gouging is not without precedent. America has experienced this many times before and, with the cyclical nature of history, we will experience it again, no doubt.

The "robber barons," as the outrageously wealthy men of the late 19th and early 20th centuries generically were known, preyed on America with an abandon that the executives at Exxon, Shell, Chevron and ConocoPhillps can still only dream about today. But remove just a few economic safeguards, and watch those corporate dreams quickly come true.

In spite of the impotent attempts of the federal government to regulate the American markets, these four corporations with their English ally, British Petroleum earned profits of $375 million per day in 2011.

Yes, that's correct -- $375 million in net profits daily for an annual net income of $137 billion (with a B) dollars. Not all that money went to stockholders and CEOs. A nice chunk of changes, $400,000 a day to be exact, went to professional lobbyists working the hallowed halls of congress to weaken safety standards and the $6.6 million in tax breaks that the oil industry gets daily. Makes you wonder doesn't it?

The robber barons met their match in the rambunctious Teddy Roosevelt. The Republican cousin of Franklin Roosevelt, the 20th century's greatest Democrat, shut down illicit meat packers, ended child labor, set limits on the hours a boss could require in a week, created the FDA, changed college football from a bloody maelstrom into a viable sport, and battled corporate greed with the dogged determination of a medieval crusader.

Possibly his greatest act was setting aside 230 million acres of land for preserves, reserves, forests and national parks. He tenaciously battled special interests' attempts to exploit these national resources throughout his life.

He doesn't sound much like the extremists representing the GOP today does he?

Teddy wasn't the party's nominee in his first term. Much like Eisenhower, he was a war hero, and William McKinley needed him on the ticket as his vice-presidential running mate to slow the tremendous grass roots support of democrat William Jennings Bryan.

In an era long before the tea party, grass roots campaigns often sprang out of the American heartland and reflected a political landscape every bit as fractured as the one we face today.

The populists of the last century differed greatly in their intent than the modern tea party. The early movement focused on the rights of workers, the ability to form labor unions, fair wages and equal rights.

They were juxtaposed with their modern populists who actively battle for corporations, for wealthy tax cuts, and for a return to a dog-eat-dog society.

Once again, we find the cyclical nature of history in action, albeit in a much more sinister, cynical form than ever before.

It's time for a different type of candidate. Someone who brings the unexpected to the table, someone for the average American, someone in touch with the middle and far from the screaming extremes.

Where are you, Teddy?

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