What FDR Knew

In order to secure a massive expansion of federal power to intervene in Americans’ lives and the marketplace, as FDR accomplished with his New Deal, politicians need to have both an indisputable crisis and a talent for deception.  Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez and company have neither.

The first point is the most obvious -- there was an undeniable crisis occurring when FDR pitched his “New Deal” for the “Forgotten Man” in his 1932 campaign.  This is a key distinction.  In 1932, America was in the early years of the Great Depression, and FDR was promising to end the convulsions affecting our economy.  That was a pretty attractive prospect. 

Radical leftist Democrats today, inversely, are promising to introduce massive economic convulsions which will undoubtedly change Americans’ way of life.  That’s a tougher sell in generally prosperous times, and particularly when there are legitimate doubts as to the extent of the crisis that they claim climate change represents. Consider that the scientific models of the late 90s have been proven spectacularly wrong, predicting the rapid “global warming” of a globe that, for the last 20 years or so, hasn’t been warming.  The public has good reason to be at least a little skeptical when the left employs its environmental doomsday prophecies while begging for more power and more of your money.

And we have even more reason for skepticism with the Green New Deal, as packaged, given that there are myriad Trojan Horses contained within, carrying redistributive policies that have nothing to do with the climate, like guaranteeing all Americans jobs paying a “family-sustaining wage,” “high-quality healthcare,” and “economic security.”   

And that leads to the second reason why there won’t be a Green New Deal.  You can’t just tell people that what’s best for them is to surrender their precious liberty and give the government vast new powers to experiment with centralized planning projects.  To open the door for government to seize that kind of power, deception is required.

Among the great many commonly believed myths about the Great Depression is that FDR saved us from the Hoover administration’s small-government austerity measures and laissez-faire approach to the economy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

To fight the depression after it had begun, Herbert Hoover dramatically “extended the size and scope of the federal government.” He fully supported the Smoot-Hawley tariff, spent $500 million on a Federal Farm Board which subsidized wheat and cotton with disastrous results, spent three times that on his Reconstruction Finance Corporation which doled out federal money to politically entrenched banks and industries, and, when accounting for the deflation of the period, doubled federal spending between 1929 and 1933.

With Americans seeing all that, FDR didn’t campaign in 1932 as a big government expansionist.  He often presented himself as the small government alternative to Hoover, telling a Pittsburgh audience on October 19, 1932 that Hoover had been “committed to the idea that we ought to center control of everything in Washington as rapidly as possible -- Federal control.  That was the idea that increased the cost of Government by a billion dollars in four years.”

To correct Hoover’s mistakes, he sometimes promised free-market approaches to economic growth, a balanced federal budget, and a 25% reduction in federal spending.

But once elected, FDR didn’t do any of that.  Rather, he expanded upon Hoover’s template by growing the federal government’s power to levels yet unseen.  The National Recovery Act gave the government and industry leaders unprecedented power in fixing commercial prices.  His Agricultural Adjustment Act made the problems created by Hoover’s farm board look small by comparison, making food less available and affordable for hungry Americans.  Marginal income tax rates went skyward by 1935, and myriad new excise taxes (which are regressive, by nature) punished impoverished Americans as all the billions of dollars being extracted from them were being spent on make-work jobs created by his massive Works Progress Administration (or WPA, which critics called “We Piddle Around” at the time).

Regrettably, the power dynamic between the government and the individual did shift heavily in favor of government in the New Deal era, perhaps more so than at any other time in American history.  But that being his goal certainly wasn’t FDR’s opening pitch to the public to address the crisis at hand.  And even in the thick of his New Deal policies being implemented, he still often denied that he was ultimately behind the increased government interventions, despite having created a vast system of patronage which divvied out federal money to states whose representatives went along with the President’s policy goals -- like tax increases, for example.  When taxes were hiked again in 1935, he deflected criticism by saying, “Heavens above, I am not Congress.  I’m just an innocent, peaceful little fellow down here that makes a recommendation.”   

It’s only too obvious that the more radical standard-bearers of the Democratic Party lack a talent for such guile, and some on the left are now lamenting that fact.

Over at Slate, Jordan Weissmann asserts, regarding Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s laughably juvenile FAQ meant to explain the goals of the Green New Deal, that it might reflect Ocasio-Cortez’s “unfiltered views,” but “many moderates are going to hesitate to go along with the program if they think the end-goals are not-so-secretly extreme and misguided.”

The implication, intended or not, is that moderates might “go along” with the program if it were secretly extreme and misguided, which one can only assume Weissmann would prefer, given that he calls the bill a “step in the right direction.”

But since I can think of no better description of this new crop of radical Democrats jockeying for media attention than “not-so-secretly extreme and misguided,” it’s pretty safe to say that their Green New Deal isn’t happening any time soon.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

In order to secure a massive expansion of federal power to intervene in Americans’ lives and the marketplace, as FDR accomplished with his New Deal, politicians need to have both an indisputable crisis and a talent for deception.  Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez and company have neither.

The first point is the most obvious -- there was an undeniable crisis occurring when FDR pitched his “New Deal” for the “Forgotten Man” in his 1932 campaign.  This is a key distinction.  In 1932, America was in the early years of the Great Depression, and FDR was promising to end the convulsions affecting our economy.  That was a pretty attractive prospect. 

Radical leftist Democrats today, inversely, are promising to introduce massive economic convulsions which will undoubtedly change Americans’ way of life.  That’s a tougher sell in generally prosperous times, and particularly when there are legitimate doubts as to the extent of the crisis that they claim climate change represents. Consider that the scientific models of the late 90s have been proven spectacularly wrong, predicting the rapid “global warming” of a globe that, for the last 20 years or so, hasn’t been warming.  The public has good reason to be at least a little skeptical when the left employs its environmental doomsday prophecies while begging for more power and more of your money.

And we have even more reason for skepticism with the Green New Deal, as packaged, given that there are myriad Trojan Horses contained within, carrying redistributive policies that have nothing to do with the climate, like guaranteeing all Americans jobs paying a “family-sustaining wage,” “high-quality healthcare,” and “economic security.”   

And that leads to the second reason why there won’t be a Green New Deal.  You can’t just tell people that what’s best for them is to surrender their precious liberty and give the government vast new powers to experiment with centralized planning projects.  To open the door for government to seize that kind of power, deception is required.

Among the great many commonly believed myths about the Great Depression is that FDR saved us from the Hoover administration’s small-government austerity measures and laissez-faire approach to the economy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

To fight the depression after it had begun, Herbert Hoover dramatically “extended the size and scope of the federal government.” He fully supported the Smoot-Hawley tariff, spent $500 million on a Federal Farm Board which subsidized wheat and cotton with disastrous results, spent three times that on his Reconstruction Finance Corporation which doled out federal money to politically entrenched banks and industries, and, when accounting for the deflation of the period, doubled federal spending between 1929 and 1933.

With Americans seeing all that, FDR didn’t campaign in 1932 as a big government expansionist.  He often presented himself as the small government alternative to Hoover, telling a Pittsburgh audience on October 19, 1932 that Hoover had been “committed to the idea that we ought to center control of everything in Washington as rapidly as possible -- Federal control.  That was the idea that increased the cost of Government by a billion dollars in four years.”

To correct Hoover’s mistakes, he sometimes promised free-market approaches to economic growth, a balanced federal budget, and a 25% reduction in federal spending.

But once elected, FDR didn’t do any of that.  Rather, he expanded upon Hoover’s template by growing the federal government’s power to levels yet unseen.  The National Recovery Act gave the government and industry leaders unprecedented power in fixing commercial prices.  His Agricultural Adjustment Act made the problems created by Hoover’s farm board look small by comparison, making food less available and affordable for hungry Americans.  Marginal income tax rates went skyward by 1935, and myriad new excise taxes (which are regressive, by nature) punished impoverished Americans as all the billions of dollars being extracted from them were being spent on make-work jobs created by his massive Works Progress Administration (or WPA, which critics called “We Piddle Around” at the time).

Regrettably, the power dynamic between the government and the individual did shift heavily in favor of government in the New Deal era, perhaps more so than at any other time in American history.  But that being his goal certainly wasn’t FDR’s opening pitch to the public to address the crisis at hand.  And even in the thick of his New Deal policies being implemented, he still often denied that he was ultimately behind the increased government interventions, despite having created a vast system of patronage which divvied out federal money to states whose representatives went along with the President’s policy goals -- like tax increases, for example.  When taxes were hiked again in 1935, he deflected criticism by saying, “Heavens above, I am not Congress.  I’m just an innocent, peaceful little fellow down here that makes a recommendation.”   

It’s only too obvious that the more radical standard-bearers of the Democratic Party lack a talent for such guile, and some on the left are now lamenting that fact.

Over at Slate, Jordan Weissmann asserts, regarding Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s laughably juvenile FAQ meant to explain the goals of the Green New Deal, that it might reflect Ocasio-Cortez’s “unfiltered views,” but “many moderates are going to hesitate to go along with the program if they think the end-goals are not-so-secretly extreme and misguided.”

The implication, intended or not, is that moderates might “go along” with the program if it were secretly extreme and misguided, which one can only assume Weissmann would prefer, given that he calls the bill a “step in the right direction.”

But since I can think of no better description of this new crop of radical Democrats jockeying for media attention than “not-so-secretly extreme and misguided,” it’s pretty safe to say that their Green New Deal isn’t happening any time soon.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.