Jobs recessions, anemic growth, and declining living standards don't have to last this long in America
Who knew that the mere listing of Jim Powell's 2003 book, FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and his New Deal prolonged the Great Depression, among those in a recent column chronicling literary works I have found most informative and influential to my post-matriculation economic education, would subject me to the wrath of a usually astute political observer from a neighboring state accusing me of not recognizing FDR's relative 20th Century presidential greatness with an ad hominem attack against the "Reagan Myth", thrown in for good measure?
Given everything not included in my K-12 and university curricula concerning A.D. 1929-1941 (not to mention so-called Robber Barons in the 19th C. and the so-called "McCarthy Era" of the 1950s), and considering how long and severe were the Great Depression years; it would be a folly greater than any engaged in by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for a nation in A.D. 2012, immersed in dire economic circumstances rivaled in American history only by those presided over by FDR and the Democrats, for us NOT to re-visit the economic policies of the 1930s.
I was an activist liberal Democrat for all of my adult life until my Summer of 2001 conservative epiphany. I hold a B.A. in history and economics and Juris Doctor. I was, variously, a county Democratic Party official, convention delegate, campaign manager for two winning Democrat campaigns, and labor union lawyer during the 1980s and 1990s. During those years I was mostly protected from economic ups and downs by my monopolistic law degree, but my eyes, ears and brain were operational.
I heard. I saw.
I heard President Ronald Reagan promise an economic recovery via less government taxes and regulations; and anti-inflation Fed policy. I saw those policies implemented while America was in the midst of the worst economy since the 1930s and before the one that began in 2008. I watched those policies work for all Americans willing to work, especially including those from families for whom home ownership and other accouterments of a "middle class" life had been an impossible dream.
I heard President Reagan propose rebuilding America's defense. I saw those policies implemented soon after seeing the hostages in Iran released during his Inauguration. I heard Reagan say "nyet" when Mikhail Gorbachev demanded we end "Star Wars", and later heard the tapes of Gorby and other Soviet leaders discuss their surrender of the Evil Empire and felling of walls Berlin due to Reagan's policies. The peace dividend was huge.
I saw Reagan's Democrat successor lose the House to Republicans for the first time in my life after trying to pass HillaryCare, only later to hear him cry "Uncle" to Newt while declaring the era of big government over, with welfare reform and capital gains tax cuts thrown in for good measure. I lived the glorious 25-year Reagan Recovery that resulted.
After leaving private law practice monopolies in my Palmetto State hometown for corporate and real estate work in Hotlanta, what I had seen and heard, coupled with distance from long-time Democratic Party friends, led me to finally shed the cowardice, or muster the "courage", and declare myself a conservative Republican:
I had not yet read FDR's Folly before my Summer of 2001 conservative epiphany. I couldn't have since it wasn't published until 2003. I still considered FDR to be the greatest president of the 20th Century, but had already dismissed any notion that New Deal policies had "gotten us out of the Great Depression".
Given the failure of unemployment to drop below 14% and the severe “double-dip” Depression of 1937-8, basic arithmetic proved that claim a farce, hence the beginnings of my loss of respect for those in academia and the press that had re-written history to comport with their desired liberal, Utopian world view of an all-powerful benevolent government of experts to direct our lives; but I digress.
I didn’t discover Powell’s book until soon after President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration, fully 7+ years into my GOP life. Obama's actions with a super-Democratic majority Senate and House Speaker Pelosi cramming Obamacare “reform” down our throats while only pursuing a "recovery" for government employees and GM’s UAW with the resulting Great Recession/Anemic non-Recovery, led me to look more closely at just why the Great Depression became “great”, since so many of the lessons of the 80s and 90s had been known to Clevelands, Hardings and Coolidges.
To my horror, I discovered that not only had FDR acted out of ignorance of the lessons that could only be fully learned after FDR made them; but that much of his political rhetoric was even more radically anti-business and suffused with class warfare and the deadly sin of envy, than was Barack Hussein Obama’s.
DeVine Law Gamecock resolves to connect liberal Democrat policy dots to their resulting dots of poverty, daily in 2013.
I discovered the folly of the destruction of crops while Americans starved, seizures of gold, high taxes, forced private sector unionism, diversion of poverty relief from the poorest sections of the nation (especially including the South, even while crediting TVA electrification), and wage and price controls born of his and other “progressives” fascination with fascism (their word out of their own mouths, not mine) since their days in the Democrat Woodrow Wilson administration. Their fascination with increasing government control, ushered in due to WWI, led to a great depression in terms of severity during Wilson’s last year in office.
We have never heard much about it because before President Warren G. Harding died, his supply-side non-interventionism allowed the economy to right itself, much as had most all previous presidents not named Wilson. But instead of being taught that, whole chapters detail Teapot Dome.
Hence, the lessons so many Americans are taught boil down to Teapot Dome, Silent Cal, the evils of the rich and stock margin calls, New Deals, Hoover bad, and FDR great. Got it? So going forward, so long as you repeat the manta that FDR is great, all will be well. Not.
I can’t eat FDR worship, and this former Democrat still considers FDR the greatest U.S. president of the 20th Century. But man does not live by bread, nor FDR love, alone.
I consider it paramount to understand why, for the purpose of limiting economic suffering, if it can be limited by avoiding government policies that prevent robust recoveries. We have learned a lot since FDR's days about the effectiveness of certain government policies. That FDR was re-elected twice before Pearl Harbor, despite his unique failure at least before Obama) to restore a healthy economy in less than one term, and to actually have had a huge double dip in 1937-8, speaks volumes about his effectiveness as a politician, but in no way alters the facts of his actual policies, rhetoric and results.
Resorting to a cult of personality or vague "greatness" declarations gets us no closer to righting the US economy and avoiding the mistakes of the past.
FDR was a great war leader and instituted a number of government policies and programs that have benefited the United States in banking, social security and public works; none of which had much if anything to do with returning the economy to free market prosperity. And if they were intended to so do, they obviously didn’t “work” for over eight years. We have the unemployment and GDP numbers! And eight years was at least five years too long, based upon our history before and since the 1929 Stock Market crash.
There was one perfect man, and he wasn't a Roosevelt, Reagan, Lincoln or Washington.
All the rest are flawed, no matter how they "rank"; much as even the 50th ugliest Miss America contestant is a babe, but again, I digress. We should learn from the mistakes of the non-Christs among us so that we will not be doomed to repeat their mistakes. This American is not resigned to spending the rest of his days in economic malaise while debating how “great” was this or that Chief Executive of the USA. No, I want the executive, legislative and judicial branches to get out of my Jeffersonian-Jacksonian way, and let me exercise my God-given Liberty to pursue happiness with other free people. That can only happen when we stop worshiping men and their legacies; and start learning lessons from the history of government policies and how men respond under Natural Law.
We know that you get less of what you tax and burden with regulations. Obama rivals FDR in both; hence the singing of Happy Days are Here Again, when this week’s anemic jobs and housing numbers are compared to the more anemic numbers last week. This American won’t be giving Democrats a pass for any “new normal”, like those endured in the 1930s or for the last 4+years. Normal in the United States has been the greatest standard of living for the greatest number since even before Lexington and Concord. In fact, shots heard round the world were fired because a King and distant Parliament threatened that prosperity.
I’ll be damned if this American, taxed with representation, will sit idly by while our Liberty is stolen due to economic ignorance or misplaced hero worship, even of admittedly great men. Ignorance imposed by ideologues is folly. Self-imposed ignorance is worse. Poverty in America is increasing as the middle class falls apart; but too many argue over food stamps and legacies.
Not this rooster. I am resolved to fight economic ignorance, misplaced party loyalty, personality cults and settling for food stamps and Obamaphones.
“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson
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