Category Archives: FDR pwns everyone infinity no backsies

March 29, 2012, 1:30 pm

Man at his best.

In Esquire:

While we’re watching the signal, if not single, liberal achievement — the BFD, if you will — of the Most Disappointing President Ever™ writhe before conservative jurists like a tasty Christian before so many lions deciding whether merely to rip out the mandate or devour it whole (the Scalia lion is, of course, played by Jeremy Irons and drawling, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”), let’s pause to remember how the Real Democratic Party™ acted when the High Court tossed out a law that was important to their constituents and agenda: They simply passed it again, with a different rationale.

You can read the whole thing if you like. There’s also this oldie, which at a glance I still stand by.

March 5, 2012, 8:42 pm

She’s like a rainbow.

Shasta Dam under construction, photographed in color by the FSA/OWI. The New Deal documented its accomplishments beautifully. And now the Library of Congress has them in an outstanding Flickr collection.

The New Deal also beautifully documented the American people; here’s a photograph of African American workers at a Florida “juke joint”.

March 2, 2012, 11:51 am

American Defense Spending from 1792 to 2015

I was playing around with the data at USGovernmentSpending.com and decided to share:

Usgs line 1 php

We are still living in the aftermath of World War II.

February 14, 2012, 5:14 pm

Alexander Field, Greg Clark, and Optimism about the Current Unpleasantness.

On the jacket of Alexander Field’s new book A Great Leap Forward, my colleague Greg Clark says this:

As we sit mired in the Great Recession, Alexander Field’s exciting reappraisal of the Great Depression offers surprising solace. By showing the Great Depression was coupled with the most rapid technological advance in U.S. history, he fundamentally recasts the history of the 1930s. But he also offers hope that our own depression likely will have no long-run costs to the U.S. economy.

By measuring total factor productivity (TFP), or the improvement in productivity not accounted for by traditional inputs, Field finds tremendous gains during the Depression. They owe in part to private investment in manufacturing efficiencies, chemical processes, and other technical improvements. Historiographically, there’s a major payoff in showing that the vast majority of such innovation came during…

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February 9, 2012, 8:55 am

Bretton Woods: not the gold standard.

In a WSJ op-ed called “Forty Years of Paper Money,” Detlev Schlichter, a supporter of the gold standard, begins thus:

Forty years ago today, U.S. President Richard Nixon closed the gold window and ushered in, for the first time in human history, a global system of unconstrained paper money under full control of the state.

Now, with that title, that lede, and Schlichter’s very stern opinions about paper money, you’d think that the paper money era began right then, forty years ago. But as Schlichter himself says in his very next sentence,

It is not that prior to August 15, 1971, there was a gold standard. Far from it. Most countries had severed any direct link between their currencies and gold many years earlier.

Right. So the shift to a paper money system didn’t begin with Nixon. And the monetary thing that existed before Nixon’s intervention – the monetary thing that was not, per…

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February 3, 2012, 4:56 pm

FDR’s worst decision.

Franklin Roosevelt’s worst decision was Executive Order 9066, “Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas”, which is to say, interning Americans of Japanese descent.

The decision for internment had nothing to do with intelligence (particularly, as often alleged, from MAGIC cables) and everything to do with the conviction that “a Jap is a Jap,” as General John DeWitt said. I’ve never been very happy with historical explanations that start and end with “it’s racism,” but really … it’s racism. You can tell of course because there’s no similar simultaneous effort against Americans of German descent. You can tell because of Japoteurs and “Slap the Dirty Little Jap” and lots of other examples.

For my family, the war was the European war. My grandfather, a German-born American, had no trouble the way Japanese Americans did; he flew a bomber for the US in the war. We…

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January 18, 2012, 1:37 pm

God bless the do-re-mi.

Kevin Kruse brings the historicizing to Mitt Romney’s effort to unite us, under God.

The concept of “one nation under God” has a noble lineage, originating in Abraham Lincoln’s hope at Gettysburg that “this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.” After Lincoln, however, the phrase disappeared from political discourse for decades. But it re-emerged in the mid-20th century, under a much different guise: corporate leaders and conservative clergymen deployed it to discredit Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

This opposition of God to the New Deal is of course specious: God was a member of FDR’s Brains Trust and in His incarnation as Jesus Christ and author of the beatitudes He directly influenced the New Deal’s relief provisions. As for the public works, He explained, “Yes, I could have built ’em quicker, but only by robbing the economy of much-needed stimulus.”

December 26, 2011, 4:46 pm

Some notes on comparing Lincoln and FDR.

Partly for fun, partly to make a point, I’m writing this post without referring to any texts, either online or on paper. Which should explain, if not excuse, any paraphrases or errors. The point may or may not become clear by the end of the post. This is not going to be an “FDR is better than Lincoln” post; you have been warned.
(more…)

December 9, 2011, 4:23 pm

A short, short trailer.

December 5, 2011, 10:51 am

It passed, right?

Why do we always refer to the GI “Bill”?

November 4, 2011, 11:19 am

“Roosevelt Called Most Brilliant of the Nation’s War Presidents”

Major George Fielding Eliot, in the New York Herald Tribune, 4/14/45, in an article titled as this post is:

Lincoln gave his life that the Union might be preserved; he died before he knew that, from the wreck of war, a stronger and more enduring Union would arise. Franklin Roosevelt gave his life that a greater Union—a Union of all peace-loving peoples to achieve peace and guard the hard-won heritage of freedom—might rise from the desolation of a more terrible war than Lincoln ever imagined. He, too, died before he saw the fulfillment of his vision. To us who remain behind, he left the heritage and the responsibility of that vision, that bright hope from which his purpose never turned aside.

November 3, 2011, 10:06 am

How a bill becomes a useful law.

Congressman Brent Spence of Kentucky on how to negotiate when approached with amendments to the Bretton Woods bill in 1945.

I wouldn’t agree to anything…. You see, if we accept something now it puts us just in the same position as if we hadn’t accepted it…. Every amendment we accept kind of weakens us. [W]e might say, ‘Well, we’ll accept them if that’s all the amendments.’ But if we are going to have to fight it out, we just as well fight it out on all of them.

Could someone explain this to the people in the White House, please?

(Emphasis added.)

October 31, 2011, 9:27 am

“We have the history of international finance after the last war, handled by the ‘right people’ with the ‘right safeguards.’ What did we get?”

As a recent post on Metafilter points out, the well-known children’s author and sometime New Yorker cartoonist Syd Hoff had a radical alter ego, a Mr. Redfield who drew cartoons for the Daily Worker. Philip Nel has written about Hoff’s radicalism here and here; apparently, despite being a real-live Stalinist through and through—i.e., ticked at those who bailed on the party after the Hitler-Stalin pact—and a high-profile children’s author, Hoff never got blacklisted.

And his cartoons collected in The Ruling Clawss have a certain topical bite as critiques of what we’re now to call the one percent.

I came across Hoff in my own research because he illustrated a pamphlet supporting Bretton Woods titled Bretton Woods is No Mystery published by Pamphlet Press in 1945. The pamphlet’s author, Joseph Gaer, was a UC Berkeley lecturer who wrote extensively about religion, labor, and…

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September 6, 2010, 2:26 pm

Keynes's conference and Morgenthau's dream.

Both the American and British chief delegates to the Bretton Woods conference were tall bald men, but there the similarity between them came to an end, and even in respect of their height they stood differently. Henry Morgenthau, Jr., hung on his own frame like a picture crookedly strung on a hook, while John Maynard Keynes wore his stature as comfortably as his tailored suits. Although Keynes was the older man, his powerful new ideas made Morgenthau look ever more like a relic. As Secretary of the Treasury since 1934, Morgenthau had helped engineer the New Deal. But as Keynesianism swept the policymaking landscape, Morgenthau became more old-fashioned, insisting that whatever Keynes might claim about deficit spending, the government ought to try a balanced budget—though between the Depression and the Second World War Morgenthau never presided over one. A cruelly witty Cambridge…

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August 31, 2010, 9:14 am

War on terror floating exchange rates.

So as I read this, a Bretton-Woods–style system of stable exchange rates would be a potent weapon in the war on terror. You identify the countries harboring problematic insurgencies, set your adjustable peg high enough that insurrections can’t operate effectively, and watch the rebellion wither! Is there any problem FDR’s policies can’t help us solve?

Actually, rhetoric like this — pinning hopes for world peace to the Bretton Woods system of stable exchange rates, and thus freer trade and capital flows — was not at all uncommon. As one participant later recollected,

Peace was seen as linked with world prosperity, and prosperity, with free trade, free capital movements, and stable exchange rates.

He goes on to admit, “Although the causality was ambiguous….”1


1Raymond F. Mikesell, “The Bretton Wood Debates: A Memoir,” Essays in International Finance no. 192 (March 1994),…

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