Category Archives: new deal denialist truth squadding

January 8, 2010, 5:34 am

This time with four part harmony and feeling.

One more chorus about New Deal denialism, thanks to Dissent. If you want, you can read the article in pdf here.

July 7, 2009, 1:19 pm

¡Huelga contra WPA!

Ferdie Pacheco, “The Lector Reads to Women Cigar Workers” (Detail)

Today brings another installment of “there is too interesting and nontrivial scholarship in today’s scholarly history journals,” this one drawn from the flagship journal of US history. The article touches on two of my favorite topics. One, I’ll grant, is a favorite for purely sentimental reasons: my native heath. The other, though, is of long-standing scholarly interest to this blog: the New Deal.


Elna C. Green, “Relief from Relief: The Tampa Sewing-Room Strike of 1937 and the Right to Welfare,” Journal of American History 95, no. 4 (March 2009). Accessed July 7, 2009, here.


How did WPA workers think of themselves—as workers, or as recipients of welfare? How did their employer, the state, see them in return?

May 20, 2009, 9:35 am

Not only did we pay attention, we paid through the nose.

Scott McLemee has a great interview with Jeet Heer, on the original Little Orphan Annie:

In 1931, Daddy Warbucks loses his fortune to unscrupulous Wall Street speculators, is blinded, and lives for a time as a street beggar. But after hitting bottom he regains his fighting spirit and outwits the Wall Street sharks who brought him and America low. By 1932, the villains in the strip are increasingly identified with the political left: snide bohemian intellectuals who mock traditional values, upper-crust class traitors who give money to communists, officious bureaucrats who hamper big business, corrupt labour union leaders who sabotage industry, demagogic politicians who stir up class envy in order to win elections, and busybody social workers who won’t let a poor orphan girl work for a living because of their silly child labor laws. Gray started to identify liberalism with elitism, a…

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April 29, 2009, 10:52 am

I’m laughing. And ashamed.

This is the good stuff—undiluted crazy ignorance—as peddled on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.

FDR wanted so badly to cause the Depression he traveled back in time to get a bad law passed, and for good measure, took a side trip so he could pick up the Reverend Spooner to make the name of the act even sillier.

For bonus points, Coolidge was apparently president during the recession of 1920-21.


April 27, 2009, 10:46 am

“The pretense of debate.”

[Editor's note: Our good friend, awc, elaborating on this comment, sends along the following from the far eastern edge of the American West. Thanks, awc.]

Politico’s recent feature on Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man is an example of one of my pet peeves: the evaluation of economic policy in terms of statistical factors like growth, the stock market, and unemployment rather than systemic qualities like equality. The piece discusses the popularity of the book among D.C. conservatives, briefing mentioning Professors Rauchway and Krugman, who have skillfully defended the efficacy of New Deal recovery policies. When Shlaes responds that she intended the book to question the ethics of the New Deal, not just its utility, Politico simply drops the pretense of debate. They ask neither scholars nor ordinary folks to evaluate her celebration of the poor beleaguered corporation. The…

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April 23, 2009, 9:17 am

How denialism works.

The problem with Politico reporting of Amity Shlaes’s Forgotten Man that

Critics of the book, including economist Paul Krugman and historian Eric Rauchway, have challenged Shlaes’ use of data, noting, for example, that the unemployment statistics she uses do not count Works Progress Administration jobs. Shlaes defends her approach, arguing that make-work jobs are not evidence of economic growth and noting that President Barack Obama recently used the same data series she did in discussing unemployment during the Great Depression.

is not that it’s “they-said, she-said” journalism, but that it’s an inadequate representation of the truth. It’s not just Shlaes versus a famously shrill Nobelist and some dude at an ag university; it’s Shlaes versus the accepted academic consensus.

As previously noted, if you were a sufficiently honest and competent researcher located like Amity Shlaes …

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April 6, 2009, 7:21 pm

It’s about you.

That’s the program title. If you’re really, really interested in listening to me talk about the New Deal at some length, with France Kassing on our local one and only KDVS, it’s here.

March 31, 2009, 6:44 pm

You can’t eat hope.

Wednesday night at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, I’ll be introducing—probably with a very, very short introduction—a double bill of Our Daily Bread and The Plow that Broke the Plains. You can find details here.

They’re pretty remarkable films, released only two years apart, but what a two years. The wild, really kind of crazy and fantastic hope1 in Our Daily Bread yields to the brutal, dismal—I don’t know if I want to say realistic per se, but certainly more realistic and inconclusive picture of The Plow that Broke the Plains. Just as, broadly speaking, you could say the New Deal went from the idea of We Can (and Should) Do Anything to We Need to Work within Clear Limits over the same period.

Really, I guess you should watch Vidor’s fable first and then Lorentz’s documentary.

Anyway, I’ll have something to say in this line tomorrow night.

1Which is described as …

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March 20, 2009, 3:12 pm

Just when I thought I was out.

It’s hard to exaggerate the incoherence of the WSJ editorial, “FDR’s Conservative 100 Days”. The authors write that Obama’s program “has been likened by the president himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous first 100 days. But FDR did not launch his New Deal with a program that roiled financial markets.” No: he shut down the banks, and reopened about eighty percent of them with federal assurance that they were sound. This helped restore confidence in the American financial system.

And, FDR said, “I hope you can see from this elemental recital of what your government is doing that there is nothing complex, or radical in the process.”

The authors also quote Raymond Moley saying, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the policies which vanquished the bank crisis were thoroughly conservative.” And then they add mention of the Economy Act, which cut the budget dramatically.

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March 17, 2009, 1:06 pm


Jesse Jones, head of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, writes of how the New Deal dealt with an insurance company.

The RFC acquired voting control of Maryland Casualty in April, 1934, when we first bought preferred stock in the Company. At that time we sent Silliman Evans to Baltimore to take the presidency of the company and Edward G. Lowry, Jr., of our legal department, to be its vice president and special counsel, each being elected as director. Mr. Evans later became chairman of the board…. When we got into the company, the situation was so much worse than had been represented that we felt it necessary to replace the management.1

I imagine this would have some present-day relevance to a White House stuck with an insurance company whose position turned out much worse than represented.

Then there is this to consider:

For political reasons, Jesse Jones often toyed with the …

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February 24, 2009, 9:52 am

We talked about some old times.

A student points me to Ron Paul on the 1920-21 depression.

In 1921 we had a severe depression; it was over in one year. A little bit later in the 30s we had another one but then the government decided to do all these things, bail everybody out. Exactly what we’re doing now and it prolonged the correction.

The implication is that in 1921 the government didn’t “do all these things”. But of course the government did adopt policies to restrict trade and immigration.

Interestingly, two of the first Hoover administration responses in 1930 were to restrict trade and immigration.

I think the lesson one would draw here is that policymakers, seeing that restricting trade and immigration went along with a swift end to the 1921 recession, tried them again in 1930. But they didn’t work. I don’t see any reason to conclude that the government opted not to intervene in 1921 and to…

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February 18, 2009, 10:10 am

Observe the historian in Nature.

… which is not his natural habitat.

February 9, 2009, 7:05 pm

Push that window.

Please address any further questions you have about the New Deal to President Barack Obama:

there are several who have suggested that FDR was wrong to intervene back in the New Deal. They’re fighting battles that I thought were resolved a pretty long time ago.

You can throw in what SpongeBob’s buddy Patrick would call a “sentence enhancer” if you want.

February 9, 2009, 1:24 pm

He’s everywhere.

Eric’s book on the Depression and New Deal is the subject of this week’s book club at TPM café. So if you don’t see enough of him here, or you want to learn how FDR actually caused the Depression, you might want to stop by over there.

February 8, 2009, 11:20 am

What’s above the fold? (special below-the-fold edition)

Some doofus, of course.