Biden’s WPA

posted at 1:35 pm on September 16, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

I know the Democrats revere FDR, but Biden takes it a little too far this morning.  In an interview on CNBC, Biden proposes to solve the financial crisis by expanding government, calling in effect for another Works Projects Adminstration (WPA) — the New Deal agency that tried solving the Great Depression through public works projects (via William Amos):

For a crisis essentially created out of government interference, Biden offers nothing more than a “hair of the dog” solution.  He wants bankruptcy laws changed to force lenders to offer lower terms to people with higher risk, which is exactly what created this crisis in the first place. He claims to side with the man in the street against the shareholders, but his solution would create more crises like we face now, not less.

The idea of creating a new WPA is absolutely ludicrous.  The first WPA was a failure that only the outbreak of war eclipsed.  World War II tranferred money out of government hands to the private sector, which put millions of people to work much more efficiently than the charity-case WPA ever did.  Biden would pull capital out of the market in a crisis where it’s needed more than ever, and put it into the hands of government that would waste most of it on bureaucracies and little-needed makework.  That capital vacuum would pull down what’s left of the investment structure in the American economy.

Does Biden want to create solid jobs for Americans?  Let’s open the OCS and interior shale formations for drilling and refining.  That would employ millions of Americans, produce energy, keep American wealth inside the country, and establish energy stability to help drive the economy.  That doesn’t require government make-work jobs that burden American taxpayers and will create revenue for federal and state governments.


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why should their answer be any different?

They enjoy shooting themselves in their foot and if the foot bleeds use another bullet to staunch the bleeding….

*bang, bang*

sven10077 on September 16, 2008 at 1:38 PM

Thanks Ed :)

William Amos on September 16, 2008 at 1:38 PM

Would you expect anything less from the Senator from MBNA?

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on September 16, 2008 at 1:39 PM

Domestic policy idiot. Foreign policy genius idiot.

BadgerHawk on September 16, 2008 at 1:39 PM

“He wants bankruptcy laws changed to force lenders to offer lower terms to people with higher risk, which is exactly what created this crisis in the first place.”

hey — greasy joe never claimed to use that fabulous intellect of his on something as silly as, say, a MBA …
[or even basic market knowledge like supply and demand]
:-)

Buckaroo on September 16, 2008 at 1:40 PM

He also wants to take all those people who shouldn’t have gotten those loans and underwrite them at our cost.

drjohn on September 16, 2008 at 1:40 PM

Just what we need, a return to the Alphabet Soup agencies and economic policies of the 1930′s.

Drill_Thrawl on September 16, 2008 at 1:40 PM

Nothing was ever so stupid the first time around that a Denocrat won’t try it again, and again, and…. After all, it’s only the taxpayers’ money and lives.

AubieJon on September 16, 2008 at 1:40 PM

I DO agree that people should work for the assistance they are getting.

How about this: CUT welfare AGAIN, but then give an option to get MORE welfare if they work for it.

That can be as simple as picking up trash, pulling weeds, washing government buildings.

Let’s see how people react to earning more money, we’d benefit by GETTING SOMETHING for the money we hand out.

originalpechanga on September 16, 2008 at 1:41 PM

Um, FDR created Fannie Mae. We all see how well that outlived its usefulness.

carbon_footprint on September 16, 2008 at 1:43 PM

WPA, affectionate name during the depression ‘We Piddle Around’. How’s service at your local government office, hmmmmmmmmmmmm?

Limerick on September 16, 2008 at 1:44 PM

Don’t forget: we have an operation akin to the WPA. It’s called “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” The way it essentially works is this: The Government borrows money by the truckload from the Chinese and the Saudis. The money then is spent on making military hardware, ammunition and services provide by contractors like KBR and Blackwater, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. To prevent a buildup of unwanted military hardware, stuff is shipped out to the desert where it’s blown up by the enemy.

factoid on September 16, 2008 at 1:45 PM

WPA, affectionate name during the depression ‘We Piddle Around’. How’s service at your local government office, hmmmmmmmmmmmm?

Limerick on September 16, 2008 at 1:44 PM

My parents referred to it as “We Putter Around.”

Wethal on September 16, 2008 at 1:45 PM

Gee, I wonder why the Senator from “my state is slave. my state is a border state.” want something like this? Let’s dive backwards into history.

WPA (from Wikipedia)

The share of FERA and WPA benefits going to African Americans exceeded their proportion of the general population. The FERA’s first relief census reported that more than two million African Americans were on relief in early 1933, a fraction of the African American population (17.8%) that was nearly double the proportion of whites on relief (9.5%). By 1935, there were 3,500,000 African Americans (men, women and children) on relief, almost 30 percent of the African American population; plus another 200,000 African Americans adults were working on WPA projects. Altogether in 1935, about 40 percent of the nation’s African American families were either on relief or were employed by the WPA.

A familiar tone with Democrat “projects”.

Unlike the quite popular Civilian Conservation Corps, the WPA had numerous conservative critics. One of the principal criticisms leveled at the program was that it wasted federal dollars on projects that were not always needed or wanted.

Now this sounds like something Barry, with his Chicago background, could get behind!

The most serious criticism was that Roosevelt was building a nationwide political machine with millions of workers.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on September 16, 2008 at 1:47 PM

Let’s look deeply into the books of those who want to borrow from the Fed but let’s make it easier to default.

Right.

drjohn on September 16, 2008 at 1:47 PM

The more he talks, the more he drills himself into the ground. I think he ended up simultaneously contradicting himself and endorsing McCain toward the end there.

Do interviews on CNBC constitute a “cone of silence” around Biden?

forest on September 16, 2008 at 1:47 PM

originalpechanga on September 16, 2008 at 1:41 PM

why do you hate poor people, racist?

(good idea, actually)

lorien1973 on September 16, 2008 at 1:47 PM

As a “concerned christian conservative” (TM) I respectfully submit to you that Joe Biden is an idiot.

HawaiiLwyr on September 16, 2008 at 1:48 PM

You mean a new organization like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac???

right2bright on September 16, 2008 at 1:48 PM

Translation – we need more taxpayer dollars diverted to ACORN like poverty pimp organizations, so that they can work on electing more Democrats to office and lobbying for far left causes.

There will be no manual labor required of anyone. The “workforce” in question would be comprised of people incapable of doing productive work, i.e. the Democrat Party base.

And we know Democrats will not make their base work at anything other than “projects” designed specifically to aid the Democrat Party expand its power to steal from the American people.

NoDonkey on September 16, 2008 at 1:48 PM

“factoid on September 16, 2008 at 1:45 PM”

oh, piss off …

/don’t you have a photo of duh1 you need to go atare at?

Buckaroo on September 16, 2008 at 1:49 PM

I DO agree that people should work for the assistance they are getting.

How about this: CUT welfare AGAIN, but then give an option to get MORE welfare if they work for it.

That can be as simple as picking up trash, pulling weeds, washing government buildings.

Let’s see how people react to earning more money, we’d benefit by GETTING SOMETHING for the money we hand out.

originalpechanga on September 16, 2008 at 1:41 PM

You know, I hear there are lots of fruits and vegetables that need picking. I could be a dual solution for a couple of our problems.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on September 16, 2008 at 1:49 PM

Biden and his Marxist presidential candidate are simply prescribing a redistribution of the wealth, which is typical in the communist society they plan to establish.

rplat on September 16, 2008 at 1:49 PM

stare at …

Buckaroo on September 16, 2008 at 1:49 PM

After they implement the “right” to health care, the next “right” that the demos will be championing will be the “right” to home ownership.

rockhead on September 16, 2008 at 1:50 PM

Let us not forget that the senator from MBNA (now BofA) pushed for the bankruptcy bill that benefited the credit card companies and helped to trigger the current crisis.
Anyone who lets any contemporary Democrat anywhere near an economic issue is begging for personal poverty. Quickly.

either orr on September 16, 2008 at 1:50 PM

The model to fix government should be the L.A. Northridge quake in ’94. Instead of jumping up and starting a massive government construction project to fix all those collapsed freeways the state turned the project over to private bidding with incentives for quicker completion. Private enterprise ‘Seebee-d’ the job in record time. Angeleno’s would still be following the detour signs if Sacramento had run the project.

Limerick on September 16, 2008 at 1:51 PM

factoid on September 16, 2008 at 1:45 PM

So your saying you want the democratic version of Blackwater and Haliburton to run our economy like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae did ?

William Amos on September 16, 2008 at 1:51 PM

factoid on September 16, 2008 at 1:45 PM

Hey, at least I seeing dead bodies in caves and the desert. Tells me I’m getting something for my tax $$$ instead of directly handing it to deadbeats and illegals that download childrens in this country.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on September 16, 2008 at 1:51 PM

Let me see if I heard him correctly:

I sign a mortgage (contract) to repay x amount at y interest rate.

whaaaa… whaaaa… whaaaa… I can’t afford it!

Okay, you now have to pay back 1/2 of x at a rate of 1/2 of y.

That will certainly make money rush to that market to lend it out!

CC

CapedConservative on September 16, 2008 at 1:51 PM

you could create allot of job if you drill here drill now also building more refineries those are all good blue collar union jobs old Joe what about that .

Mojack420 on September 16, 2008 at 1:52 PM

Joe “Hey There! Remember Me?” Biden is the virtually living breathing epitome of the Old School Democrat: BIGGER GOVERNMENT, HIGHER TAXES, MORE GOVERNMENT IN YOUR LIFE, and all those other great and glorious ideals that have greatly, gloriously and miserably fallen flat on their faces over and over and over again, and still clowns like Biden will NOT learn.

pilamaye on September 16, 2008 at 1:54 PM

The lefties version of stimulus packages is spending money on pork projects. I much prefer the nice stimulus check that I can spend on clothes.

Illinidiva on September 16, 2008 at 1:55 PM

“you could create allot of job if you drill here drill now also building more refineries those are all good blue collar union jobs”

shh! don’t tell! they still haven’t figgered that out!

Buckaroo on September 16, 2008 at 1:56 PM

Biden offers nothing more than a “hair of the dog”…

You just had to weave something about hair in there. So many jokes………….

BacaDog on September 16, 2008 at 1:57 PM

Biden-isn’t that the guy that got the bankruptcy laws changed a while back in favor of his MBNA backers? Waffle time again?

Tom

marinetbryant on September 16, 2008 at 1:58 PM

Great job, Ed. Why can’t I hear stuff like this from McCain or the republican party in general?

tomk59 on September 16, 2008 at 2:00 PM

….and the democrats want to run health care?

rockhauler on September 16, 2008 at 2:01 PM

I tried to buzz this story, but after 3 tries with the screwy letters and numbers needed to submit it, I give up.

Connie on September 16, 2008 at 2:05 PM

Oh God, not the bankruptcy thing again….

If they change the bankruptcy code now to allow judges to rewrite mortgages, it’s the surest way possible to make sure that no capital of any amount returns to the mortgage market. Mortgage rates will go up by as much as two full percentage points.

Guess which special interest is supporting this disastrous policy change?

The trial lawyers. Bankruptcy filings will triple if this change becomes law. Full employment for bankruptcy lawyers.

rockmom on September 16, 2008 at 2:06 PM

Maybe his first great work project will be that bridge in Alaska he voted for.

Nosferightu on September 16, 2008 at 2:08 PM

”These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee.

lol.

mylegsareswollen on September 16, 2008 at 2:12 PM

So Joe Biden would take money out of the private sector where it might otherwise be used as capital for private enterprises that can increase in value and add to overall societal wealth, and give it to the government. The government can then dole the money out to unproductive people doing make-work jobs, an activity that produces zero wealth.

And they make fun of John McCain for having no understanding of economics?

Cicero43 on September 16, 2008 at 2:13 PM

”These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee.

lol.

mylegsareswollen on September 16, 2008 at 2:12 PM

They were not the problem, the problem is they caused the markets to screw up their risk valuation…

anyway whatever…if we are smart enough to reward the donks we deserve the depression we’ll get.

sven10077 on September 16, 2008 at 2:13 PM

Itrade has bambi revoering 2 points….McCain needs to spank him.

sven10077 on September 16, 2008 at 2:15 PM

Does anyone have a number for how much money people like Raines and Gorelick extracted from us taxpayers over the past 12-16 years?
I’m guessing we’re getting close to 1/4 trillion dollars but I haven’t found an analysis of the thievery yet.

NTWR on September 16, 2008 at 2:16 PM

I fixed the Buzz can now vote for this

William Amos on September 16, 2008 at 2:20 PM

Can anybody tell what’s wrong with this picture of Biden that was on the Drudge Report yesterday. Did he get a mild face lift? Botox? And when will he release his medical records, too?

Kokonut on September 16, 2008 at 2:25 PM

Almost seventy years, the message is the same and only the faces have changed.

Hope and Change my ass.

Bishop on September 16, 2008 at 2:26 PM

How about the Gang of Twenty’s greenie WPA nonsense?

doubleplusundead on September 16, 2008 at 2:27 PM

I remember reading a while back about some program under the WPA that involved hiring people to track down and interview Civil War survivors to capture and record as much of their memories as they could before they all died off. That may have been one of the few worthwhile efforts of WPA.

flipflop on September 16, 2008 at 2:35 PM

Ahh there’s some a that “Fresh Thinking” and “Change” Let’s all put on our spats and sing Woody Guthrie songs.

ronsfi on September 16, 2008 at 2:38 PM

Drill here, drill now, domestic oil production! Free Market JOBS galore for those willing to WORK HARD for a good living. No corporate fascism linking government ownership of private enterprise!

America’s 1930′s working class who benefited from FDR no longer exist ready to actually WORK for benefits amongst today’s welfare recipients.

Not to say they shouldn’t be required, only that they are not required to work for benefits. So Biden’s full of shit.

Romney promoted similar ideas in his list of campaign promises on his trail through Michigan and neighboring states. It didn’t work winning the majority of the nation’s Republican votes.

Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac are the PROOF that the government should steer absolutely clear of providing corporations via taxes that in turn ruin the American economy, not to mention corrupting whatever “purpose” for which they were created. When Fanny Mae was a novelty, it required those applying for loans to qualify to repay; no extravagance beyond means was possible. Low income applicants attempted to qualify for low income housing that was NOT government sponsored housing, but limited to the cheapest housing on the free market. But gluttony always accompanies government projects.

NO MORE TAX SUPPORTED PROJECTS! Not only did it ruin the programs and ruin the economy, it made housing costs inflate beyond reach of working Americans. LET HOUSING VALUES FALL WHERE THE FREE MARKET BEARS THE COSTS.

Do NOT avail our government with rights over free enterprise, particularly dealing with ENERGY!

maverick muse on September 16, 2008 at 2:38 PM

Ummmm, he talks like the unemployment rate is 26% not the 6% it is. This is NOT 1929! There are plenty of jobs out there, although if you’re someone like Biden who hasn’t had to apply for one in 40+ years, if ever, then I guess you wouldn’t know that.

And the only people suddenly unemployed this week are well-paid financial industry workers. Does he want a WPA for them?

Government needs to keep their mitts off of the economy and let it work itself out.

Common Sense on September 16, 2008 at 2:42 PM

1. I don’t believe that enough Americans will see the implications of something like a WPA2009, just like many won’t understand how taxing the “rich” more will hurt us all (well, those of us that aren’t getting welfare/handouts from the government).

2. Listening to politicians spout off about economics, Constitutional law, or “global warming”, is like asking the idiots (and dropouts) in Hollywood for life advice. Do you want the kids that were wrapped up in theater giving us their opinions about science, law and/or politics or the people that excelled in those subjects?

I get the feeling that most politicians are in politics because there is little else they could do without getting fired for incompetence.

As an aside, Al Gore was the dumb one of the group in college, and Tommy Lee Jones was the bright one. I know this directly from their other roommate.

Geministorm on September 16, 2008 at 2:42 PM

The lefties version of stimulus packages is spending money on pork projects. I much prefer the nice stimulus check that I can spend on clothes.

Illinidiva on September 16, 2008 at 1:55 PM

Unfortunately, also bad. True stimulus would be a reduction in marginal tax rates (even a temporary one). Borrowing money to hand out as rebate checks just drains capital out of the system (unless, of course, those checks are invested more wisely than the investors who bought the treasury bonds would have otherwise done).

Count to 10 on September 16, 2008 at 3:03 PM

Communomics does sound pretty good on the surface. As with most things, the devil is in the details. Someone on another thread brought up the analogy of a perpetual motion machine. Not in the strictest sense, but I think the economy does run in automatic. Create the sound foundational principles,create the structure, reduce to minimal, the forces that act as resistance, meter the energy into the system required to drive the system and to compensate for these resistances and let it go. Energy trumps resistance.

captivated_dem on September 16, 2008 at 3:12 PM

Biden’s WPA

JOE BIDEN = A BRAIN DEAD POLITICO

byteshredder on September 16, 2008 at 3:41 PM

My uncle was on the WPA in Oklahoma during the Depression. He said his job was building bridges. So he would go around burning down bridges just to make work.

True story.

Terrye on September 16, 2008 at 3:54 PM

Terrye on September 16, 2008 at 3:54 PM

Can we somehow blame Joe Biden (or at least FDR) for your uncle being an arsonist?

factoid on September 16, 2008 at 4:14 PM

anyone else notice that biden can’t count correctly in this video. 1,2,3,3

unseen on September 16, 2008 at 5:01 PM

FDR was the WORST PRESIDENT IN HISTORY beside Jimmy Carter

How FDR Made the U.S. Depression Worse
By Robert Higgs – thanks to the Mises Institute http://www.mises.org (graphics added):

Franklin Roosevelt “did bring us out of the Depression,” Newt Gingrich told a group of Republicans after the recent election, and that makes FDR “the greatest figure of the 20th century.” As political rhetoric, the statement is likely to come from someone who does not support a market economy. The New Deal, after all, was the largest peacetime expansion of federal government power in this century. Moreover, Gingrich’s view that FDR saved us from the Depression is indefensible; Roosevelt’s policies prolonged and deepened it.

There’s no doubt that Roosevelt changed the character of the American government–for the worse. Many of the reforms of the 1930s remain embedded in policy today: acreage allotments, price supports and marketing controls in agriculture, extensive regulation of private securities, federal intrusion into union-management relations, government lending and insurance activities, the minimum wage, national unemployment insurance, Social Security and welfare payments, production and sale of electrical power by the federal government, fiat money–the list goes on.

Roosevelt’s revolution began with his inaugural address, which left no doubt about his intentions to seize the moment and harness it to his purposes. Best remembered for its patently false line that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” it also called for extraordinary emergency governmental powers.

The day after FDR took the oath of office, he issued a proclamation calling Congress into a special session. Before it met, he proclaimed a national banking holiday–an action he had refused to endorse when Hoover suggested it three days earlier.

Invoking the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, Roosevelt declared that “all banking transactions shall be suspended.” Banks were permitted to reopen only after case-by-case inspection and approval by the government, a procedure that dragged on for months. This action heightened the public’s sense of crisis and allowed him to ignore traditional restraints on the power of the central government.

In their understanding of the Depression, Roosevelt and his economic advisers had cause and effect reversed. They did not recognize that prices had fallen because of the Depression. They believed that the Depression prevailed because prices had fallen. The obvious remedy, then, was to raise prices, which they decided to do by creating artificial shortages. Hence arose a collection of crackpot policies designed to cure the Depression by cutting back on production. The scheme was so patently self-defeating that it’s hard to believe anyone seriously believed it would work.

The goofiest application of the theory had to do with the price of gold. Starting with the bank holiday and proceeding through a massive gold-buying program, Roosevelt abandoned the gold standard, the bedrock restraint on inflation and government growth. He nationalized the monetary gold stock, forbade the private ownership of gold (except for jewelry, scientific or industrial uses, and foreign payments), and nullified all contractual promises–whether public or private, past or future–to pay in gold.

Besides being theft, gold confiscation didn’t work. The price of gold was increased from $20.67 to $35.00 per ounce, a 69% increase, but the domestic price level increased only 7% between 1933 and 1934, and over rest of the decade it hardly increased at all. FDR’s devaluation provoked retaliation by other countries, further strangling international trade and throwing the world’s economies further into depression.

Having hobbled the banking system and destroyed the gold standard, he turned next to agriculture. Working with the politically influential Farm Bureau and the Bernard Baruch gang, Roosevelt pushed through the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933. It provided for acreage and production controls, restrictive marketing agreements, and regulatory licensing of processors and dealers “to eliminate unfair practices and charges.” It authorized new lending, taxed processors of agricultural commodities, and rewarded farmers who cut back production.

The objective was to raise farm commodity prices until they reached a much higher “parity” level. The millions who could hardly feed and clothe their families can be forgiven for questioning the nobility of a program designed to make food and fiber more expensive. Though this was called an “emergency” measure, no President since has seen fit to declare the emergency over.

Industry was virtually nationalized under Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. Like most New Deal legislation, this resulted from a compromise of special interests: businessmen seeking higher prices and barriers to competition, labor unionists seeking governmental sponsorship and protection, social workers wanting to control working conditions and forbid child labor, and the proponents of massive spending on public works.

The legislation allowed the President to license businesses or control imports to achieve the vaguely identified objectives of the act. Every industry had to have a code of fair competition. The codes contained provisions setting minimum wages, maximum hours, and “decent” working conditions. The policy rested on the dubious notion that what the country needed most was cartelized business, higher prices, less work, and steep labor costs.

To administer the act, Roosevelt established the National Recovery Administration and named General Hugh Johnson, a crony of Baruch’s and a former draft administrator, as head. Johnson adopted the famous Blue Eagle emblem and forced businesses to display it and abide by NRA codes. There were parades, billboards, posters, buttons, and radio ads, all designed to silence those who questioned the policy. Not since the First World War had there been anything like the outpouring of hoopla and coercion. Cutting prices became “chiseling” and the equivalent of treason. The policy was enforced by a vast system of agents and informers.

Eventually the NRA approved 557 basic and 189 supplementary codes, covering about 95% of all industrial employees. Big businessmen dominated the writing and implementing of the documents. They generally aimed to suppress competition. Figuring prominently in this effort were minimum prices, open price schedules, standardization of products and services, and advance notice of intent to change prices. Having gained the government’s commitment to stilling competition, the tycoons looked forward to profitable repose.

But the initial enthusiasm evaporated when the NRA did not deliver, and for obvious reasons. Even its corporate boosters began to object to the regimentation it required. By the time the Supreme Court invalidated the whole undertaking in early 1935, most of its former supporters had lost their taste for it.

Striking down the NRA, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote that “extraordinary conditions do not create or enlarge constitutional power.” Congress “cannot delegate legislative power to the President to exercise an unfettered discretion to make whatever laws he thinks may be needed.”

[Image above: USS Potomac, The Presidential Yacht. The previous picture shows FDR fishing off his yacht - not too shabby for a depression era]

Despite the decision, the NRA-approach did not disappear completely. Its economic logic reappeared in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, reinstating union privileges, and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, stipulating regulations for wages and working hours. The Bituminous Coal Act of 1937 reinstated an NRA-type code for the coal industry, including price-fixing. The Works Progress Administration made the government the employer of last resort. Using the Connally Act of 1935, Roosevelt cartelized the oil industry. Eventually, of course, the Supreme Court came around to Roosevelt’s way of thinking.

Yet after all this, the grand promise of an end to the suffering was never fulfilled. As the state sector drained the private sector, controlling it in alarming detail, the economy continued to wallow in depression. The combined impact of Herbert Hoover’s and Roosevelt’s interventions meant that the market was never allowed to correct itself. Far from having gotten us out of the Depression, FDR prolonged and deepened it, and brought unnecessary suffering to millions.

Even more tragic is the lasting legacy of Roosevelt. The commitment of both masses and elites to individualism, free markets, and limited government suffered a blow in the 1930s from which it has yet to recover fully. The theory of the mixed economy is still the dominant ideology backing government policy. In place of old beliefs about liberty, we have greater toleration of, and even positive demand for, collectivist schemes that promise social security, protection from the rigors of market competition, and something for nothing.

“You can never study Franklin Delano Roosevelt too much,” Gingrich says. But if we study FDR with admiration, the lesson we take away is this: government is an immensely useful means for achieving one’s private aspirations, and resorting to this reservoir of potentially appropriable benefits is perfectly legitimate. One thing we have to fear is politicians who believe this.

The First Hundred Days
At the beginning of his administration, Roosevelt convened Congress in a special session and launched the New Deal with an avalanche of bills. Historians refer to this period as the “Hundred Days.” Roosevelt introduced a new notion of the presidency whereby the president, not Congress, was the legislative leader. Most of the bills he proposed set up new government agencies, called the “alphabet soup” agencies because of their array of acronyms.

AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Act)
Designed to help American farmers by stabilizing prices and limiting overproduction, the AAA initiated the first direct subsidies to farmers who did not plant crops. The United States Supreme Court later declared the AAA unconstitutional and an unnecessary invasion of private property rights.

CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps)
A public works project, operated under the control of the army, which was designed to promote environmental conservation while getting young, unemployed men off city street corners. Recruits planted trees, built wildlife shelters, stocked rivers and lakes with fish, and cleared beaches and campgrounds. The CCC housed the young men in tents and barracks, gave them three square meals a day, and paid them a small stipend. The army’s experience in managing and training large numbers of civilians would prove invaluable in WWII. Wisconsin was a beneficiary of the CCC; one of the organizations many local projects was trail construction at Devil’s Lake State Park.

TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority)
One of the most ambitious and controversial New Deal projects, the TVA proposed building dams and power plants along the Tennessee River to bring electric power to rural areas in seven states. Although the TVA provided many Americans with electricity for the first time and provided jobs to thousands of unemployed construction workers, the program outraged many private power companies.

NIRA (National Industrial Recovery Act)
The NIRA established the NRA (National Recovery Administration) to stimulate production and competition by having American industries set up a series of codes designed to regulate prices, industrial output, and general trade practices. The federal government, in turn, would agree to enforce these codes. In return for their cooperation, federal officials promised to suspend anti-trust legislation. Section 7A of the NIRA recognized the rights of labor to organize and to have collective bargaining with management. The NIRA was the most controversial piece of legislation to come out of the Hundred Days and many of its opponents charged it with being un-American, socialist, even communist, even though it did not violate the sanctity of private property or alter the American wage system.

Within two years, the Supreme Court declared the NIRA unconstitutional.

xler8bmw on September 16, 2008 at 5:06 PM

I have some experience of that wonderful program. My maternal grandparents lived on a corner in suburban Chicago. One of the streets was an important road, Kedsey Ave. The other was almost unused. The Works Project Administration decided that repaving the relatively unused road would be a good idea, maybe because it wouldn’t bother many people. My folks had a well and some shade. My grandfather allowed the workers to come into the yard to use the well. At any time one could expect to find a significant number of workers standing in the shade, conversing and drinking. When the road was paved, they would tear it up and repave. They did this for several cycles. It was a very useful project since it consumed a lot of concrete. Maybe the concrete supplier was a friend or relation of one of the bureaucrats.

burt on September 16, 2008 at 6:26 PM

I have an elderly aunt who is an FDR democrat. She thinks he’s some sort of diety. We visited Roosevelt’s summer home on Campobello Island and she had a look on her face that told me she had just entered the Holy of Holies.
Speaking of FDR, has anyone ever thought of where the money came from to finance all of FDR’s programs like the WPA since there was a depression on at the time? Somebody had some money someplace.

abcurtis on September 16, 2008 at 7:16 PM