My cmnt: I agree with the author, Amity Shlaes, that FDR was a horrible president at home. As the transcript below shows he was a command-n-control, communist-loving autocrat when it came to battling the Great Depression, a depression that HE made great, by his domestic policies. Like Obama and especially O’Biden he handed out goodies from the treasury and by government policy to voting blocks who tended to vote democrat.
My cmnt: However I disagree that he was a great commander in chief. He and his hand-picked generals made bad decision after bad decision and cost America tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths by their bungling of the war. He wanted a war with Japan and so ignored cables alerting him to the upcoming Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and by his policies provoked them to attack. And he harbored our entire Pacific fleet making it easy pickings for the Japanese.
My cmnt: He was also a racist who showed his contempt for American citizens by sending 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent into POW camps he ordered constructed. If the press had micro-managed WWII like they did Vietnam we would have lost that war too. The only wars traitorous democrats will allow America to win are wars (like WWII and Korea) run by democrats.
In the 1940s, president Roosevelt led us to victory in world war II. That stunning achievement however obscures Roosevelt’s record in the 1930s. In the ‘30s, Roosevelt battled the great depression at home—and met defeat.
To understand how this happened, it helps to remember who Roosevelt was before he became president.
His passion was the sea. An experienced sailor, he knew every crack and cranny of the Atlantic coast. His first work in the federal government was as assistant secretary of the navy, where his mastery of the seas became evident to colleagues.
After serving as governor of New York, Roosevelt was elected president in 1932. The job confronting him was all land. America lay mired in the great depression. One in four was unemployed. Roosevelt made a promise: to put Americans back to work. He would help “the forgotten man,” the “man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”
To rescue America, the new president decided to steer the country like a ship in a storm, with himself as captain.
Just as a commander calms a nervous crew, Roosevelt told Americans to forget their fear. The only thing to fear, he said was fear itself. Roosevelt also promised to re-rig the economy and run it tight as a ship.
Roosevelt called his re-rig the New Deal, and made its military aspect explicit: this was “a call to arms” he said. The depression was an emergency for which Roosevelt claimed broad executive power. The downturn should be treated like a “foreign foe.”
Perhaps because Roosevelt didn’t like economics very much, the captain recklessly steered the economy into uncharted waters. Roosevelt opted for a command-and-control philosophy, never before tried in peacetime. and he gave himself the broadest possible license—a license to pursue, as he put it, “bold, persistent experimentation.”
Roosevelt called for government to manage industry.
New laws ordered companies to raise prices and wages—even when they couldn’t afford to do so. He slammed individual businessmen. He called big corporations “enemies of peace.”
Roosevelt was a man born into wealth. He imagined that he and his senior crew, his brain trust, could run the economy better than entrepreneurs.
For example, the new national recovery administration decided everything down to how many logs a lumberyard could cut, and at what time—or how many chickens a butcher might sell.
But in the storm of the 1930s, few dared mutiny. Maybe this was the way economies were now supposed to work. That’s what Roosevelt’s “experts” said.
Roosevelt subsidized farmers and created temporary jobs in the arts; social work experienced a boom. He promised pensions to seniors. That sounded good. And the New Deal backed organized labor’s demands for much higher wages. The recovery was just around the next bend, Roosevelt promised. All Americans had to do was wait for it.
As the years passed, however, the recovery stayed away.
For an economy is not like a battleship. An economy is more like a human. It makes choices. You can’t command an economy to grow—the economy has to feel like growing. Under the New Deal, the economy instead felt like hiding below deck. What company would hire up if it couldn’t pay the wages? Today we consider six percent unemployment a crisis. The overall unemployment stayed above ten percent throughout the decade.
So, if the New Deal broke its own promise, why did America give Roosevelt a second term in 1936?
One answer was that Roosevelt was indeed a charismatic captain, a man who did inspire. The new medium of radio allowed him to connect to millions of Americans merely by speaking into a microphone.
Second, Roosevelt convinced the nation that crisis was indeed the new normal.
Third, money was involved—the New Deal systematically rewarded voting blocs, whether seniors, laborers, or farmers. These groups expressed their thanks with their votes.
And finally, Roosevelt was a man of extraordinary personal will. Confined to a wheelchair by polio, Roosevelt did not allow obstacles, political or otherwise, to deter him. If he wanted something, he went after it and usually got it. That included his New Deal.
By the 1940 election, the big issue was a war across the Atlantic. Here was a realm where a navy man was a strong choice. And once Roosevelt turned to war, he eased up on business, and instead hired companies to build him ships, planes, and guns.
Still, the facts are important to remember. We can praise President Roosevelt’s war service all we like. But there’s no way around that New Deal record. President Franklin Roosevelt himself put the “great” in the great depression.
I’m Amity Shlaes, author of The Forgotten Man, for Prager University.