the radical character of the new deal -- 4/13/20
Today's selection -- from Capitalism in America by Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge. The radical character of the New Deal:
"While trying to fix the wiring of capitalism FDR devoted his first hundred days to putting people back to work. He proposed a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to employ a quarter of a million young men in forestry, flood control, and beautification projects. He also proposed a Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) to allocate federal unemployment assistance to the states. He engaged in bold regional development, most notably creating the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), to spur economic development in one of the country's most backward regions.
"FDR completed his hundred days with what he regarded as 'the most important and far-reaching legislation ever enacted by the American Congress' -- the National Industrial Recovery Act. NIRA proposed federal regulation of maximum hours and minimum wages in selected industries and -- more radical still -- provided workers with the right to unionize and strike. The bill also called for the creation of two new organizations, the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA). The NRA was responsible for implementing a vast process of government sponsored cartelization: regulating production in entire industries and raising prices and wages according to government fiat. The NRA not only suspended America's antitrust laws, it essentially organized the country's industry into a network of government-mandated trusts, an astonishing break with American tradition. The PWA created an ambitious public construction program. When he signed the final bills that emerged from Capitol Hill on June 16, FDR remarked rightly if a little immodestly that 'more history is being made today than in (any) one day of our national life.'
|William Gropper's "Construction of a Dam" (1939)
"The NRA's twin for rural America was the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which was supposed to prevent 'overproduction' and stabilize farm prices. Americans had been leaving the land for decades as new machinery reduced demand for human muscle and city jobs offered higher wages. The 1930s added two complications to this process. Agricultural workers were forced to stay in the countryside because there were no jobs in the cities; and European demand for America's agricultural products was reduced by Smoot-Hawley. The result was that rural poverty was often even more serious than urban poverty. FDR tried to solve the problem by limiting production (by paying farmers not to produce) and boosting prices.
"Action inevitably produced reaction, from the left as well as the right. Norman Thomas, the perennial Socialist presidential candidate, dismissed the New Deal as an attempt 'to cure tuberculosis with cough drops.' Robert La Follette, the governor of Wisconsin, a state with a long tradition of Progressivism (some of it colored by the large number of Scandinavians who settled there, with their strong commitment to good government and social equality), argued that FDR needed to go much further in securing an equitable distribution of wealth. Upton Sinclair, the muckraking novelist, ran for governor of California on a program of confiscating private property and abolishing profit. Another Californian, Francis Townsend, hitherto an obscure physician, became a national figure with his plan to pay everyone two hundred dollars a month, the equivalent of an annual payment of forty-five thousand dollars in today's money, to retire at sixty. Opinion polls showed that 56 percent of the population favored Townsend's plan, and a petition calling on Congress to enact the plan into law gathered 10 million signatures. On the right, William Randolph Hearst took to calling FDR 'Stalin Delano Roosevelt' in private, and his editors took to substituting 'Raw Deal' for 'New Deal' in news coverage. 'Moscow backs Roosevelt,' declared a headline in one of Hearst's twenty-eight newspapers during the 1936 election campaign."