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Forum Post: Ghost of the New Deal Haunts Democrats' Agenda, but It's Time to Summon FDR

Posted 7 years ago on Oct. 10, 2012, 5:59 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Ghost of the New Deal Haunts Democrats' Agenda, but It's Time to Summon FDR

Wednesday, 10 October 2012 00:00 By Richard D Wolff, Truthout | News Analysis


Obama and most Democrats are so dependent on contributions and support from business and the rich that they dare not discuss, let alone implement, the kinds of policies Roosevelt employed the last time US capitalism crashed.

While Bush's absence was obvious at the 2012 Republican convention, so was another president's absence at the Democratic convention. Romney banished Bush because his last year, 2008, linked Republicans in office with economic crisis and big bank bailouts: not a vote-getting association. The Democrats banished President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but for a different reason, and in a different way. They feared reminding people of what FDR did the last time US capitalism crashed. Obama and most Democrats are so dependent on contributions and support from business and the rich that they dare not discuss, let alone implement, Roosevelt-type policies. Obama's convention speech passingly referred to FDR's "bold, persistent experimentation." Obama said nothing about what FDR actually did in the last great collapse of capitalism, nothing about his policies' achievements or their shortcomings.

What FDR accomplished needs rescue from banishment by Obama and Democratic leaders. In the deep 1930s Depression, FDR massively assisted average Americans. He created the Social Security and unemployment compensation systems that directly helped tens of millions. His federal jobs programs provided jobs and incomes for additional tens of millions from 1934 to 1941. These "stimulus plans" helped average citizens with financial supports, jobs and paychecks. Those citizens then spent on goods and services that realized profits trickling up for businesses. FDR's trickle-up economics worked: far from perfectly, but better for most Americans than Bush's or Obama's policies.

Leading Democrats today lack the courage even to propose what FDR did. Obama keeps offering incentives for the private sector to hire more, but that policy failed over the last five years to return employment to pre-crisis levels. Obama refuses to expand Social Security as an anti-crisis policy. Instead, Obama and the Democrats pursue chiefly trickle-down policies: bail out banks and select mega-corporations, boost credit and stock markets with infusions of cheap money, and hope something trickles down to lift average peoples' incomes. Despite five years of failed trickle-down economics, Democrats today still fear to consider FDR's alternatives, acting as if they never happened.

Powerfully organized worker demands caused FDR's conversion to trickle-up economics. Stunningly successful Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) unionization campaigns in the 1930s coordinated with rising memberships, activities, and influences of socialist and communist parties. These forces demanded and obtained direct help for the mass of people, while some among them also advocated basic social change as the best crisis solution. Today, Obama and most Democrats try to repress emerging parallel forces such as Occupy Wall Street. They simultaneously excuse their weak, so-called "moderate" policies by blaming the supposed lack of public support for more progressive policies.

FDR leveraged and channeled organized worker pressures into a grand social compromise, his New Deal. It pleased majorities of the American public and of capitalists and the richest 5 percent. That won him repeated re-election. The New Deal got corporations and the wealthy to finance Washington's provision of help to average Americans in exchange for the CIO, socialists and communists muting demands within their ranks for system change. By warning capitalists and the rich that his New Deal was their only alternative to revolution along Soviet lines, FDR split their ranks and won support from many. He likewise got most in the CIO, socialist and communist parties to marginalize their anti-capitalism in return for a real social safety net. FDR never persuaded all capitalists and all the rich; serious, determined opposition arose. Likewise, dissenting socialists and communists persisted in fighting for basic economic and political changes. However, FDR's New Deal social compromise prevailed. Corporations and the rich thus paid high taxes and made large loans to finance Social Security, unemployment compensation and federal jobs programs. From the 1940s to the 1960s, corporate income tax rates and tax rates on high-income individuals were much higher than today. FDR took the money his policies needed from corporations and the rich. That's where the money was then, and that's where it is now. But unlike FDR, today's Democrats have no plan or program to get it. So, discussing what FDR actually did got banished from their convention.

Choosing trickle-up economics to cope with capitalism's crash was key to FDR being re-elected four consecutive times. No other president in US history had such success. After FDR's death, Republicans moved to limit presidents to a maximum of two consecutive terms. Like FDR, Obama rode a capitalist crash into power, but Obama risks being ridden out because of failed economic policies. Yet Democrats dare not offend their financial backers to follow FDR's way or even acknowledge its relevance.

The New Deal also had flaws that enabled it to be destroyed. Those capitalists and rich individuals who never welcomed the New Deal were determined to undo it once the war ended in 1945. Because FDR's compromise had preserved the capitalist system, shareholders and the boards of directors they selected kept their positions inside the structure of corporations. There, they retained the incentives and accumulated the power and resources to undermine the New Deal and its major supports. Sometimes these enemies of the New Deal shaped government policies: for example, to eradicate communist and socialist parties (McCarthyism, etcetera) or to weaken unions (Taft-Hartley, etcetera). Sometimes, corporate owners and leaders directly funded foundations, think tanks and organizations molding public opinion. As dissenting socialists and communists had warned about FDR's grand compromise: by leaving enterprises in the hands of major shareholders and their boards of directors, the New Deal had signed its own death warrant.

By the 1980s, corporations and the rich had sufficiently weakened labor and the left to more openly dismantle what remained of the New Deal. Market deregulation, tax cuts, neoliberalism, neo-conservatism and privatization were the new era's processes and watchwords - with Reagan as mascot. Because they developed no effective counterstrategy to affirmatively defend what the business community and the rich assaulted, Democrats lost parts of their electoral base and, thus, strengthened the Republicans. Keeping FDR's achievements away from their 2012 convention marked another step in the Democrats' decline.

Copyright, Truthout.



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[-] 5 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 7 years ago

Get out all those other people too! You know those other guys that also vote for the patriot act that created massive spy network on Americans. Those other guys that also helped start and fund the war in Iraq. Those other guys who helped pass indefinite detention laws. You know they're that other group that also supports the world's largest political prisoner system in the world. You know they also work for all those corporations and help pass trade agreements that ship jobs overseas. They also support the system that gives trillions of dollars to banks.

What are they called again? There's the republicans that do this but then there is this other group that passes these laws too. I forgot what they're called. You never seem to talk about what they help the republicans do.


[-] 2 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 7 years ago

replace some with a "few"

The many of them always said Bush was so terrible... but there was no impeachment. Not even after the repubs impeached their guy over a blow job. Bush kills a million people, democrats talked, but they did not impeach. Only the FEW tried to. The FEW like Dennis Kucinich. There is a huge difference between an Obama and a Kucinich. I

And to your bottom 2 listed... some of them on both sides have done that. McCain-Feingold is an example.

I'm cool with the few. It's the majority on both sides I have the problem with.

7 years of war under Bush but you are all calm with a guaranteed 6 years of war under Obama if he wins this election. Obviously Romney will only continue the wars and what not... but I am not supporting either of these people because they do not represent real solutions.

I just don't get how we can have websites that fact check all of these people, and so much of what they say is just a lie. We then have respectable analysts saying these guys are not proposing solutions to the problems they list.... and then people vote for them anyway. I don't get it. We even have primaries but everyone continually votes for who they see on tv the most.

Convincing Democrats and Republicans that both their leaders are wrong is just about as hard as convincing a Religious person that their God might not exist. Voting is not based on faith though. It's supposed to be based on facts which so many people seem to ignore because of how much they hate the other guy.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

The Republicans have been in congress for well over a century with a strong showing to this day. How is anyone going to get them out?

[-] 4 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 7 years ago

You're not. Thats the game. Thats the system. Keep the people chasing their tails.

That entire logic of divide and conquer, through the voting system, is what this entire system is not only functioning on, it was built on it.

And it shows no sign of slowing down.

[-] 2 points by DanielBarton (1345) 7 years ago

You dont you get more parties that people can vote to that will force them out

[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

So, by getting more parties for the people to vote for to force the Republicans out, those would have to be right leaning parties?

[-] 3 points by DanielBarton (1345) 7 years ago

yes but also no. Most people in the united states are moderates for example they are for gay rights but are financially conservative (not an exact measurement of all people). This being said they will not be libertarian parties but something else something that is both for social and for economic justice. It will be the party of the everyday man.

it will also affect the democratic party as more and more people are also fed up with their policies as well

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 7 years ago

At the rate they are going at this very point in time - they will oust themselves.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

I would like to see that but I don't think it's happening.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 7 years ago

People are leaving the party in droves and signing on as independents - time will tell.

[-] 1 points by ericweiss (575) 7 years ago

V O T E them out
what a hard question !
or you can stay here bitching about the imperfect Democratic party

[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

"V O T E them out" Right, good luck with that. There's a reason why it hasn't been done before and won't be done now. Unless you can prevent Republican supporting voters from voting, you're not voting anyone out. You couldn't do it in 2006 and you couldn't do it in 2008. The most you can do is continue to affect an ever changing percentage of the partisan majority. So bitch about the situation all you want, it's never going to change until the voters do.

[-] 1 points by ericweiss (575) 7 years ago

tell that to todd aiken

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

Like most everyone else, he already knows.


[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 7 years ago

Boot of proper size speed and momentum. ( and Hair Product )

[-] -1 points by Clicheisking (-210) 7 years ago

One party rule! How fascist of you.

[-] 3 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 7 years ago

FDR or not, neither of these parties has any balls to do anything. Period. Even talk about it. Tax/trade/monetary/foreign policies...you will not hear big ideas to dramitcally change things.

They are going to keep increasing the loopholes, putting our workers on an unfair stage, bowing to banks, and blowing things up.

It wasnt even the programs so much from FDR, it was about leadership. It was about someone who got going, and didnt give a fuck.

There is NONE of that today. And people dont seem to notice.

[-] 2 points by ericweiss (575) 7 years ago

Hopefully, Obama will channel FDR next week

[-] 1 points by PeterKropotkin (1050) from Oakland, CA 7 years ago

Good post. I almost put this up earlier

[-] 0 points by arturo (3169) from Shanghai, Shanghai 7 years ago

There still are some democrats who quite actively support a return to FDR's policies:

Return to FDR’s Glass-Steagall Standard Now! http://larouchepac.com/node/14706

[-] -2 points by Clicheisking (-210) 7 years ago

You need to re read history.