By BOB CHAFFIN
When I hear politicians, pundits and conservative columnists rendering opinions that FDR’s New Deal, “really didn’t bring us out of the depression,” I wonder how they know, or if they really know anything about the Economic Policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Tell the countless families in the Tennessee Valley and the millions of farm families who benefited from the Rural Electrification Administration that the policies of FDR did not work. Tell the 2.5 million men and women who worked in the CCC Camps and the 8 million workers on WPA projects that the New Deal did not work; tell the more than 1 million Americans who were able to finance a modest but sturdy home that it did not work. Tell the farmers who were able to regain the family farm that had been lost to foreclosure, and they would all say, “It worked for me.”
I wonder how deep this recession might have gotten if the Federal Deposit Insurance Agency (FDIC) had not been in place, thereby guaranteeing the safety of the checking, savings, and Certificates of Deposit each of us had in our local bank. I wonder if this did not prevent a mass panic like that in the 1930s that caused bank after bank across this country to fail. I wonder what it would be like today if you and I had pulled every last cent out of the banks last August.
I even wonder what the climate around us would be like today without Unemployment Insurance that softened the crash for so many Americans who have already lost their jobs; and without Social Security which has provided a minimum standard of living for the old and infirm for more than half a century
Oh, certainly everything FDR tried did not work, nor did he have a grand vision on day one – but he did something. If one thing did not work, he tried another. And he kept trying until circumstances eventually changed America. What he did not and would not tolerate was inaction – doing nothing. He made some mistakes and some of the things he enacted were later declared to be unconstitutional and repealed, but he was not suffering from a terminal case of the paralysis of analysis; he was a man of action. He did something, he tried something, and having done my senior college thesis on his economic policies, it really pains me to hear mindless TV pundits issue seemingly authoritative, but actually ignorant, opinions as to the failure of FDR’s policies, when they stand daily in the sunshine of benefit of those very policies.
Finally, I wonder what it would be like today if the policies he put in place to watch over banking and Wall Street trading, and to regulate transportation and public utilities had not been systematically dismantled over the past 30 years. Would we even be having this crisis? Perhaps, but perhaps not.
Editor’s Note: Bob Chaffin resides in Lebanon.