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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

 
Common sense

by digby


Michael Moore's site has posted this speech by FDR at Forbes Field in 1936. it certainly has resonance today. I've just excerpted a piece of it here:


When the new management came to Washington, we began to make our plans—plans to meet the immediate crisis and plans that would carry the people of the country back to decent prosperity.

You and I and everybody else saw the millions out of work, saw the business concerns running in the red, saw the banks closing. Our national income had declined over 50 percent—and, what was worse, it showed no prospect of recuperating by itself. By national income I mean the total of all income of all the 125,000,000 people in this country—the total of all the pay envelopes, all the farm sales, all the profits of all the businesses and all the individuals and corporations in America.

During the four lean years before this Administration took office, that national income had declined from eighty-one billions a year to thirty-eight billions a year. In short, you and I, all of us together, were making forty-three billions—spelled with a "b," not an "m"—forty-three billion dollars less in 1932 than we made in 1929.

Now, the rise and fall of national income—since they tell the story of how much you and I and everybody else are making-are an index of the rise and fall of national prosperity. They are also an index of the prosperity of your Government. The money to run the Government comes from taxes; and the tax revenue in turn depends for its size on the size of the national income. When the incomes and the values and transactions of the country are on the down-grade, then tax receipts go on the down-grade too. If the national income continues to decline, then the Government cannot run without going into the red. The only way to keep the Government out of the red is to keep the people out of the red. And so we had to balance the budget of the American people be-fore we could balance the budget of the national Government.

That makes common sense, doesn't it?

The box score when the Democratic Administration came to bat in 1933 showed a net deficit in our national accounts of about $3,000,000,000, accumulated in the three previous years under my predecessor.

National income was in a downward spiral. Federal Government revenues were in a downward spiral. To pile on vast new taxes would get us nowhere because values were going down-and that makes sense too.

On top of having to meet the ordinary expenses of Government, I recognized the obligation of the Federal Government to feed and take care of the growing army of homeless and destitute unemployed.

Something had to be done. A national choice had to be made. We could do one of two things. Some people who sat across my desk in those days urged me to let Nature take its course and to continue a policy of doing nothing. I rejected that advice because Nature was in an angry mood.

To have accepted that advice would have meant the continued wiping out of people of small means—the continued loss of their homes and farms and small businesses into the hands of people who still had enough capital left to pick up those homes and farms and businesses at bankruptcy prices. It would have meant, in a very short time, the loss of all the resources of a multitude of individuals and families and small corporations. You would have seen, throughout thpre Nation, a concentration of property ownership in the hands of one or two percent of the population, a concentration unequaled in any great Nation since the days of the later Roman Empire.

And so the program of this Administration set out to protect the small business, the small corporation, the small shop, and the small individual from the wave of deflation that threatened them. We realized then, as we do now, that the vast army of small business men and factory owners and shop owners—together with our farmers and workers—form the backbone of the industrial life of America. In our long-range plan we recognized that the prosperity of America depended upon, and would continue to depend upon, the prosperity of them all.

I rejected the advice that was given to me to do nothing for an additional reason. I had promised, and my Administration was determined, to keep the people of the United States from starvation.

I refused to leave human needs solely in the hands of local communities—local communities which themselves were almost bankrupt.

To have accepted that advice would have been to offer breadlines again to the American people, knowing this time, however, that in many places the lines would last far longer than the bread. In those dark days, between us and a balanced budget stood millions of needy Americans, denied the promise of a decent American life.

To balance our budget in 1933 or 1934 or 1935 would have been a crime against the American people. To do so we should either have had to make a capital levy that would have been confiscatory, or we should have had to set our face against human suffering with callous indifference. When Americans suffered, we refused to pass by on the other side. Humanity came first.

No one lightly lays a burden on the income of a Nation. But this vicious tightening circle of our declining national income simply had to be broken. The bankers and the industrialists of the Nation cried aloud that private business was powerless to break it. They turned, as they had a right to turn, to the Government. We accepted the final responsibility of Government, after all else had failed, to spend money when no one else had money left to spend.

I adopted, therefore, the other alternative. I cast aside a do nothing or a wait-and-see policy.

As a first step in our program we had to stop the quick spiral of deflation and decline in the national income. Having stopped them, we went on to restore purchasing power, to raise values, to put people back to work, and to start the national income going up again.

In 1933 we reversed the policy of the previous Administration. For the first time since the depression you had a Congress and an Administration in Washington which had the courage to provide the necessary resources which private interests no longer had or no longer dared to risk.

This cost money. We knew, and you knew, in March, 1933, that it would cost money. We knew, and you knew, that it would cost money for several years to come. The people understood that in 1933. They understood it in 1934, when they gave the Administration a full endorsement of its policy. They knew in 1935, and they know in 1936, that the plan is working.

...And now a word as to this foolish fear about the crushing load the debt will impose upon your children and mine. This debt is not going to be paid by oppressive taxation on future generations. It is not going to be paid by taking away the hard-won savings of the present generation.

It is going to be paid out of an increased national income and increased individual incomes produced by increasing national prosperity."


It's a great speech, filled with all the rhetoric a lot of us would love to hear today.I particularly enjoyed the explanatory pieces, which speak to the people like adults and doesn't use improper metaphors.

There is one little problem with all this, however. Under pressure from the fiscal hawks of the day, FDR cut the budget in his second term and the country went back into recession.

The Recession of 1937–1938 was a temporary reversal of the pre-war 1933 to 1941 economic recovery from the Great Depression in the United States. Economists disagree about the causes of this downturn, but agree that government austerity reversed the recovery from the 1929 Crash. Keynesian economists tend to assign blame to cuts in federal spending and increases in taxes at the insistence of the US Treasury, while monetarists, most notably Milton Friedman tended to assign blame to the Federal Reserve's tightening of the money supply in 1936 and 1937


Apparently, it's too much to ask that anyone ever learns from previous mistakes -- even the mistakes of our greatest leaders.


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