Sunday, January 25, 2009

Depressing Facts

Today somebody on Mish's blog linked to this article that de-romantacizes, er de-bunks, the glory of FDR's New Deal *success*:
By 1931 unemployment was at 16.3% of the workforce, peaking at 25.2% on FDR's inauguration in 1933. Yet by 1938, unemployment was still a staggering 19.1% of the workforce, and in 1939 it remained stubbornly at 17.2%.

And how about this:
Why eight years of Roosevelt economic policy produced such disastrous economic recovery results, is the crucial question. The answer appears to be that the group of men who advised the President on economic and social policy during the peace years of the Depression, were focussed on a broad social agenda, one of using the depression crisis to shift the United States from a market economy, which they contemptuously termed "laissez-faire capitalism," towards a State-dominated economy of central planning.

A *broad social agenda*???

Does that ring any present-day bells?

Full Disclosure - for a chunk of my whormonal youth I too was hellbent on a personal *broad social agenda*.

Now, if you have any lingering doubt that FDR was a full-fledged communist (or at least that's who he delegated to) then read a bit of this lengthy excerpt:
'A new deal'

In his Presidential acceptance speech in 1932, Roosevelt promised "a new deal for the American people." The term was taken from a 1932 book by the same name, "A New Deal," written by Stuart Chase. That book rapidly disappeared from the shelves after Roosevelt's election. Its contents were the currency of White House economic policy discussion by Tugwell and other central planners around the new President.

Chase, along with Tugwell and Robert Williams Dunn, had jointly written a report, "Soviet Russia in the Second Decade," following their 1927 travel to Stalin's Russia.

In his 1932 book, "A New Deal," Chase argued that the earlier transition out of feudalism into what he called laissez-faire capitalism, was essentially over. The era of Trusts, monopolies, capital concentration by large banks, must now give way to central or collective planning. Chase wrote, "modern industrialism, because of its delicate specialization and interdependence, increasingly demands the collectivism of social control to keep its several parts from jamming. We find a government meeting that demand by continually widening the collective sector through direct ownership, operation and regulation of economic functions." He adds, "Competition is perhaps a good thing—in its proper place. Where is its proper place? Collectivism is beyond peradventure on the march."

Much of Chase's book was filled with fulsome praise for Stalin’s Russian model of central planning and its achievements, reflecting the fascination of numerous younger American intellectuals in the early 1930's.

In his "A New Deal," intended as a kind of blueprint for the Roosevelt campaign, Chase advocated what he called, "The Third Road, a road which runs neither to red dictatorship nor to black (business)." Chase proclaimed that under the Third Road, "private profit will not furnish the happy hunting ground it used to. State trusts, investment control, the curbing of speculation, will choke the muzzle of the more devastating forms." He also proposed drastic economic controls, an eerie harbinger of what would come to pass under the Federal Reserve of Alan Greenspan: "The Federal Reserve will take over the control of currency, the stock exchanges, banks and domestic investment... A new Foreign Trade Corporation will supervise exports, imports and foreign loans. Public works will undoubtedly be centralized in one department..."

Leaving no doubt that his sentiments were not market-oriented in any way, Chase concluded his tract by stating, "We can go on, however...without violent revolution...if we are willing to halt expansion, and organize industry on the basis of using to the full the equipment we now possess. This is the program of the third road. It is not an attempt to bolster up capitalism, it is frankly aimed at the destruction of capitalism, specifically in its most evil sense of ruthless expansion. The redistribution of national income, the sequestration of excess profits, and the control of new investment are all designed to that end." Little wonder that Chase was given a very discreet background policy role in FDR's inner circle. This was explosive stuff for the American public, even in an economic depression.

After leaving Harvard in 1910, Chase had joined the Boston Fabian Club and went to Chicago to work in Jane Addams' Hull House. As a young bureaucrat with the Federal Trade Commission in 1917, Chase investigated charges against Armour & Co. meatpackers. This all shaped his social outlook, and the Soviet model gave it justification in terms of national planning. Chase first met Roosevelt in 1932, but his role was more as a writer than as a policy administrator in the New Deal. He held several official consulting posts in the New Deal, but was mainly influential through his good friend, Rexford Tugwell, and through his writings.

Rexford Guy Tugwell, the Columbia University economics professor who traveled with Chase in 1927 to the Soviet Union, was the central person of this collectivist group around FDR. Indeed, when it emerged that Tugwell was one of the inner circle of the new President, business leaders and newspapers began to research Tugwell's economic writings, and came away shocked, leading some to nickname him, "Rexford the Red."

As newspaper journalists began digging into Tugwell's published writings for clues as to what policies the new President Roosevelt was being given by his top advisers, they became alarmed.

In a paper in the American Economic Review March 1932, Tugwell wrote, that the quest for profit no longer motivated business, but that instead it produced "insecurity" because profits were, "used for creating over-capacity in every profitable line; they are injected into money market operations in such ways as to contribute to inflation; they are used, most absurdly of all, as investments in the securities of other industries." Tugwell proceeded further in his frontal assault on the core of the market private enterprise system which had created such extraordinary wealth and improvement of general living standards over the previous decade: "Industry is thought of as rather a field for adventure...The truth is profits persuade us to speculate." When such comments were widely reported in the Nation's media, they did little to bolster businessmen's confidence in the new Administration.

In discussing a proposal to introduce national economic planning, Tugwell wrote in 1932, "it seems altogether likely that we shall set up, and soon, such a consultative body...The day on which it comes into existence will be a dangerous one for business...There may be a long and lingering death (of the private profit enterprise—w.e.), but it must be regarded as inevitable." Private business, Tugwell added, "would logically be required to disappear. This is not an overstatement for the sake of emphasis; it is literally meant."

In October 1932, that is, one month before FDR's election, Rexford Guy Tugwell went on to formulate a six-point program for dealing with the depression crisis. Tugwell opposed wage cuts, then a common method of corporate cost cutting. He insisted, however, on reducing retail prices, and called for "drastic income and inheritance taxes," as well as "avoidance of budgetary deficits and monetary inflation." Obviously businesses could not possibly simultaneously maintain wage levels, reduce prices, and pay increased taxes, without risking bankruptcy in such crisis times. To this, Tugwell advocated, "the taking over by the government of any necessary enterprises which refuse to function when their profits are absorbed by taxation."

In brief, Tugwell's program, and this was planed, would first make it impossible for business to function, then bring those failed businesses under nationalization or state ownership. Tugwell concluded his 1932 program, "So long as prices, profits and individual production programs are at the disposal of independent business executives, our system will continue to show much the same faults as it displays at present." Tugwell endorsed Norman Thomas' League for Industrial Democracy program which called for a, "new social order based on production for use, not for profit."

Tugwell was strategically placed in 1933 as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, just under his recommended choice of Secretary of Agriculture, Iowa farm editor, Henry A. Wallace. Tugwell continued in the early months to have regular access to his old friend, FDR as well.

Now I haven't read the whole article yet but perhaps some of you shiftless folk can do so - and highlight other salient points.

FDR and "Uncle Joe"!

[That's ACTUALLY how FDR referred to mass murderer Joseph Stalin.]

Related blog posts:

I first slammed FDR 3.5 years ago in Poland And FDR's Depraved Indifference.

And my oft-visited, but plagiarized post - Depression Pics.

No comments: