Schlesinger On FDR, The Wealthy, And The New Deal

This is a rather long paragraph I’m quoting, but I think you’ll find it worth your time. It’s from Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s The Coming of the New Deal, first published in 1957 1958, pp. 496-497:

One American who was not much surprised was the President. He had known the rich too long and too well to take them very seriously. His upbringing as a Hudson River Squire had given him a sense of superiority over mere millionaires, and nothing he had seen in the years since Hyde Park and Groton led him to suppose that money conferred wisdom. He declined to pay the rich the compliment of fearing them. He thought rather that they inclined to be ignorant and hysterical. For a moment, perhaps, he had hoped that the humility induced by depression might endure. Certainly his attempt at business-government cooperation in 1933 was sincere enough. The “challenge to industry” implied in the National Industrial Recovery Act was still for him, in March 1934, “a great test” to see how business leaders could operate for the general welfare. But, in the meantime, he was losing faith in business motives. “Now that these people are coming out of their storm cellars,” he complained, “they forget that there ever was a storm.” He believed that a “rather definitely organized effort” had been made in the fall of 1933 to destroy the New Deal and it seemed to him that this drive was being renewed in the spring of 1934. Speaking at Green Bay, Wisconsin in August 1934, Roosevelt suggested that for a certain kind of businessman confidence could evidently be restored only by repealing all regulatory laws. “If we were to listen to him and his type, the old law of the tooth and the claw would reign in our Nation once more.” And business talk about “liberty” left him equally cold. “I am not for a return to that definition of liberty,” he said crisply in October, “under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few.”

Compare with Barack Obama and today’s Republicans… and weep for our nation.

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  • L'Enfant de la Haute Mer  On Thursday January 12, 2012 at 4:14 am

    The Decline Of America:

    “…..In parallel, the cost of elections skyrocketed, driving both parties even deeper into corporate pockets. What remains of political democracy has been undermined further as both parties have turned to auctioning congressional leadership positions. Political economist Thomas Ferguson observes that “uniquely among legislatures in the developed world, U.S. congressional parties now post prices for key slots in the lawmaking process.” The legislators who fund the party get the posts, virtually compelling them to become servants of private capital even beyond the norm. …

    “….The developing picture is aptly described in a brochure for investors produced by banking giant Citigroup. The bank’s analysts describe a global society that is dividing into two blocs: the plutonomy and the rest. In such a world, growth is powered by the wealthy few, and largely consumed by them. Then there are the ‘non-rich,’ the vast majority, now sometimes called the global precariat, the workforce living a precarious existence. In the US, they are subject to “growing worker insecurity,” the basis for a healthy economy, as Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan explained to Congress while lauding his performance in economic management. This is the real shift of power in global society.

    The Citigroup analysts advise investors to focus on the very rich, where the action is. Their “Plutonomy Stock Basket,” as they call it, far outperformed the world index of developed markets since 1985, when the Reagan-Thatcher economic programs of enriching the very wealthy were really taking off.

    Before the 2007 crash for which the new post-Golden Age financial institutions were largely responsible, these institutions had gained startling economic power, more than tripling their share of corporate profits. After the crash, a number of economists began to inquire into their function in purely economic terms. Nobel laureate in economics Robert Solow concludes that their general impact is probably negative: “the successes probably add little or nothing to the efficiency of the real economy, while the disasters transfer wealth from taxpayers to financiers.”

    By shredding the remnants of political democracy, they lay the basis for carrying the lethal process forward — as long as their victims are willing to suffer in silence. ”

    • Steve  On Thursday January 12, 2012 at 8:59 am

      Ah, yes, Chomsky. He is surely the man the wealthy love to hate. I do not know how old he is, but he has been speaking truth to power, and to the rest of us, for most of my life at least. It is interesting to contemplate how all of this will come out, but I confess I haven’t a clue: there is no real-world precedent for complete economic domination of the globe, only fiction such as Orwell’s 1984.

      It is small comfort, but faced with global climate change that they insist on ignoring, even the obscenely wealthy are certain to suffer in ways that we can imagine but they, apparently, cannot. As I said, that’s small comfort to us.

  • L'Enfant de la Haute Mer  On Thursday January 12, 2012 at 4:32 am

    As for us over here:
    “Greece Spends (generously) Bailout Cash On European Military Purchases”:

    • Steve  On Thursday January 12, 2012 at 9:21 am

      That is a sad commentary on the path Greece has apparently chosen. In 2009, America spent 36% of its GDP on “defense” including Iraq and Afghanistan. They don’t say how much America’s government spent on crowd control weapons like the LRAD, but those are being acquired as well, and have been deployed at least once against the Occupy movement… but so far the rumor is that the police have managed only to damage themselves with it. But why Greece is acquiring the weapons for a conventional war between nation-states is a puzzle to me; who besides Turkey is a threat to Greece?

      • L'Enfant de la Haute Mer  On Thursday January 12, 2012 at 9:28 am

        it is part of the blackmail of our friends the Europeans (France and Germany)… in order to give us the next part of the money..

        Concerning Chomsky: He is 83.
        .. and … I totally agree with you: “there is no real-world precedent for complete economic domination of the globe, only fiction such as Orwell’s 1984.”

        • Steve  On Thursday January 12, 2012 at 9:52 am

          Ah, yes… “austerity for all,” except the defense contractors. We hear that a lot here in America as well. Last year, when Congress finally resolved the issue of budget cuts after an agonizing battle involving outright blackmail by Republicans, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta wagged his finger and said no, defense cuts in any amount were completely unacceptable. It seems to be the nature of things today: the “military-industrial complex” of which Dwight Eisenhower warned us all has become the “military-industrial-governmental complex.” And national budgets around the world show it.

          Thanks for the word about Chomsky. We need him; I hope he lives forever!

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