Happy Birthday to the man on the dime

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States, was born today in 1882.

To mark his birthday, here is an excerpt from his July 2, 1932 “New Deal” speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

There are two ways of viewing the Government’s duty in matters affecting economic and social life. The first sees to it that a favored few are helped and hopes that some of their prosperity will leak through, sift through, to labor, to the farmer, to the small business man. That theory belongs to the party of Toryism, and I had hoped that most of the Tories left this country in 1776.

The guy on the right is on the dime. The guy on the left isn't. There's a reason for that.

But it is not and never will be the theory of the Democratic Party. This is no time for fear, for reaction or for timidity. Here and now I invite those nominal Republicans who find that their conscience cannot be squared with the groping and the failure of their party leaders to join hands with us; here and now, in equal measure, I warn those nominal Democrats who squint at the future with their faces turned toward the past, and who feel no responsibility to the demands of the new time, that they are out of step with their Party.

Yes, the people of this country want a genuine choice this year, not a choice between two names for the same reactionary doctrine. Ours must be a party of liberal thought, of planned action, of enlightened international outlook, and of the greatest good to the greatest number of our citizens.

Now it is inevitable – -and the choice is that of the times — it is inevitable that the main issue of this campaign should revolve about the clear fact of our economic condition, a depression so deep that it is without precedent in modern history. …

… My program, of which I can only touch on these points, is based upon this simple moral principle: the welfare and the soundness of a Nation depend first upon what the great mass of the people wish and need; and second, whether or not they are getting it.

What do the people of America want more than anything else? To my mind, they want two things: work, with all the moral and spiritual values that go with it; and with work, a reasonable measure of security–security for themselves and for their wives and children. Work and security–these are more than words. They are more than facts. They are the spiritual values, the true goal toward which our efforts of reconstruction should lead. These are the values that this program is intended to gain; these are the values we have failed to achieve by the leadership we now have.


"You know, two years ago, I never would have thought I would tweet "Fuck you, ..."

Sunday favorites
"I've been encouraging people to treat gun nuts like the shit-stains they are. They are ..."

Sunday favorites
"Cognitive dissonance.Fox News hosts defend caging children, say they merely 'built walls out of chain-link ..."

Sunday favorites
"Yes, Saints Row has the benefit of being a SMALL open world. And even then ..."

Sunday favorites

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Anonymous

    The New Deal started in 1933.  That’s also when the national economy started to recover.  I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, though.

    Better luck next time.

  • Anonymous

    Beatrix was an asshole.  This guy’s just terminally clueless.

  • Porlock Junior

    Then, there’s Garry Wills’s summation: The trouble with FDR (and with the First Lady as well) is that they weren’t traitors *enough* to their class.

    But I guess that’s part of the More Complicated, so you already said it. It doesn’t keep them from greatness.

  • matri- ?? I can’t imagine you’re saying it was good to not let jews escaping the nazis in great numbers into the US.

    ” accomplish its goal of parity (raising crop prices to where they were in the golden years of 1909-1914), the Act had to eliminate surplus production.”

    it was a depression there was suppposed to be downward momentum on prices. what’s more important feeding and clothing starving people or bring prices back to the glory days of ww1??

    turcano- the economy started to recover some time AFTER ww2, not 1933.  

  • it was a depression there was suppposed to be downward momentum on prices. what’s more important feeding and clothing starving people or bring prices back to the glory days of ww1??

    You say that as if the Depression was a desirable and planned thing, which it was not. Part of getting out of the Depression was causing prices to rise, to reverse the downward momentum on prices. Rising prices meant rising production meant rising jobs meant rising wages meant rising consumption meant rising prices and etc. Rising prices was the whole goal of the New Deal, on some level. 

    Now, you can argue that feeding and clothing freezing, starving people would have been a more noble endeavor, and you may well be right. However, in order to do that consistently and not as a one time thing (because doing it as a one time thing would have saved people right then, but doomed them thereafter), you would need a different style of economy. Essentially, what you’re saying is that FDR was not sufficiently socialist in his approach to the Depression. Happens that lots of people agree with that argument – most of them are socialists and communists, and thus unlikely to vote for Ron Paul – but I don’t think that’s really what you’re trying to argue. I don’t think you’re trying to argue that because it would be inconsistent to say that Roosevelt should have gotten out of the way and allowed free market capitalism to work and also to say that Roosevelt should have taken broader steps to destroy free market capitalism.

    Roosevelt contended that he was saving capitalism by tweaking the markets. The alternatives were stark – fascism on the right and socialism on the left – and there were big movements from both sides of the debate in the US during the 1930s. For good or ill, Roosevelt shut them down by actually capturing the excluded middle. 

  • I bow to no one in my dislike of Rand and her entire scam passing itself off as a worldview

    I’m not sure “scam” is the best way to describe what Rand was up to — I think she really believed what she was writing.  The problem with Objectivism is that it’s basically just Narcissistic Personality Disorder packaged as philosophy.  Check out the DSM-IV criteria for that diagnosis: it reads like a capsule summary of Ayn Rand’s biography.  Diagnosis requires at least five out of the nine criteria; Ayn Rand displayed nine out of nine.  (I’ve been reading about this because, unfortunately, my youngest brother also scores nine out of nine criteria for a diagnosis of NPD.)

  • Anonymous

    “I’m glad you agree FDR was wrong about not letting jews escaping hitler into the country.”

    Are you going to agree it would have been wrong to stay out of WWII? Because I find your playing the “jews escaping hitler” card highly offensive after your stated preference in the other thread that the US not enter WWII and that “To some people I’m sure FDR was a great beacon of hope and light but to others he was more like the american version of Mussolini. Mussolini light” and “The fascists and FDR and the federal reserve and all this was all the same thing.”

  • turcano- the economy started to recover some time AFTER ww2, not 1933.  

    If you look at the graphs, you’ll see the lines tracking annual real GDP and unemployment are steepest — which means changing the fastest — around 1941.  Which means GDP was rising and unemployment was dropping fastest before the U.S. entered the war in December of that year.  Obviously, something other than war preparations must have brought about that change.

  • To be fair, defence spending began ramping up during 1940, when the USA began seriously Lend-Leasing its stuff to Britain. In effect, then, demand for goods and services was generating its own supply.

    Just as Keynes predicted so long ago.

  • Solandis

    Also should point out the Recession of 1937-1938. A Keynesian (like me)
    attributes this to the budget cuts that Roosevelt was persuaded to
    implement in 1937, since the economy was beginning to recover. After
    Roosevelt increased spending, the economy began to improve, and this continued into the run-up to WWII.

  • Anonymous

    I think after a certain point, someone who is terminally clueless about certain sensitive issues is being an asshole by wading into them over and over. It’s not the direct rudeness of a Beatrix, who just comes in here and spews as many slurs as she can, but it’s the rudeness caused by insensitivity and callousness. It’s rudeness caused by a disregard for the feelings and experiences of other people.

    I don’t know enough about (for example) transgendered people, so I don’t wade into discussions about or involving them to lecture them at length about how I, a cisgendered man, know what’s best for them and how they’re all wrong about their personal experiences and how I’m going to teach them what to think and what to feel. Because I don’t know any of that, and I know that I don’t know, and I would consider it an assholish thing for me to do since the only possible outcome is that I will annoy and hurt a great many people for no reason.

    It’s the same thing here, in my view. This guy demonstrably doesn’t know anything about (for example!) history and race relations in the United States. These things are extremely sensitive topics for a lot of people — if he didn’t know that before the last Ron Paul thread pretty much proved it. If he didn’t want to be an asshole, he would do some research, talk to some people, and try to get a better understanding before coming back here making smug, insensitive comments. But he doesn’t do that. Because he doesn’t care who he hurts, as long as he makes his point about Ron Paul or Ludwig von Mises or FDR or whoever he’s on about now.

    How is that not an asshole.

  • Also? In Canadian and British slang, a Tory meant a horse thief.

    Considering that in the 1700s and 1800s, horses were valuable beasts of burden, stealing a horse back then would be like stealing a car today – a real asshole thing to do to someone else.

    I think it highly appropriate that the right-wing movements of Canada and the USA who seem determined to safeguard the rich by effectively stealing from the poor have been termed “Tories”.

  • Base Delta Zero

    The New Deal didn’t cause the Great Depression, and the economy started to recover before WWII, so don’t use the “WWII fixed the economy” myth.

    Especially since that argument is basically based on the principle of ‘government spending does boost the economy – but only if it’s spent to kill people.’

    Raisin’ a glass to class traitors everywhere.  Even when they are More Complicated than the heroes we might want.

    What about lower class Republicans?  Aren’t they ‘class traitors’.

    Without knowing the food supply situation in the USA (was there a huge oversupply to the point where adding even more food would have been pointless?

    The problem wasn’t a lack of food.  It was a lack of money (for people to buy food with)

    Oh, that’s right: Your hero, Ron Paul.”

    But his isolationism still allows for special forces operations and provoking rebellions, of course (albeit only against Muslims).

  • “Part of getting out of the Depression was causing prices to rise, to reverse the downward momentum on prices.”

    you’re treating the symptoms like they were the causes. like what they’re doing with housing now. let the prices fall. it’s called a correction for a reason.

    “Rising prices meant rising production”

    except in this case when rising prices relied solely on lowered production.

    “Essentially, what you’re saying is that FDR was not sufficiently socialist in his approach to the Depression.”

    millions of sharecroppers were liquidated in this era, why them and not others? let the farms go bankrupt, import food, when the economy comes back farms come back.

  • One data point that may suffice: net capital formation since WW2 has typically been about 10% of GDP in the USA. However, during the 1970s it rose to around 12%.


    The inflation of the era portended rising prices. Some businesses took this as their incentive to begin expanding supply by increasing fixed capital investment, feeling they could sell into a market for more money than previously.

    FDR was attempting to, in essentials, do the same thing in the 1930s: force prices up in the hopes that businesses would begin to expand again, selling into a market that would bring in more value per item sold rather than less.

  • comparison with the 70’s is apt. had it been tried before?

  • Anonymous

    Since you like charts so much, here’s one for real GDP per capita from 1920 to 1950.  You may notice that the low part of the chart, and the point where GDP starts to rise again, is 1933.

    Please do the rest of us a favor and actually do some research before you say something stupid, as it’s become abundantly clear that your history teacher did you a disservice.

  • Anonymous

    Forgot to add the chart.

  • There’s also the case of Sweden, which adopted Keynesian policies as soon as a Labour type government got into power and reached 1929 levels of production by 1934-1935, and continued to run deficits for some years afterwards to keep the economic recovery going.

    In short, such policies work when given the right boost by governments.

  • tucano- I would measure the great depression in unemployment not GDP.

    also, Did anyone ever stop and think that at one point we not only had the great depression but prohibition? rough stuff 

  • Anonymous

    If you want to use unemployment as the metric, here’s a graph for unemployment from 1929 to 1941.* Guess what year unemployment starts to fall?  (Hint: not after WW2.)

    Source: http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1528.html

  • it was still pretty high though.

  • Anonymous

    So something needs to have sudden and immediate results in order to be effective now?  You have a real problem with the perfect being the enemy of the good.

  • vsm

    The alternatives were stark – fascism on the right and socialism on the
    left – and there were big movements from both sides of the debate in the
    US during the 1930s

    I don’t really know about Anarchist activity during the period, but weren’t American Communists mostly on Roosevelt’s side, if grudgingly, following the Soviet Union’s policy of popular frontism?

  • Some of the Communists supported some of what Roosevelt was doing once the WPA got firmly underway, although the general consensus was that it was too little, too late, and too focused on “saving capitalism.” But between Roosevelt’s election and the enactment of the WPA programs (which were the government funded employment programs – the building structures and interviewing ex-slaves and writing plays and painting murals stuff that the Republicans howled about), there were huge strikes on the West Coast and in places like Milwaukee – big general strikes that shut down large swathes of the country. The strikers formed collectives on the West Coast and provided food, shelter, and education to people who needed it. A lot of the WPA programs reflected what the Popular Front folks were doing. So, no, I’d say that American Communists were not solidly in FDR’s court until FDR started doing some of the things they wanted him to do. And the American fascists like Coughlin and Huey Long had the support of the VFW and the American Legion, largely due to FDR’s position on the Bonus.