We're all in the same wagon

Early this evening, the U.S. House passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – Obama’s $819 billion stimulus package – by a vote of 244-188.


Why can’t we learn from history and use it to predict the future?

That modern-day marvel of a historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, can be relied upon to give us superbly documented evidence that history does, indeed, repeat itself.

Right now I am listening to Talking Books of biographies I’ve read along the way – a refresher course, if you will, in what history has to teach.

Few sources offer a clearer picture of the stock market and the forces which led to The Great Depression than Goodwin’s “The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys.” At least not in a readable and entertaining format.

Joe Kennedy, patriarch of America’s premier political family, was an adviser aboard Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s campaign train in 1932 as it criss-crossed the country. In the context of the Kennedy biography, we get a glimpse of what FDR promised Americans. More importantly, we learn what Americans were desperate for in this direst of times.

While there was no Rush Limbaugh, blasting away on the airwaves, calling for FDR’s failure, there were plenty of naysayers.

During the long train ride, the crippled FDR found rallying crowds at every stop along the tracks. Almost daily he received telegrams of encouragement from people across the nation. Herbert Bayard Swope, former executive editor of the New York World, suggested the presidential hopeful “must prove that liberalism is not radicalism, that reform of the capitalist system did not mean its abolition.”

“Capitalism,” he wrote to FDR, “is the wagon in which we ride to such measure of happiness as it is possible to humanly achieve. It has been a reasonably good vehicle for several hundred years and in it we have gone ahead. Now, it is creaking and in places worn out. This does not mean we must abandon the wagon, that we must climb out and destroy it, and then search for another conveyance or travel through the bogs afoot. It means we must repair it. That we must replace the worn-out parts with new ones. That we must continue to make the wheels go ‘round. That we must see that those riding in it are given reasonably good chances at good seats. After all, capitalism is not an end in itself, but the means to an end.”

Once more our nation faces a time of recovery. Limbaugh, with his microphone, aspires to be the self-proclaimed leader of the right-wing naysayers.

The right-wing would have you believe the stimulus package, aka recovery plan, the House has adopted is throwing your money to the wind and will neither stimulate the economy nor create new jobs. Republicans in the House have continued to beat the Bush drum of permanent tax cuts as the only solution in sight.

Suddenly, the party which spent like drunken sailors has had an acute attack of frugality. Conservatives just love the status quo and quiver in their Guccis at the threat of socialism. They could give a damn about the words of a Tom Joad.

Economic crises and economic recoveries come in cycles, haven’t we learned that? This nation is still a capitalist democracy. Studying past remedies will teach us even more.


Several years ago I went over to meet my new neighbors in the townhouse next door, two young single girls, one very, very pregnant. In the course of the conversation, I asked them what their jobs were. The very, very pregnant girl replied, “I test condoms.” I burst out laughing. I could not help myself!

One of the Republican talking points of the last few days is to claim the stimulus package (ahem!) would provide millions of condoms, presumably to prevent AIDS and other STDs. Knowing this will appeal to the lowest common denominator among us, they have insisted this will not create jobs.

My young neighbor was working for Schmid Laboratories, which has a large plant here in Anderson, South Carolina. Schmid produces condoms, and, yes, it provides jobs.


Start with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, 23 September 1932: LINK


Falzone for America said...

A great analysis B.J, I hope we can learn from history that FDR’s stimulus would have been more effective sooner if it had been much larger. I feel it’s evidenced by the large GWP called WWII.

I am left feeling slighted by the fact that Obama tried to placate the Republicans who altered the way the money would be allocated when not one Republican ended up voting for it. I realize it is important for him to show more maturity than Republican’s did before Obama’s inauguration but they ended up watering down the green energy portion of the stimulus to 8 billion. It seems a small part of the pie.

That being said I am still encouraged by the democrat win for the American public. I’m confident it will be sufficient to provide a great deal of help for our seriously ailing nation.

B.J. said...

FFA: you’re probably right that the package should have been more since engineers have said it will take $2 trillion just to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. Has anyone, say Krugman, done a comparison of how much FDR’s recovery acts cost in today U.S. dollars? Where is tha darn hobbit Frodo whenyou need him? BJ

airth10 said...


Would it have made a difference if they had? It is the only luxury the Republican party has as a defeated entity. Whatever way they voted they knew it wouldn't make a difference. Where the vote will count is in the Senate.

B.J. said...

You are right, Airth. Not much doubt which way Lindsey O. Graham and Jim DeMint will vote, but I love to bug them anyway! Back to the House: it would have been nice if just one among them had cojones. BJ

Tiny said...

When Republicans get smart, they will "Flush Rush." Rather pitiful when he's the best spokesman they can get.

History doesn't repeat itself, it is merely a record of past events. People repeat history because they don't want to learn from past successes and mistakes. God forbid that some oldtimers should be dragged into the 21st Century!

Most Americans are happy to see a Commander in Chief who cares about people enough that he went to work for them before he ever took office.

If and when the Republicans get bored with sitting on their seats of do-nothing and sulking, they will race to be included in the action. That will probably transpire in about two-years when election time rolls around again.

Papamoka said...

Very well put article BJ! I believe that the Senate vote will have a tad bit more common sense than the House. Hopefully???

Frodo K. Galbraith said...

Frodo would like to direct readers to his dialogue with Papamoka, in one of that gentleman's recent postings. Frodo is taking a much different slant on this situation, and he'd like to be remembered for being the one who brought all of this to your attention.
Barack Obama is politically astute and strategically brilliant. He knew that he could get his stimulus bill through the House without the Republicans. To avoid pitting himself against the Republican minority (the "old way" of doing things), he could parlay a position above the fray by letting the House Democrats go head-to-head with Boehner's dumbasses. Now, he can interact with the Republican wing of the Senate on his own terms, giving them some apparent input, while painting a picture of intelligent, bipartisan leadership.
The Republican House has been manuvered into the obstructionist role. Admittedly, they'll fight over the inane absurdities in such a gigantic fiscal package, but wouldn't you rather be able to say "See, they voted against helping the little guy."
The truly biggest parts of our "stimulus" effort are, not necessarily in order, the creation of a "bad bank," in order to get bad loans off the books of our commercial lenders, and allow them to put money back into the economy (in the form of loans). Secondly, it is the re-entry of confidence into the hands of the consumer. By getting people to work in public works projects (remember the WPA, the CCC?), or the "infrastructure" in 21st centuryspeak, we get people to start thinking that things are getting a little better.
Frodo argues that Obama knows this, and has allowed the Republicans to paint themselves into a corner with very slow-drying paint.
"Author, Author!" Frodo salutes his President.

airth10 said...

I was reminded that the GOP sees compromise as a sign of weakness. Obama did change some of the things in his stimulus package that the Republican opposed in order to get them on side. But just as a matter of principle they all voted against it.

B.J. said...

I’ve been reading some right-wing sources about the Republican opposition to the stimulus package, and here is a quote from one article which is the crux of their argument:

"The spending portion of the stimulus, in short, isn’t really about the economy. It’s about promoting long-time Democratic policy goals, such as subsidizing health care for the middle class and promoting alternative energy. The ‘stimulus’ is merely the mother of all political excuses to pack as much of this spending agenda as possible into a single bill when Mr. Obama is at his political zenith."

Exactly what Limbaugh is preaching.


Gregg Sutton said...

What has worked for the GOP is not what its leaders believe, but what they can make the public believe. What we are not factoring in here is that so many who would benefit from social progress are swayed by their talking points.

Anonymous said...

From FDR's 1932 speech:

"Recently a careful study was made of the concentration of business in the United States. It showed that our economic life was dominated by some 600 odd corporations who controlled two-thirds of American industry. Ten million small businessmen divided the other third. More striking still, it appeared that if the process of concentration goes on at the same rate, at the end of another century we shall have all American industry controlled by a dozen corporations, and run by perhaps a hundred men. Put plainly, we are steering a steady course toward economic oligarchy, if we are not there already."