Franklin Delano Obama: Will the New Deal Revive Itself in 2012?
Eighty years ago, Franklin Roosevelt rode into office at the height of the depression. In many ways, the election of 1932 has much in common with the current campaign, as I explain in my column this week for Hoover's Defining Ideas.
The economic record from 1929 to 1933 was grim. Unemployment rates spiked to close to 25 percent from a pre-1929 figure of about 4 percent. World trade was down by about a third, partly in response to the ill-advised Smoot-Hawley tariffs of 1930, which sparked retaliation from around the globe. And a persistent deflation in the order of 20 percent meant many debtors could not repay their debt with these new expensive dollars.
Today’s situation is nowhere near as desperate as it was then, but there is little doubt that the nation has become stagnant and uneasy. Real economic growth has slowed and the future likely holds higher levels of insecurity and lower rates of growth. Today’s parents are no longer confident that their children will lead lives as fulfilling and as prosperous as their own. Falling expectations lead to rising discontent, and discontent leads to clarion calls for action.
Taking advantage of this, Obama has taken his campaign strategy straight out of FDR's New Deal Playbook: Vilify the rich as unproductive ciphers of society; be hostile toward the growth of international trade by denouncing firms that outsource jobs as the enemies of domestic labor; continue to work in favor of extensive agricultural subsidies for ethanol and other farm crops; and insist upon a rich set of unsustainable healthcare benefits through Medicare and Medicaid.
But there is also one key difference between the two men: Roosevelt played an offensive game against nameless enemies in 1932. In 2012, Obama is playing defense. In light of this, it is unclear whether the president’s progressive message of hope and change will prevail again. Perhaps the New Deal consensus will finally come to an end…continue reading in Defining Ideas.