The “FDR” effect

newdealOur greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources. — FDR, First Inaugural Address

Studying the United States Import-Export Bank recently, I learned that some who object to the bank are not so much  opposed to what it does as they are offended that it was created 80 years ago, part of FDR’s New Deal. Evidently, for some, anything associated with FDR can’t be worthwhile; every vestige of the New Deal is suspect and ought to be repealed. For some, Social Security is an example. Let’s call this feeling the “FDR effect.” Here are more examples:

In spite of mounting evidence for climate change caused by man, some refuse to believe. The reason for some is Al Gore–nothing that Al Gore believes can possibly be true.  If Gore said: “grass is green,” they would insist it was blue. If the internet is good, Al Gore couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with it.

Whatever President Barack Obama favors must be bad.  AHC is modeled on RomneyCare. It was carefully, if futilely, designed to win GOP support by incorporating many Republican ideas. First Republicans insisted on calling it Obamacare, now they hate it because it reminds them that Obama is our President. Dana Milbank, in a column in the Elmira Star-Gazette today, reminds us that the GOP, which once deplored activist judges and frivolous lawsuits, is now attacking President Obama with frivolous suits and imploring judges to act on them.

There were many reasons for people to oppose the War in Viet Nam: the high cost in lives, secret bombing, assassination of President Thieu, agent orange, the transparent weakness of the “domino theory,” but for some if Jane Fonda was against it they had no choice but to support it. Nothing Jane opposed for whatever reason could be wrong.

When former President GWB was pushing us toward war in Iraq, too many chose sides based on whether they liked President Bush or not, suspending disbelief even in the face of transparently unrealistic administration claims.

Whether it is as relatively unimportant as the future of the Inport-Export Bank, or as important as issues of war or peace, we ought to judge the policy itself rather than the persons who favor or oppose it. Today, faced with war with North Korea, Syria, Iran, or even Russia as well as in Afghanistan, we ought to be especially careful to evaluate policy alternatives on their merits rather than on who may support or oppose them: President Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore or whoever.

© William Hungerford – March 2014

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* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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18 Responses to The “FDR” effect

  1. Anne says:

    I’ve never understood why we’ve never again funded programs like the CCC and WPA…wildly popular, highly effective, and with legacies that we’re all still enjoying today. Carter’s CETA program is the only thing I can think of that came close.


  2. whungerford says:

    I agree, but those programs also created a backlash of animosity and disbelief that persists 80 years later–Tom Reed can say with a straight face “Government can’t create jobs.”


  3. solodm says:

    I think I understand what you are saying here, William, but I would have to ask , which comes first? The liking of a person because you agree with their policies, or the liking of the policy, because you think you like the person? After evaluating a politician’s policies ( rhetoric), one must then look at their voting record. Are the two in sync, or wildly differing? Do the individual’s policies generally oppose the researcher’s views?

    I agree an “all or nothing ” approach to judging politician’s actions is less than wise.
    An example of my own choosing would be be : I really like President Obama. I like his attempts to create a healthier and more just society through political change, and his quiet seemingly thoughtful approach to most foreign policy. On the other hand I stand in adamant opposition to his policy for the most recent trade agreement ( TPP ). I don’t suddenly dislike all of his other policies because of the one.

    Ultimately, do we judge politicians on the improvement/problems of their policies? It’s pretty well known that in his personal life, FDR was a scamp of high order (as were Kennedy and MLK), so it would be my opinion that FDR for example, is remembered and revered, (or alternatively hated), for what he accomplished in terms of America become a better country for all.


  4. whungerford says:

    We should consider ideas on their merits rather than the merits of the backer. The Ex-Im bank may be worth saving or not whether or not it was created by FDR. At West Elmira Tom told me he had “looked at Paul Krugman’s writings” and could see they were wrong.” Nonsense; Tom could look all day and learn nothing. If Krugman is right then Tom is wrong, so Tom needs to bad-mouth Krugman. The same goes for John Maynard Keynes. Mike Morrongiello in an article today in the Gannett papers tore into Al Gore, labeling Gore as an “alarmist.” If Morrongiello is to profit from fracking on property he owns, Gore must be shown to be wrong. The same goes for biologist George Wald (1906-1997).

    I agree on TPP: it may be a good idea or not regardless of who lines up for or against it.


  5. BOB MCGILL says:‎Cached
    SimilarSocial Security AdministrationLoading…If we look at life expectancy statistics from the 1930s we might come to the conclusion that the Social Security program was designed in such a way that people …

    FDR wouldn’t have been able to do most of the things he is remembered for, in todays society. The environmentalists would have had a fit.


  6. BOB MCGILL says:…/grandcoulee/…‎Cached
    SimilarUniversity of VirginiaLoading…Ecological Disaster. The Columbia River will rebuild itself in time. Every natural historian has written that the futile efforts of man will be again overtaken by …


  7. BOB MCGILL says:‎Cached
    SimilarThe major portion of the valley lies in Tennessee. The Tennessee Valley Authority was created by Congress in 1933 to develop the Tennessee River system in …


  8. Barbara Griffin says:

    Bob, a couple of the links you listed didn’t connect… and what’s your point about the Tennessee River system? Do you actually have something to say or not? Regarding the discussion at hand, I actually liked GW at first…but his policies were so bad that I left the Republican party and became a registered Democrat. I still like President Obama, and wish he could have fulfilled many of his dreams for change. However, I do not approve of the TPP, nor drone warfare, nor allowing the NSA to become all-powerful. I will also go ballistic if he approves the Keystone XL pipeline.


  9. whungerford says:

    We may tend to attribute too much power and influence to our presidents. GWB couldn’t have made war without widespread support from the entire political spectrum. He proposed cutting Social Security and got nowhere with that. The TSA was created in spite of his objections.

    TPP is only one in a series of trade agreements generally Republicans and Democrats. If TPP dies on President Obama’s watch, it may be revived sooner or later. NSA, drone warfaire, and pipeline projects existed before Obama was elected President and doubtless will be with us when his term ends. President Obama has as yet not managed to close Guantanamo, not for lack of trying. I hope at least that we no longer torture prisoners.


  10. Deb Meeker says:

    You have stated my opinion exactly, Barbara.


  11. Deb Meeker says:

    William, the TPP may not be revived after Obama either. Many more indigenous and just plain vanilla people all over the world are tired of corporate ownership of their lands and lives.

    As to the drone issue, it matters not ‘who started it’, but more importantly ; is it really necessary, and will it broaden to other countries, including own own? Who can be believed on how many innocents are actually killed by this program?

    The XL pipeline issue goes way beyond the preferences of American politics. The continuance and expansion of the pipeline project, (regardless of true monetary or political value to the US and Canada), is going in the opposite direction of environmental intelligence.

    The continuance of Guantanamo, is purely a GOP obstruction to embarrass and diminish President Obama’s administration.


  12. BOB MCGILL says:

    The fact that the links don’t work is not my fault. The fact that you don’t know how to make it work IS your fault !
    Did you see this part
    “Ecological Disaster ” and this “grandcoulee ” dam that is.
    The TVA was also a project that ,today, never would have gotten off the ground.…/grandcoulee/… › … › Renewable Energy‎Cached
    SimilarUnion of Concerned ScientistsLoading…


  13. BOB MCGILL says:

    I’ll try again…/grandcoulee/…


  14. whungerford says:

    Our presidents serve at most eight years in office. The natural time period of political ideas is much longer. Social Security has survived since FDR whichever party held sway because it is both necessary and popular. TPP is but one instance of a trade agreement, one tip of the iceberg. As the political waves roll on, other trade agreements are sure to surface.

    Drones exist. Like the furies in Pandora’s box, they are here to stay. We can only hope that use and abuse can be restrained, perhaps by international law.


  15. BOB MCGILL says:

    just search this
    grand coulee dam environmental disaster


  16. BOB MCGILL says:

    What happened to the fact you said you were going to IGNORE me. I wish you would !! 🙂


  17. whungerford says:

    Bob, your comments reinforce the point of the article–we criticize Hoover Dam or Grande Coulee on their merits–adverse ecological impact–rather than on the associated presidential administration.


  18. solodm says:

    I was addressing Barbara, not you Bob. Please just sit down.


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