Monday, April 11, 2011

So, Just How "Progressive" WAS FDR?

While this question may in fact sound sacrilegious, a closer inspection reveals that it actually isn't. I point to a couple of things here. One, FDR relied heavily on excise taxes. As a lot of you probably already know, excise taxes are amongst the most REGRESSIVE taxes that any government can levy. And levy them Mr. Roosevelt did. In 1932, the Federal government was raising 30% (itself a high figure) of its revenue via excise taxes. By 1934, that percentage had climbed all the way to 61%. Yes, Roosevelt eventually did bring it down but, even as late as 1940, it was still at an alarmingly high 47%......................................................................................................Another way that Roosevelt hurt the working and middle class was through his NRA (National Recovery Act). As you're probably aware, one of the key components of this particular policy was price controls. Each business within a certain industry/sector had to charge a certain amount (this, to prevent deflation and keep wages commensurate). The only problem with this was that it tended to insulate the bigger companies. Smaller companies, many of which had to knock a nickel or two off to compete, suffered and were eventually either swallowed up or killed off (the Pharis Tire and Rubber Company of Newark, one example)....................................................................................................And if you don't want to take the word of a moderate/non progressive on this, what about that of John Maynard Keynes - Mr. Economic Progressive himself? In a open letter to FDR in the New York Times, Mr. Keynes made it very clear that the NRA would "probably impede recovery". Add to that the fact that most historians, when if fact they are critical of Roosevelt, are critical to the point that he didn't do ENOUGH! All in all, folks, I would probably have to say that Mr. Roosevelt was far more incompetent than he was a "progressive"....................................................................................................P.S. I'd also have to submit, though, that the least progressive part of Mr. Roosevelt's legacy had very little to do with economics. We're all painfully aware of FDR's internment of tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans. What we're probably less aware of is the fact that Mr. Roosevelt continuously refused to endorse the 1934 anti-lynching bill - this, because he didn't want to piss off Southern Democrats....Hm....So, what do you think about THAT for leadership, folks?

Editor's note: Rational Nation USA is pleased that WILL "TAKE NO PRISONERS" HART has agreed to join us as a contributor. He brings a serious no nonsense moderate perspective to the rough and tumble of political debate. Will blogs regularly at Contra O'Reilly. If you haven't already... check out his site, it has much to offer.


  1. You do realize that FDR's excises were on sin taxes and commodities like oil, right?


  2. FDR was the most overrated President in U.S. history.

  3. How exactly should we determine if FDR was a "progressive" if we have no definition of what a "progressive" is?

    If we use your example of the internment of Japanese AFTER the bombing of Pearl Harbor then wouldn't the anti muslim talk on the right after 9/11 make Les a progressive? Is it more or less progressive to round up all Japanese and put them in a camp or are we now more or less progressive because we can create the same level of protection via the Patriot Act and establishing a Department of Homeland Security and TSA?

    Its real easy from the perspective of almost 80 years and criticize FDR and debate "should, could, and would..." but the reality was depression, Hoover, and communists/socialists marching in the streets and winning local elections. Honestly should have re elected Hoover and given the communists and socialists another 4 years to build up support and then things really would be different now wouldn't they?

  4. My point was that it WASN'T progressive to intern innocent civilians or to NOT endorse an anti-lynching bill. And why do we always have to throw the admittedly buffoonish Bush into the equation? Yes, Mr. Bush was a bad President. But how in the world does that justify a continuation of the Roosevelt Myth?

  5. FDR was the reluctant progressive. His wife was the real progressive, and she wielded great influence. Just the same, the list of important progressive reforms and programs that still remain with us today is quite impressive. To say he was "over-rated" simply shows a stark ignorance of modern history. Regardless of what you think of FDR, he was among our most effective presidents.

    Back to progressivism, though FDR was not really a Keynesian, he did prove Keynesian economics work: by engaging in WWII, the panultimate example of Keynsian progress.


  6. You haven't defined what progressivism is Will; you start with the implicit belief that FDR was progressive and then you claim he was not, how can that decided if one does not start with a definition of what progressivism really is?

    As far as your personal dislike for the "myth" that has developed around the man, its really hard for me to believe that a President, who was elected to four terms in office would deserve some recognization for something?

    I know that my grandparents and aunts and uncles who lived during that time and served in WWII really think alot of the guy.

  7. Taken in context of the time during which he was President, and the lasting results of his policies, I would have to say was a progressive {even if a reluctant one}in terms of the social and economic impact he had on the country.

    And yes, Roosevelt's internment of innocent Japanese Americans, as well as his not endorsing an anti lynching bill certainty could not be considered progressive.

    The comment with respect to Bush, in my opinion has no relevance to this post. I will add however than history may be more kind to Bush 2 than most present pundits are.

    Roosevelt, like all progressives was a statist, growing the federal bureaucracy, packing the courts, setting the stage for the federal government to almost immediately after enacting social security to begin "borrowing " from social security to offset shortfalls in the federal budget.

    Yup, my grandfather, father, and aunts and uncles all seemed to love the guy as well. Perhaps that is because they did not have to deal with the LONGER term results of his administrations policies. Policies that future administrations built on thus growing the state to an even larger Leviathan the FDR likely ever imagined. Although the current national situation is a natural outgrowth of that which FDR started.

    The first real progressive progressive was TR, followed by Wilson, the administration under which the federal income tax began.....

    And the march has continued until we have what we have right now, and it will be no doubt be getting even more tenuous in the future......

  8. Tao, my implicit belief" isn't so much that FDR was a progressive or he wasn't. My much more firm belief is that he's somehow become a hero to the progressives of today. I was just trying to put the man's "accomplishments" and policies into a more realistic perspective.......As to how he got elected over and over again, you might want to examine more the man's patronage system; the giving of WPA funds more to swing states than to those that were a) already in his column or b) those that he couldn't have won anyway - for example.

  9. FDR took a cyclical downturn and turned it into a decades long crisis. We are now over 10 trillion in debt because of programs. Call it what you want, he is a democrat icon.

  10. A cyclical downturn? Jesus Christ Kurt the fucking banks were going out of business...banks failing is not part of a cyclical downturn!

    Will, everyone has their have Ronald Reagan who increased the deficit and dramatically increased the size of government but no one on the right calls him a statist or a socialist do they?

    FDR took a bad situation and turned it into a 70 year majority for the democrats! Can't argue with success now can you? In politics that is all that really matters! You can make all the points you want and pose whatever criticism you want but at the end of the day his legacy still stands, for good or bad.

    He was as realistically progressive as one could be for his times and he was the foundation for establishing this country as a superpower....hell of a brillant guy!

  11. TAO - I respectfully ask you re-read my simple site policy with respect cursing or vulgar language.

    We should all refrain from such language! ;)

    After all this is not a progressive sight.


    The management

  12. Just for the record, Tao, I think that Reagan was an overrated President (deficits, the savings and loan fiasco, the Iran-Contra affair, the Lebanon disaster, etc.), too. Truman and Ike - those are my 2 favorites.

  13. FDR would be just another failed Socialist-leaning wussy president like BHO if not for the fact that WWII saved his sorry butt.

    FDR is no hero. He's just lucky.

    On a side note:
    I still don't understand why atheists like TAO use the name of Jesus Christ as a cuss word. I mean, atheists don't believe He is God, right? So...why even bring His name into anything? Why don't atheists use Hitler's name or Dahmer's name or even Stalin's name instead? Just an observation.

    Donald in Bethel, CT


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