Living with the Rump New Deal

A New FDR Emerges.

In a retrospective on the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a chorus of scholars and writers has chimed in at the National Archives to consider the legacy of the Man from Hyde Park.

Much of what was written was laudatory, some was panegyric, but one thoughtful quote by Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter was worthy of repeating:

Today we live in another conservative era, but Roosevelt’s legacy is in a new place. While it would be an exaggeration to call FDR fashionable, liberals are looking to the past as a source of renewal for today’s political battles. And conservatives are finding that much of what Roosevelt wrought is permanent. When government does not respond to Americans who need help, as Bush found after Katrina, the President pays a steep price. In that sense, FDR is now part of the DNA of America.

We can have ideological arguments about the FDR’s policies, and I was a strong supporter of Ronald Reagan’s efforts to dismantle the runaway excesses of both the New Deal and the Great Society. But it is essential to recognize that the majority of Americans has no desire to yank the country back to the 1890s or 1920s.

To give but one example: whatever Rick Perry‘s virtues, it would be fair to say that he would have been unelectable in a general election with a platform that sought to end Social Security and demolish what remains of the New Deal. Even Ike, a mere seven years after FDR’s death, acknowledged that there were chunks of the New Deal that were simply part of the American landscape.

That acknowledgement, however, should not be interpreted as an endorsement of everything that is done in the name of those policies FDR put into place. Excesses lurk in every corner, and the price of government involvement is eternal vigilance, lest scandals like the Long Island Rail Road disability claims fraud expand to engulf our tax dollars.

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s