The New Deal came about, according to historian Benjamin Hunnicutt, because Roosevelt needed to "do something" to ward off the Black-Connery 30-hour bill.
UPDATE: The new New Deal stimulus spending bandwagon is getting ready to roll, with cheer leading from Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, Brad DeLong, Eric Rauchway. But this time around is it sustainable?
In a letter to Arthur Schlesinger dated April 9, 1958, Leon Keyserling stressed that Roosevelt came to Washington without a "systematic economic program." The "highly experimental, improvised and inconsistent" programs of the first New Deal defy categorization. They were the products of "schools of reformers" that had been promoting diverse programs that Roosevelt, higgledy-piggledy, picked up.
According to Keyserling, the PWA, CWA, NIRA, and the rest were not parts of any systematic plan or overall purpose. The only coherence given these events came from outside the administration. It was the "desire to get rid of the Black bill" that prompted the administration to draw up such things as the NRA, "to put in something to satisfy labor." This same point was made by other notables in Roosevelt's administration, among them Raymond Moley.
Throughout the depression, 30-hour legislation goaded Roosevelt to action. The Black-Connery bill, introduced in each depression Congress until passed in highly modified form as the Fair Labor Standards Act [FLSA] in 1938, with all the work-sharing teeth pulled, continued to function as a sort of reverse polestar, enabling Roosevelt to chart his course by the simple expedient of sailing in the opposite direction. Roosevelt's instinctive reaction against 30 hours matured to positive approaches to industrial stabilization and reemployment. They were built on work creation, not work spreading, founded on industrial growth and increased spending as the wellsprings of progress. In the process, he and his administration discarded the century-old notion that work reduction had the potential for social and individual advancement.
From the point of view of someone like Representative William Connery, who pushed for 30 hours from 1932 to 1937, the New Deal had a coherence, a reason for happening when and as it did, that was lost on others not so positioned. From Connery's perspective, the New Deal was what it was because of its opposition to 30 hours. -- Hunnicutt, Work Without End, pp.248-49
If the workers of the world had time to think and get involved in politics...well, that would run completely counter to the concept of an imperialism of capital running the world. Wouldn't it?
"Capital must protect itself in every possible manner by combination and legislation. Debts must be collected, bonds and mortgages must be foreclosed as rapidly as possible. When, through a process of law, the common people lose their homes they will become more docile and more easily governed through the influence of the strong arm of government, applied by a central power of wealth under control of leading financiers. This truth is well known among our principal men now engaged in forming an imperialism of Capital to govern the world. By dividing the voters through the political party system, we can get them to expend their energies in fighting over questions of no importance. Thus by discreet action we can secure for ourselves what has been so well planned and so successfully accomplished."
USA Banker's Magazine, August 25 1924
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