Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Right-wingers praising and advocating the New Deal

(Photo courtesy of Carol Highsmith and the Library of Congress.)

Ronald Reagan:

In his 1990 autobiography, Reagan wrote: "The WPA was one of the most productive elements of FDR's alphabet soup of agencies because it put people to work building roads, bridges, and other projects... it gave men and women a chance to make some money along with the satisfaction of knowing they earned it." (Ronald Reagan also enjoyed vacations at Camp David, perhaps more than any other president, and Camp David was built with a heavy infusion of WPA and CCC labor.)

Donald Trump:

In his 2015 book, Great Again: How To Fix Our Crippled America, Trump calls for infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy: "If we do what we have to do correctly, we can create the biggest economic boom in this country since the New Deal when our vast infrastructure was first put into place... on the federal level, this is going to be an expensive investment, no question about that. But in the long run it will more than pay for itself. It will stimulate our economy while it is being built and make it a lot easier to do business when it's done..." Trump seems to understand that New Deal infrastructure provided the foundation for America's post-WW2 economic prosperity. Goods, services, and workers traveled along New Deal roads, across New Deal bridges, and out of New Deal airports. (Maybe if Trump talked more about the New Deal, instead of what the "Second Amendment People" can do to Hillary Clinton, he'd be doing better in the polls.)

Republican Governor John Kasich (Ohio):

In 2013, Kasich scolded his Republican Party colleagues for insulting the poor and the unemployed: "I'm concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor. That if you’re poor, somehow you're shiftless and lazy. You know what? The very people who complain ought to ask their grandparents if they worked at the W.P.A."

Conservative Columnist David Brooks: 

Lamenting on the plight of the middle-class and poor, and wondering how to bring Americans together again, Brooks recently wrote: "solidarity can be rekindled nationally. Over the course of American history, national projects like the railroad legislation, the W.P.A. and the NASA project have bound this diverse nation. Of course, such projects can happen again - maybe through a national service program, or something else."

Political Strategist Matthew Dowd (Chief Strategist for George Bush, 2004): 

In 2014, Dowd wrote: "My humble suggestion is that we need to have a well-paying jobs program tied to infrastructure improvements administered locally by cities, counties and states where people still trust government to get the job done. And this should be funded by tax policies at the federal level which put a much bigger burden on the wealthy in this country. The federal government would merely be a collector of the money, then disburse it to more trustworthy entities, and the money would be managed and spent at the local level." (Whether Dowd knows it or not, this is essentially how New Deal work-relief and infrastructure projects were carried out.)

Republicans of the 1950s: 

From the 1956 Republican Party Platform: "The record of performance of the Republican Administration on behalf of our working men and women goes still further. The Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers. Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers... Furthermore, the process of free collective bargaining has been strengthened by the insistence of this Administration that labor and management settle their differences at the bargaining table without the intervention of the Government." (Wow, how things have changed since then! Today, Republicans want to abolish the minimum wage; privatize or eliminate Social Security; call the unemployed "parasites"; and eliminate unions. These changes show how radical and anti-worker our so-called "conservatives" have become.)


It's interesting to see prominent right-wingers speak in ways that more or less praise the New Deal, or advocate its policies. Unfortunately, most Republican politicians today are so slavishly devoted to the super-wealthy that tax-breaks-for-the-rich trumps everything else. That's why wages have stagnated for decades, our infrastructure is falling apart, college graduates have $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, our national parks have a multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog, and so on. Republicans want a great culture on the cheap; but New Dealers understood that revenue is required.

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