Monday, August 29, 2016

FDR warned us about EpiPen and other business scams a long time ago. We chose not to listen. Now we're playing "whack-a-scam."

Above: President Franklin Roosevelt, ca. 1941. No administration did more for the health of Americans than the Roosevelt Administration. FDR's New Deal ushered in thousands of new or improved hospitals and clinics, paid unemployed health professionals to deliver medical services to struggling Americans, provided health care to millions of young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps, improved the quality of food and drinking water all across the country, ran immunization campaigns, and much more. According to a sociologist from Oxford University and an epidemiologist from Stanford University, "During the Depression, mortality rates in the United States fell by about 10 percent... we estimate that every $100 in New Deal spending per capita was associated with a decline in pneumonia deaths of 18 per 100,000 people; a reduction in infant deaths of 18 per 1,000 live births; and a drop in suicides of 4 per 100,000 people." Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

By now we've all heard about the outrageous price gouging associated with the EpiPen. Like the Pharma Bro incident (and countless incidents that never make it into the mainstream media) it's a tale of greed, monopoly, lobbying, and campaign contributions. As pharmaceutical prices are jacked up 100, 200, 300%, the salaries, bonuses, and investment returns of those increasing the prices are jacked up as well - 100, 200, 300% and more. See, for example:

"Mylan CEO's Pay Rose Over 600 Percent as EpiPen Price Rose 400 Percent," NBC, August 23, 2016

"Senators Probing EpiPen Received Donations From Mylan PAC," NBC, August 26, 2016

"EpiPen Uproar Highlights Company’s Family Ties to Congress," The Intercept, August 24, 2016

"The Scandal of EpiPens Runs Deeper Than Most of Us Realize," Alternet, August 26, 2016

Pharmaceutical executives, like financial industry executives, know how to game the system for hefty profit. And by the time Americans are wise to the game, it's too late; the scam has already run its course and the scammers have hit the jackpot - they're millionaires for life. And while Mylan (the company behind the EpiPen scandal) is being investigated, you can be sure that other companies have already started planning the next get-rich-quick scams. Super-wealthy executives and investors must be having a good laugh watching the public play whack-a-mole or, in this case, "whack-a-scam."

It doesn't have to be this way, of course. President Roosevelt warned us about these types of people & scandals a long time ago.

FDR on Greed    

In 1933, FDR explained how greed (and the greedy) had ruined the American economy: 

"They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish. The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."

FDR on Monopolies 

In 1936, FDR said of consumers and monopolies:

"Of course we will continue to protect the consumer against unnecessary price spreads, against the costs that are added by monopoly and speculation."

FDR on the problem of Corporate Money In Politics & Government

In 1936, FDR said:

"We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They [Corporate America] had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. And we know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob."

Above: A WPA poster promoting health care. New Deal policymakers were committed to getting Americans the health care they needed, regardless of income. Today, we foolishly put our faith in super-wealthy, profit-driven executives & investors. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

FDR: Health Care As A Right

In his Second Bill of Rights speech, FDR argued for health care as a right, not as a privilege... and not as something you only get in the emergency room after the problem has gotten out of hand:

"We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are... The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health."

In other words, FDR was saying that our health should not be dependent upon sociopaths and monopolies.

We chose not to listen to FDR and his New Deal, thus opening the door to EpiPen-type scandals

As a culture, we've turned our backs on the New Deal. The signs are everywhere: Union participation is down (and thus, so are job benefits); Glass-Steagall was repealed; Social Security is under constant political threat; infrastructure is crumbling & children are drinking lead; work-relief programs have been classified as pie-in-the-sky dreaming; our national park system has a multi-billion dollar backlog; retirement security is going the way of the Dodo Bird; and the list goes on and on. Many of the things that our ancestors worked so hard for, we have let fade away - too glued to our smartphones to give a damn. And so we have let the charlatans, cranks, and political puppets take over, believing their lies about trickle-down economics and the holy "JOB CREATORS." Unfortunately, it turns out that the holy "JOB CREATORS" are more focused on jacking up drug prices, and striking it rich off our gullible minds, than they are with creating decent-paying jobs. 

So, let's summarize: FDR warned us about the deleterious effects of greed, monopolies, and corporate money in our politics & government. But, collectively, over the past few decades, we've yawned and said: "Yeah, whatever Roosevelt." Then, Mylan and many other companies--practicing greed, taking advantage of monopoly, and buying & lobbying politicians--outrageously jacks up prices, empties our wallets, and drives up the cost of health care and health insurance.
Make no mistake about it: By ignoring  FDR's warnings & rejecting the New Deal, we're asking for the abuse we receive. Companies like Mylan are simply answering the call.

Friday, August 26, 2016

New Deal Basketball

Above: The caption for this photo reads, in part: "Seeing no reason why this signboard should be discarded once it had outlived its usefulness [i.e., after the new school was built], Cabot school officials [Vermont] ingeniously discovered that it was just the right size for a basketball backboard..." The New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA) funded hundreds of new schools across America, and many of them had gymnasiums with basketball courts, as well as outdoor basketball courts. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: The work-relief programs of the New Deal also built or improved basketball courts. For example, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built many thousands of schools, gymnasiums, and playgrounds. In 1940, the WPA developed Taylor Park in Keedysville, Maryland (pictured above). Today, area residents can pass the time--and stay fit--playing basketball at the park. Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: For many decades, before it was neglected and demolished, this WPA-built gymnasium and basketball court served the town of Manteo, North Carolina. Photo by Brent McKee.

The WPA not only constructed and repaired basketball courts, it also fielded a basketball team - the "District WPA." According to a 1937 Washington Post article, "Crack WPA Quintet Becomes Favorite to Capture Crown" (March 1), the WPA basketball team was coached by George E. Allen (head of the WPA in D.C. and also a D.C commissioner) and consisted of the players Dopey Dean, Reds Scheible, Chick Hollidge, Bobby Lucas, Bernie Lieb, Bill Noonan, Ollie Tipton, and Ollie Mayfield. Competing teams included the "Navy Yard Marines" "Flying Eagles," "Treasury Department," and "Silver Spring Merchants."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

New Deal Rum

Above: The Great Depression contributed to the destruction of the Virgin Islands' sugar and rum industry. So, in 1934, the New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA) provided $1 million in seed money to start up the "Virgin Islands Company" (about $18 million in today's dollars). The Virgin Islands Company (VIC) provided much-needed employment on the island of St. Croix. The women above are working in the rum distillery of the VIC, 1941. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

   Above: A man working in the VIC's rum distillery, 1941. During its first few years of existence, the VIC virtually eliminated unemployment. However, drought in the late 1930s and shipping disturbances during World War II limited the VIC's economic contributions. After the war however, the VIC played a more prominent role in the Virgin Islands, providing loans, building infrastructure, promoting tourism, and more. For more information about the VIC, see the Living New Deal's summary here. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Above: The VIC produced three types of "Government House Rum" - White Label, Gold Label, and Dark Label. In the advertisement above, from the October 11, 1943 edition of Life magazine, we learn that White Label was good for making daiquiris, Gold Label was good for making Rum Collins, and Dark Label was good for making Planter's Punch. Image used for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Above: This (empty) 1937 mini-bottle is probably one of the few remaining bottles of Government House Rum. A few sources note that the artwork may have been designed by President Roosevelt (see here, for example). With respect to the rum itself, reviews were mixed. In 1948, attorney and famous amateur bartender David Embury wrote: "I have never yet tasted a good Virgin Islands rum, but Old St. Croix and Cruzan are probably the best I have tried and Government House the worst" (in Wayne Curtis's, And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, p. 181). On the other hand, an article in the Virgin Islands Daily News--titled "Government House Rum Is Popular In U.S."--reported that Government House was "making quite a hit on the liquor markets of the United States. In New York City it is the best seller of all rums" (November 15, 1937). Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: A closer view, showing "Virgin Islands Co." This White Label rum was made with molasses, and it was reported in 1938 that "Americans use a light type of rum for cocktail purposes during the summer months and a heavier type of rum, such as 'Government House' Rum Gold Label for winter drinks. The aged 'Government House' rum Gold Label can be used successfully in any cocktail preparation in the place of whiskey" ("Virgin Islands Company Puts Out New Rum," Virgin Islands Daily News, July 15, 1938). Photo by Brent McKee.

The story of the VIC is an interesting and forgotten piece of American history. And it's another example of how President Roosevelt and his fellow New Deal policymakers tried to address the needs of struggling Americans - in this case, jobless men and women in the Virgin Islands. Often they succeeded and sometimes they failed, but the important point is... they tried. Compare that to our policymakers today, many of whom twiddle their thumbs and look away as children drink lead, wild fires rage, Zika spreads, and college graduates suffocate under oppressive student loan debt.

Monday, August 22, 2016

New Deal Art: "Interior"

Above: "Interior," an oil painting by Stuart Edie (1908-1974), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1938. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Federal Theatre Lives on in "The Lost Colony"

Above: This is a scene from the August 18, 2016 production of Paul Green's The Lost Colony. In 1937 the WPA's Federal Theatre Project helped start the play and, with the exception of a few years during World War II, the play has been performed on Roanoke Island every year since. Author Susan Quinn writes: "One piece of live theatre survives from the days of the Federal Theatre Project. The Lost Colony, the Paul Green pageant about Sir Walter Raleigh's failed attempt to establish a European foothold in the New World, continues to draw large crowds to Roanoke Island in North Carolina every summer. Otherwise, the Federal Theatre Project lives on only in the archives and in the stories of those who took part" (Susan Quinn, Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art Out of Desperate Times, 2008, p. 283). In the scene above, the Spanish ship captain Simon Fernando (on the steps, third from top) tries to warn the English colonists about the danger and folly of their upcoming journey. Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: This scene depicts a tense confrontation between the Europeans and the American Indians who inhabited the area. In 1937, theatre critic Brooks Atkinson described the New Deal's contribution to The Lost Colony: "From the WPA Theatre in New York have come six actors for leading parts and several assistants and counselors... The open-air theatre has been built by local WPA labor. The costumes have been made by local WPA seamstresses. From the CCC camp nearby [Camp Virginia Dare] have come the boys who play the parts of the Indians" ("Paul Green's 'The Lost Colony' Performed on Roanoke Island," New York Times, August 15, 1937). Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: A battle erupts between the colonists and the Indians. Hallie Flanagan recalled Paul Green's philosophy on history and theatre: "[He said] that historical plays should concern themselves not with the leading characters of history but with the surge of common men and women who make history though they are seldom recorded in it" (Hallie Flanagan, Arena, 1940, p. 108). Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: The dance scenes of The Lost Colony were exceptional, as were the fight scenes. According to the play's website: "Each summer, over 200 actors, technicians, designers and volunteers rehearse to bring The Lost Colony Roanoke story to life. The production is enormous. The stage itself is over three times larger than most Broadway stages in New York." Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: Queen Elizabeth, not overly interested in the New World to begin with (at least not in this version of events), tells Sir Walter Raleigh that a growing war makes further assistance to the colonists impossible. The Lost Colony is full of interesting set pieces and costumes. Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: After much hardship, and with no resupply in sight, the colonists realize that they have to leave their settlement. What happened to the colonists of Roanoke Island? Theories abound, but perhaps we'll never know for sure. Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: Cover of the 2016 program. Scanned from personal copy, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: Cover of the 1939 program. Courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: A bust of Paul Green, playwright of The Lost Colony, at the Waterside Theatre. A plaque beneath the bust highlights that Green was not only a playwright, but also a "Human and Civil Rights Leader." Photo by Brent McKee.

Above: A plaque commemorating President Roosevelt's attendance at The Lost Colony in 1937. The Lost Colony play means different things to different people of course, but for me it's an example of the New Deal's investment in the American people: A play was created, the people of Roanoke Island dedicated themselves to making it work, and FDR, New Deal policymakers, and formerly unemployed Americans lent a hand. And for nearly 80 years the play has provided employment for theatre workers, entertainment for many thousands of people, and preservation for one of America's most intriguing mysteries. It's a great example of what can happen when we work together (as opposed to the modern ideology of hyper-individualism) and what can happen when our government is truly for the people. Photo by Brent McKee.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

New Deal Art: "Starvation"

Above: "Starvation," a lithograph by Bernard Steffen (1907-1980), created while he was in the WPA's art program, ca. 1935-1943. The farmer appears to be wondering if he's next. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Friday, August 19, 2016

New Deal Art: "Flood Victims"

Above: "Flood Victims," a wood engraving by Dan Rico (1912-1985), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1938. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

New Deal Dollmakers in North Carolina

Above: The description for this photograph reads, "Three of the 26 NYA girls who are at work in the NYA sewing room in Winston Salem, North Carolina, repairing dolls to be distributed by the Forsyth County Department of Public Welfare and Associated Charities to needy children at Christmas time." Photo (ca. 1935-1943) courtesy of the National Archives.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

New Deal Art: "The Fog Lifts"

Above: "The Fog Lifts," a lithograph by Raymond White Skolfield (1909-1996), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1938. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New Deal Eskimo Hut Model

Above: A model of an Eskimo hut, made for the New Jersey State Museum by an artist in the New Deal's Civil Works Administration (CWA), 1934. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A WPA-preserved carpet sweeper

Above: The description for this 1937 photo reads, "this is the original working model of a carpet sweeper invented by D. Hess in 1860, retained on display in the search room of the United States Patent Office.  It is one of 20,000 original working models selected for restoration and display at the National Museum with the aid of the Works Progress Administration." According to a Wikipedia article, "In 1860 a carpet sweeper was invented by Daniel Hess of West Union, Iowa that gathered dust with a rotating brush and a bellows for generating suction." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: John Harde, a WPA worker, restores damaged farm equipment models, as part of the WPA effort to preserve American inventions. Like today, many people thought that the federal government had no business helping people in need - the general welfare sections of the U.S. Constitution be damned. But in the above WPA project we see an example of a win-win situation. A jobless man was provided a work opportunity and American history was preserved - two things that the private sector was unable, unwilling, or uninterested in doing during much of the 1930s. 1937 photo, courtesy of the National Archives.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

New Deal Art: "Apple Vendor"

Above: "Apple Vendor," an oil painting by Barbara Stevenson (1912-2006), created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-1934. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

President Franklin Roosevelt sometimes talked about apple-selling, to make a point about jobs and the economy. For example, in his 1943 State of the Union Address, speaking about soldiers returning home from the war, he said: "They do not want a postwar America which suffers from undernourishment or slums- or the dole. They want no get-rich-quick era of bogus 'prosperity' which will end for them in selling apples on a street corner, as happened after the bursting of the boom in 1929." And in a 1944 speech to the Democratic National Convention, discussing the upcoming presidential election, he said: "The people of the United States will decide this fall... whether they will entrust the task of postwar reconversion to those who offered the veterans of the last war breadlines and apple-selling and who finally led the American people down to the abyss of 1932; or whether they will leave it to those who rescued American business, agriculture, industry, finance, and labor in 1933..." (The people chose the latter, of course, and Roosevelt won his fourth presidential election.) 

Friday, August 12, 2016

New Deal Art: "White Cat"

Above: "White Cat," an oil painting by Gertrude Abercrombie (1909-1977), created while she was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1938. Notice that the white cat can also be seen in the painting on the wall. An interesting biography of Abercrombie can be found on Wikipedia. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

WPA Invention

(A WPA-created Lycemeter. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.)

In 2012, when the recession was still in full force (for the middle-class and poor), Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that the nation's long-term unemployment was causing "enormous suffering and a waste of human talent." This is interesting, because the description for the photograph above (1938) reads, "Lycemeter Demonstration exhibited at the Department of Agriculture [in Washington, DC]. This Lycemeter was invented by a WPA worker employed on a soil conservation project and is a device for measuring the infiltration and run-off of water in different types of soil." I'm not sure how much of an impact this particular Lycemeter had on our scientific knowledge and practice (for example, was this the first Lycemeter ever invented, or just an improved model?); but I do see that Lycemeters are still in use today.

This Lycemeter was not the only innovation of the WPA and other work-relief programs of the New Deal. For example, methods & standards for surveying, forestry, day care, and school lunch programs were also developed and improved thanks to the work-relief experience.  

Currently, there are nearly 20 million Americans who are un- and under-employed. How many of them have great ideas, but no means to pursue them? Well, we'll probably never know because, instead of being offered WPA-type jobs, they've been reduced to political punching bags for Republicans, who have never wasted an opportunity to call them "parasites," "takers," and "lazy good-for-nothings."

As Bernanke said, "a waste of human talent."

Friday, August 5, 2016

Write in "Franklin Roosevelt" for 2016!

Above: Franklin Roosevelt, ca. 1918-1920. I think FDR will be my write-in choice this November. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

For a lot of progressives (such as myself) the presidential choices for 2016 have, one-by-one, dwindled away.

Bernie's out of the race, so I can't vote for him (except as a write-in, but there doesn't seem to be much of a movement for that).

I can't vote for Hillary Clinton because she's committed to the neoliberal agenda, and the neoliberal agenda is basically just another form of trickle-down-economics. Let's call it, "trickle-down-economics-with-a-smile."

I can't vote for Donald Trump because he's got a screw loose (no, make that "several screws loose").

I can't vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson because he says "his first major act as President will be to submit to Congress a truly balanced budget... Real reductions to bring spending in line with revenues, without tax increases. No line in the budget will be immune from scrutiny and reduction" (emphasis added). In other words: (a) continued low taxes on the wealthy, (b) continued austerity for the middle-class, (c) more shredding of the social safety net (to punish the poor), and (d) continued neglect of America's infrastructure and national parks. Um, no thanks Mr. Johnson, I'm not interested in Ayn Rand's "let's-crap-on-everyone-who-isn't-rich" agenda.

And now I can't vote for Jill Stein either, because her VP pick, Ajamu Baraka, has suggested that Bernie Sanders and his supporters--through foreign policy positions--propped up white supremacy. I find that to be a gross distortion of the Sanders movement, a gross distortion of Sanders' positions, and also very insulting to his supporters. If Baraka had said, "I still find Sanders to be too militaristic and I find his supporters to be unwilling to admit it," fine, everyone has a right to their opinion (even though Sanders' platform emphasized diplomacy over war, withdrawing troops from the Middle-East, a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and resisting the military-industrial complex). But to link the movement to white supremacy?? Please. Over the past year, Sanders and his supporters have been repeatedly called misogynists, racists, and pie-in-the-sky dreamers, when all we really wanted was economic fairness and social justice for all.

Given all of the above, there is only one reasonable choice left; a write-in candidate...

Franklin Roosevelt, 2016!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Reagan National Airport should be renamed Roosevelt National Airport

Above: The New Deal's Public Works Administration (PWA) helped fund the construction of Washington National Airport. The PWA was created by President Franklin Roosevelt and his fellow New Deal policymakers. The caption for this 1939 photograph reads, "Washington National Airport (Gravelly Point Airport). Photo shows operator of Caterpillar tractor and LeTorneau grading machine." Photo courtesy of the National Archives.
Above: President Roosevelt at the groundbreaking ceremony for Washington National Airport, 1938. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Reagan National Airport used to be called Washington National Airport. Grover Norquist--the anti-tax zealot who has done so much to increase the national debt and harm American infrastructure--was the instigator behind the renaming. But the renaming makes no sense because Reagan was, and Norquist still is, against "big government"... and Washington National Airport is a product of big government. It was funded and built by New Deal-created programs like the Public Works Administration (PWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). To rename the airport after Reagan, who--during his presidential years--was so cynical about large government initiatives, makes no sense at all. What's next? Are we going to rename "Yellowstone National Park" to "Koch Brothers National Park" - because the Kochs have been such wonderful advocates for public land and environmental conservation?

President Franklin Roosevelt fought hard for the construction of Washington National Airport, after the increasingly conservative Congress hesitated - adding yet another layer of irony to the "Reagan" renaming (Reagan being the god of modern conservatism). Further, Reagan's modern-day disciples despise the unemployed - routinely calling them "parasites," "takers," and "lazy good-for-nothings." Yet, thousands of unemployed workers were hired by the WPA to help build our "Reagan" airport.

Given all of the above, it is clear--to even a slightly reasonable mind--that Reagan National Airport should be renamed "Roosevelt National Airport." Or perhaps even, "New Deal National Airport."