If you are first breaking into the non-fiction genre for politics, economics or history, New Deal or Raw Deal by Dr. Burton Folsom,Jr. is a great way to start.
You can tell whether or not I like a book by how many post-its I use. ”Will you bring me my tiny post-its?” is a phrase commonly heard by all in my home. Sometimes Matt likes to tease me by bringing me full size post-its. Like that would ever slow me down. But I digress.
As you can see,I liked this book a lot. The first chapter was a little slow for me,but once I started chapter two it was quite the page turner.
You may wonder why I use post-its. I am loathed to write or highlight in anything other than my scriptures. So I use these handy dandy little things to mark passages I want to remember. When I’m done, I go back and type up my thoughts on each passage. I know… You don’t need to say it… I know.
Back to the subject at hand. The Great Depression was something that always interested me,at least it did until I opened up my history text books and found them dull beyond belief. What I do remember from my lessons about the Depression was what a wonderful president Franklin Delano Roosevelt was and how he saved our economy and pulled us out of the depression. FDR is often cited as one of the greatest presidents of all time. Then as I grew up and started learning more, I would often hear about how horrible he actually was and how his progressive New Deal policies actually made the depression last far longer than it would have had he not implemented them.
So what do you do when you hear two conflicting arguments? Well, ideally you would find out about both and draw your own conclusions. But since we are all busy, the best thing for you to do is listen to someone you trust. I did just that. I also listened to several lectures from the author on youtube and since I liked and easily understood what I heard, I bought his book (my local library leaves much to be desired).
I didn’t really know anything about the New Deal itself, just that it apparently gave people jobs who needed it. My husband would often say things like, ”It seems like a good idea,paying someone to work rather than just giving them a hand out.” It wasn’t until I read New Deal or Raw Deal that I began to understand what the New Deal was. It was so much more than giving the unemployed work, and was infinitely more destructive than any of us were taught in school.
Dr. Folsom has done a wonderful job in explaining the New Deal and it’s effects in a clear and concise way. He’s writing makes you feel like you are learning something substantial and yet, isn’t so difficult that you would require a dictionary in order to read it. I was entertained, enlightened and educated. His book was a true delight! Shall I start from the beginning? You know those brats that you and your children meet in the park that throw tantrums when they don’t get their way…and then their moms immediately give in? You know those spoiled rich kids in high school who blame every bad grade on the teacher or the student who ruined the curve? You know those college dopes who had Mommy and Daddy pay for their entitled way of life and how they lie about anything they think they can get away with? You know those disgusting men who leave their wives at home with five children for months on end so he can live on a boat and carry on affairs with his secretary (or in this case, his wife’s secretary) and who knows how many other people? You know those dead beat, get rich quick guys, who use Mommy’s money to finance every failed venture while at the same time turning up his nose at successful businessmen? Have you ever met a pathological liar? Imagine all of those people rolled into one and you’ve got the famed and revered Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And that is just chapter two!
After explaining FDR’s rise to the White House, Dr. Folsom delves in to the causes of the Great Depression and the stock market crash,which is so much more involved than the “corporate greed” excuse that I’ve heard for the last 30 years. Does anyone remember what the Smoot-Hawley Tariff was? Ever wonder why U.S. cars aren’t top of the line and leading the world in sales? Smoot-Hawley Tariff. Thank you Mr. Hoover.
Dr. Folsom takes “Big Shot”policies of the New Deal and lays them all out for us. The NRA, AAA and WPA were all disasters that sunk us deeper into the depression rather than pulling us out of it.
For example lets take the NRA (National Industrial Recovery Act, don’t’ask me why they dropped the “I”). He tells us all about the bureaucracies and hundreds of regulations and price-fixing involved. There was story after story of small businesses who were forced to shut down, were fined or even imprisoned because they wouldn’t or couldn’t comply with the rules their competitors had set for them. Like the dry cleaner who was thrown in jail and slapped with a $100 fine because he dared give a 5 cent discount to his customers. Or the Battery manufacturer who was beloved by his employees even though he couldn’t pay them the minimum wage required by the NRA code. His employees defended him and stood by him even when he was forced to run his business from a jail cell. The NRA wasn’t just about fixed prices, it was union philosophy at it’s best. Higher wages, fewer hours and you aren’t allowed to raise prices of your product. A recipe for success if you ask me.
Needless to say, thousands of businesses were forced to lay people off or close because they couldn’t afford to pay the new, higher, wages. The bureaucracies and regulations of each of the New Deal programs were multi-level and incoherent. It reminds me of Atlas Shrugged, when the government makes up rules for the very purpose of prosecuting people and businesses they don’t like. And just as in Atlas Shrugged, the corruption was endless. As far as the AAA was concerned, the federal government needed to hire people to inspect the inspectors to make sure there were no bribes taking place. I guess they just figured the price of double bribery was too high. How is that for efficiency?
In my opinion the WPA was the most corrupt policy of all. New Jersey alone has countless letters and complaints from citizens and workers of the WPA who complained about being blackmailed into voting democrat or loose their government jobs. If that weren’t bad enough, several were also required to spend a percentage of their WPA paycheck (paid for by tax dollars) to democratic campaigns.
In the interest of time, I’ll spare you about 75 post-it notes…
I think the part that surprised and interested me the most was how FDR used the IRS as his personal attack dog. He used the tax code to attack anyone that either he felt threatened by or opposed him or his policies; including Andrew Mellon, the secretary of the treasury under Harding, Coolidge and Hoover (the guy must have been doing something right!) Tax avoiders were lumped into the same category as tax evaders. In Roosevelt’s mind, anyone who used lawful tax deductions were just as bad as those who cooked their books and he went after anyone he could. But beyond hounding innocent Roosevelt objectors, he also halted legitimate tax investigations on his friends and allies; including Huey Long and …wait for it…Lyndon B. Johnson (no wonder he tried to re-create the New Deal with The Great Society)!
I’d love to tell you how he tried to stack the Supreme Court, how he sold us Social Security as insurance but testified to the courts that it was a tax, how he manipulated the currency, how he tried to run any and all profitable businesses into the ground how he bought elections not only for himself but supportive congressional candidates, and how he destroyed the honor and dignity that was once part of the office of the presidency.
But I don’t have time.
So I’ll leave you with just one last nugget of gold on this beloved president. During World War II he issued an executive order for a 100% tax on income above $25,000.
I may have to rethink my position on reincarnation. A lot of this sounds eerily familiar.
If anyone wants to buy New Deal or Raw Deal, I would highly suggest it. I believe it was $10 well spent, I didn’t even scratch the surface for you today. I may even trade in my paperback for a hard cover to match the sequel (which just came out today) FDR Goes to War. Dr. Folsom also has another book out called The Myth of the Robber Barons that is on my wish list.
Any one who wants try before you buy, here is a lecture Dr. Folsom gave on New Deal or Raw Deal. I, for one, can’t wait to read his next book.