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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  October 15, 2011 11:45am-1:00pm EDT

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have such an appeal? it was a big seller for her and her reporting career. anybody else? thank you very much for coming. [applause] >> is there a nonfiction offer or bookie would like to see featured on booktv? send us an e-mail at or tweak as at up next michael -- michael hiltzik examines roosevelt's plans to confront the depression. this is just over an hour. >> it is our honor and pleasure to welcome michael hiltzik who is here to discuss his latest book "the new deal: a modern history". he is from colgate university with an ms in journalism from
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columbia. during his extensive career he has been a financial correspondent in new york city, miami bureau chief and financial staff writer and columnist. he had every job. he has written about business, technology. among his many writings awards of the pulitzer prize on corruption in the music industry and the gerald loeb award for financial journalism and silver gavel from the american bar association. michael hiltzik's acclaimed books on the flight against social security, and a death in kenya. praise for his book has been enormous including the
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following. a sweeping, lively survey of the roosevelt administration's efforts to restart the american economy 81 years ago. a timely well executed overview of the program that laid the foundation for the modern progressive state. please welcome michael hiltzik. [applause] >> thank you for that kind introduction. thanks to all of you for coming out tonight. i have been saved by tivo. we are all here tonight for what should be a joint effort, a
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turning point in american history. my goal tonight is the same as when i started my book which is to recover the new deal from the mists of time and the accretion of eight decades of ideology and misunderstanding. so i will speak for half an hour and hope we will have time for questions from all of view. i can't cover everything and there is a point you will be curious about. i wanted to establish the relationship franklin roosevelt had with the american people. from a letter that came into the white house in january of 1934 seeking advice on an excruciating personal dilemma.
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it began dear friend. our neighbor pete smith loaned us $25 and the mule team. area will pay the meal unless he can see me. here's my question. what should i do to save the mule? hard to imagine sending a personal question to any president the other than fdr including barack obama. but this tells you something about the personal affinity millions of americans felt for fdr whose harvard education, the man who ran up servants in upstate new york. tells you not only about his personality and how he projected a sense he cared about america and all walks of life and socioeconomic classes but the time. a unique period in history when
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america had been beaten down by an economic crisis so amazing that the wealthiest businessman and most experienced political leaders we had had thrown up their hands and declared they had no assets. roosevelt arrived in the white house having declared he didn't have the answers either but was going to try everything he could to bring america out of the crisis. as he put it in an important speech during the 1932 presidential campaign, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. it is common sense to take a method and try it. if it fails to admit it frankly and try another but above all try something. what he tried was an amazingly varied slate of programs.
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the new deal closed the banks and reopen them under a stringent set of new regulations. it sent hundreds of thousands of young men from city and countryside into the wilderness to clear brush and create part fans build roads. that was the civilian conservation corps. the first work relief program of the new deal and one of the first in american history. the new deal had a mortgage system that require homeowners to refinance their loans every three to five years preventing them from building up equity in their houses and replaced it with a form of mortgage we know today. long term loans that aim to help you eventually own your house if everything goes right. they were refinanced at rock-bottom interest rates by the government. this was the homeowners loan corporation which turned a profit for the u.s. government.
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we would love to see something like that today. the new deal implemented support for a farm sector that by 1933 had been in and depression for more than a decade. it created social security. it took america off of the gold standard releasing the u.s. economy from the shackles of the past and it built. more than america built before or has since. highways, bridges, tunnels and jams, schools, theaters and airports. there isn't a day in which we don't drive or play or learn on a structure built by the new deal. the program was so divers because it was the product of a diverse team of advisers some of whom are remembered only as names in textbooks and some of
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whom are completely forgotten. one of the wave are tried in my book recapture the reality of the new deal for modern readers is by bringing these people back to life. frances perkins. the first female cabinet member in american history who almost singlehandedly brought social security into being and on her first day as secretary of labor not only had to physically evict the cigar chomping gangsters with him herbert hoover staffed the labor department but had to take mop in hand to evict cockroaches from the labor department's filled the headquarters building. fdr's interior secretary and head of public works, a republican but a progressive republican, dump hoover campaign and the 1932 gop convention but failed because he couldn't find anyone else who wanted to run.
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my personal favorite, general johnson, a big, often drunk. kissel profane west pointer who brought the national recovery administration into being and created the blue eagle many of you have seen or remember and is famous for being able to intimidate the nation's biggest industrialists into doing his bidding when he was a secret be checking in to walter reed hospital to dry out. how big a figure was general johnson? in 1933, first year of fdr's administration, johnson was time magazine's man of the year. today nobody remembers his name. at the center of all this activity was fdr. like president obama he was viewed as an untested cypher when he took office. the x in the equation as editorialist william wright
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described him after the election. roosevelt was so intent on making himself seem all things to all people that in reading memoirs of his closest aides use and love and devotion to the man but also one certainty about what he had in mind. that explains why so many of them who spent years of their lives serving him ended up deeply offended. they started working for the fdr they imagine in their minds only to find out when political expediency called he could be somebody entirely different. but that wasn't the way the public felt about him. after years in which the national leadership didn't seem to have tried anything roosevelt's pledge in his magical voice delivered confidence. so much that for the next six years the country went along with him even when it was obvious that one initiative or another had failed.
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that is an important fact about the new deal that has been largely forgotten. some of it worked and some of it quite distinctly did not work. what underlies the unifying principle and lasting legacy of this huge, disorganized and messy program if you could even call it a program was the idea that the federal government's responsibility was to do something, not merely stand aside. that inaction was action too but the wrong kind of action. it was the federal government's responsibility to make sure unemployed americans had something to eat and a roof over their heads and opportunity for work even when it was not provided by the private sector. so the new deal created the template for federal efforts to improve the lives of all americans regardless of their station. in the furnace of the great depression the roosevelt administration forged a new style of government and new vision of government
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responsibilities to exist. i want to talk a little bit before we get more deeply into the new deal about what it was not. one of the most important lessons i learned in writing my book is the most conservatives and liberals get the new deal wrong. although the new deal is pictured as quintessentially liberal and progressive, many of its initiatives were staunchly conservative. the first law passed involve new regulations on banks but the very second piece of legislation was the economy act which mandated 25% reduction in the federal budget including cuts to congress's pay, federal employees' wages and even veterans benefits. roosevelt constantly threatened to raise taxes on business and the wealthy but failed to do so until the very end of the new deal. for most of the period the bulk
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of federal taxes were paid by the middle class and the working-class and more taxes were piled on them every year. there were higher excise taxes on tobacco and after the repeal of prohibition on liquor. there was social security tax. many new deal initiatives favored by roosevelt were failures and many of his successes were perceived by others. the first great triumph, end the banking crisis during the new administration's first week in office was mapped out not by roosevelt's aids but herbert hoover's economic advisers at the treasury department. fdr was opposed to adding old age pension to social security until the bill's introduction on capitol hill. he threatened to veto a bank regulation bill if it included
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-- was overruled by congress and luckily so because in time he would claim fraternity of both of these programs which was an indication of his political ability to understand when things did work. roosevelt's reputation as a quintessential tax and spend liberal--he pushed for a balanced budget every year though he never achieved one. he was skeptical of large public works programs and even vetoed bills he thought would give too much spending authority. and programs -- too much redistribution of wealth which he dismissed which is why he was opposed to old age pensions for social security. the new deal forged an alliance between minority voters and the democratic party that lasted until the present day but its worst short, was in the field of
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racial equality. many work-release programs capitulated racial discrimination and shortchanged black families and some even why in the gulf and wages between white and black workers. when black leaders urged fdr to speak out against the wave of lynchings across the south and the west he resisted almost every time and refused to press for an anti and lynching bill sponsoring the naacp. broadly political rationale. he said the bill would so acre southern congressional conservatives that their threatened filibuster would jeopardize the rest of his program. ..
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>> outraged progressives in his era just as barack obama's political compromises outrage his progressive followers today. think about this; the security act of 1934 which gave us the securities and exchange commission and upgraded the disclosure requirements for all corporations was considered by progressives to amount to a total giveaway to wall street. the new republic greeted the final draft with these words: the stock exchange should remember franklin roosevelt with gratitude. now, this leads us into a question that, of course, is hotly debated today of whether the new deal ended the depression, or as some would have it, even prolonged the depression. well, the facts remain by the estimation of great economists, the great depression ended sometime around early to mid 1935. the u.s. economy measured by
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real gross national product grew at a blistering pace, averaging 8% a year between 1933 and 1937. that's four times the economic growth rate that we have right now. the unemployment rate fell sharply from about 23% in 1932 -- hoover's last year in office -- to 9% in 1937. the nation's employment roles grew by nearly ten million workers in that period, and that was an increase of 25% in the labor force. the stock market, too, reacted positively. from roosevelt's inauguration until early 1937, the dow jones average nearly quadrupled, a record unmatched in any other four-year period in history. now, liberal economists would love to see all this as a triumph of keynesian
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deficit-funded stimulus, but the new deal achieved this record without explicit keynesian -- [inaudible] e. carey brown made a famous remark in the 1960s that fiscal stimulus was unsuccessful during the '30s not because it doesn't work, but because it was not tried. indeed, for most to have new deal still la tef programs -- stimulative programs were almost always paired with counterstimulative programs. inflationary programs were paired with deflationary programs. work relief was pair with the the economy act. public works with higher excise taxes. measures to push up prices for farm commodities were paired by, were paired with industrial price fixing by general johnson's nra which made the crisis on the farm, as it happened, much worse. the unemployment assistance provisions of the social security act were balanced, maybe overbalanced, by the new
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social security tax that went into effect on january 1, 1937, a working class tax. in fact, it was not until 1938 when fdr had to address a sudden sharp recession did the new deal implement an explicit stimulus program of unemployment relief of the sort familiar to us today. that program stopped the recession in it tracks and set the stage for an even sharper recovery, one of the strongest in american history. but that's not to say that the new deal didn't boost federal spending. the budgetary outflow rose from about 7% of gross nest you can product in 1932 to 10% in '39, and the federal deficit which had been about half a percent of gdp in 1931 rose to nearly 6% in 1934. the notion that the depression didn't end until world war ii derives from the fact that
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spending and the testify sit both -- deficit both soared between 1941 and '45, but the trend of increases had really started much earlier. yet the new dealers didn't really think of their spending as stimulus. there were new dealers who were add adherents of maynard caips -- keynes who pressed for more. especially work relief and government construction was thought of as a way to keep the unemployed fed and housed and spending money to bide time while they tried everything and, incidentally, while the economy tried to cure -- [inaudible] all of this certainly did have a stimulative effect, even if they didn't think about it that way. what about the political
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context? i'd like to spend some time on this because i think roosevelt's approach has much to teach barack obama and maybe the rest of us. i already allude today a major distinction between the political environment of the new deal and of today's. in the '30s the partisan lineup in congress was very different from what you see today. both parties, democrats and republicans, had very strong progressive wings. n., one of the strongest progressives, let's say liberals, in the '30s was california's senior senator, hiram johnson, the very man who as governor had given us the initiative process. and johnson was a republican. in fact, he'd run for vice president in 1912 with teddy roosevelt on the progressive or bull moose ticket. now, both parties also had very strong conservative wigs. among the democrats it was that
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bloc of senators and congressmen from the solid south, some of whom would splinter off into the dixiecrats and run strom thurmond for president in 1938. roosevelt, of course, also faced implacable antagonism from big business which complained that he was creating uncertainty in the industrial economy from all his regulating of child labor and stock and bond trading, food and drug safety and everything else. and i think we've heard lately the same cry of uncertainty from regulation which just goes to show that some things in politics never change. [laughter] today liberals complain about the sieve echo chamber -- the influence of fox news and what have you. the very same role in the '30s was played by the newspaper industry which was almost entirely controlled by conservative business help. and i can tell you from reading their editorials that some of
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them would make fox news blush today. [laughter] but fdr was a master at bringing the fight to his opponents, especially those in big business and on wall street. his speeches are filled with blistering comebacks against attacks on him by these business help and bankers. businessmen and bankers. consider how he responded to the formation of the american liberty league by several conservative democratic finance years including the dupont be family. the league had announced as its two founding principles, one, to teach the necessity of respect for the rights of property and, two, to teach the duty of government to encourage and protect free enterprise. well, roosevelt's opinion of the league was withering. he described it as, and i quote, an organization that only advocates two out of the ten commandments. of.--
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[laughter] he continued, the two particular tenets of this organization say you shall love god and then forget your neighbor. but the concerns of government besides these two points are about people who want to keep themselveses free from starvation, keep a roof over their heads, lead decent lives, have proper educational standards and the concern of government is the protection of the life and liberty of the individual against elements in the community that seek to enrich and advance themselves at the expense of their fellow citizens. in public fdr never ceased challenging the moneyed interests. in perhaps his most famous speech in this vein at a preelection rally in madison square garden just before election day 1936, he said -- and i quote again -- tonight i call the roll of millions who never had a chance; men at starvation wages, women at sweat shops, children at looms. written on it are the names of farmers whose acres yielded only
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bitterness, businessmen whose books were portents of disaster, homeowners who were faced we vix. we will continue to seek to improve working conditions for the workers of america to reduce hours over long, to increase wages, to end the labor of chirp, to wipe out sweat shops. for all these we have only just begun to fight. never before in our history have these forces been so united against one candidate. they are unanimous in their hate for me, and i welcome their hatred. [laughter] now, i think we can all ma'am what the response -- imagine what the response would be on cable news if those very same words were uttered by barack obama. now, for all that i don't think it's right to criticize president obama for not being franklin delano roosevelt. roosevelt was a unique political figure with a unique talent for
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reaching out with his voice for the radio speakers in millions of homes and holding his audience's anticipation. plus, obviously, times have changed, and we change with them. and despite the surface similarities between the great depression and the cash of 1929 on the one hand and the crash of 2008 and the great recession on the other, there are important differences. for one thing, let's not forget that by the time fdr was inaugurated, the depression had been going on for nearly four years. in the farm belt, more than ten years. it was so long and deep that skepticism, even hatred for wall street, had become profoundly ingrained in the american psyche. and that was reinforced by a very aggressive investigation staged by the senate finance committee under its chief counsel. the hearings in 1933 laid out for all to see how the nation's biggest bankers had connived and conspired to cheat the little
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man out of his life savings while the biggest banks got more profitable and, by the way, got away without paying income taxes. well, quite frankly, the recession of 2008 didn't last long enough to create the same effect. more to the point, government wasn't stuck without a strategy as it had been in 1929. the strategy in 2008 came mostly from the new deal playbook: spend to keep people from starving, stimulate the economy with public works and rely on the social safety net. unemployment, social security, work relief created under the new deal. so bankers and business help who had every bit as much to do with the crash of 2008 as the crash of 1929 have been able to evade regulations of the stringency they were face with the in the 1930s. or maybe it's because the public's become so used to bankers making outrageous
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salaries and bonuses that it's hard to get people stirred up anymore. or maybe it's that president obama doesn't have the gift that fdr had at putting his positions into words and images that the average american can easily understand. i might say, too, that progressives today don't seem to have the heart to defend their own record, something fdr never stopped doing during the new deal. even when he had to tell voters that the job of reversing the misery of the depression was an unfinished job, roosevelt continually reminded them of everything the new deal had achieved. a record that resembles this terms of challenging the status quo, president obama's passage of the stimulus bill and health care reform. achievements which, by the way, he and his democratic colleagues seem unaccountably shy about. well, by contrast in 1938 when fdr proposed his most sweeping stimulus program yet to stem a new recession, he observe inside
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a fireside chat that although unemployment was still too high, the real despair of the depression was a thing of the past. in order, the new deal worked. he reminded them, this recessions has not returned us to the disasters and suffering of the beginning of 1933. your money in the bank is safe, farmers are no longer in deep distress and have greater purchasing power, dangers of security speculation have been minimized, national income is almost 50% higher than it was in 1932, and here's the moe -- most important point, government has an established and accepted responsibility for relief. is that last point is another one that fdr never stopped making. the importance and the responsibility of government to act. and here's how he put it in another fireside chat in 1937. i've never had sympathy with the point of view that a session of
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congress is an unfortunate intrusion of what they call politics into our national affairs. democratic government can never be considered an intruder into the affairs of a democratic nation. but i think we all know too well the necessity of preserving the principles of american government that were introduced during roosevelt's new deal and have remained under attack virtually ever since. nonstop for nearly 08 years. so -- 80 years. so i want to spend the last few minutes of my time putting those attacks in if perspective. let's tell the story through social security which was the cornerstone to have new deal, and to this day stands as the jewel in its crown. we keep hearing today that social security is going bankrupt, that it doesn't really have any money, that it's a ponzi scheme in which today's workers put in cash. to quote rick perry, a monstrous lie. well, i'm here to tell you that
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none of those things is true. what is true is there's no getting away from our shared responsibility from one another, the shared responsibility that was the beating heart of the new deal. that's a principle that the drafters of social security understood very, very well, and here's what edwin whit, the chief draftsman of the social security act, told congress when it began debating his work. whether the aged are supported by their children or by society, the economic price has to be paid for the money expended by families in support of their elders is money unavailable for the new generation's support or for investment and growth. whether you enact pension laws orbit, that cost is there. -- or not, that cost is there. the growing number of old people will have to be supported by the generation then living, and whether you do it in the form of pensions or some other way, no way of escaping that cost. and i think that reinforces the great virtue of social security
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which is that it made the older generation -- every older generation -- independent. and that's important not only for the older generation, but for the younger generation who are free to a great extent, not completely, nor does anyone want to be free from responsibility for his or her own elders, but free to a certain extent from the financial burden of supporting the older generation. and that's important for economic growth. so when you hear attacked for being bankrupt or a ponzi scheme, keep in mind that that's what it's all about. that's what its critics want to take away from you, and that's independence. and i only hope that democrats in congress keep that thought front and center as they beat down yet more attempts to cut social security. so once again, ever since its very first provision was enacted in march 1933, the new deal has been under attack. and as my book points out, there
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was plenty about it that deserved to be attacked, but most of the critics of the new deal just want to turn back the clock, to recreate a system of policy that had been born in the 19th century and had been shown by the great depression to be unequal to the needs of the 20th, much less the 21st. well, that phase of american government died in 1929 and led to the great depression, and ultimate i l to the -- ultimately, to the new deal. society doesn't save any money by moving the bill from government to the individual and that doing so can actually cost lives. the lesson we learned then was that we're all in this together, and that a policy based on telling people you're on your own really benefits only a very small portion of the population. the elements in the community as fdr called them who seen to enrich and -- seek who enrich and advance themselves at the expense of their fellow citizens. and the question i'll leave with
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you right now is, why do we have to keep learning that lesson over and over? and since that's a question i may not be able to answer, i'll open the floor now to questions you may have that i hope i can answer. thank you. [applause] >> gentleman in the back. >> um, do you concur with the idea over time that the new deal, fdr saved capitalism? >> the question is do i concur with the idea that fdr saved capitalism. that's a very interesting question because, in fact, i think that's what fdr had in mind. there were new dealers in his administration, there were people in his brain trust which preceded the new deal who wanted a much more radical approach the
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to the banks. they wanted to nationalize the banks. that was never something that was really on fdr's radar careen. he -- screen. he really wanted to address the crisis by focusing on the abuses of capitalism, not by remaking the spire structure. entire structure. yes, sir. >> quick question, yes. in 1934 the legislation, the legislation passed that led to the gold confiscation this 1934, also established the exchange stabilization fund. can you address that? >> yes. well, in 1934 i think what you're talking about was the abrogation of the gold cloths in contracts. >> but it also set up the esf, the exchange stabilization fund. >> right. >> with i'm doing research right now for a sequel to inside job, and this is something that's come up, and it's quite touching. >> i don't know as much about the exchange stabilization as i do about the gold clause which
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was a controversial step, as i'm sure you know. essentially, the outflow of gold from the united states and the movement of gold was a big problem for economic policymakers during the new deal this part because roosevelt really wanted to remove, take america off the gold standard. so in 1933 or 1934 congress passed a law that abrogated a clause in all contracts, including federal contracts, that said those contracts could be settled in gold. well, the case went up to the u.s. supreme court, and there was so much tension about how the supreme court would rule that there was an open line between the white house and joe kennedy's office -- he was the chairman of the sec. roosevelt actually had an executive order drafted in which if supreme court ruled against him, he was going to abrogate the supreme court decision. and joe -- if that was to happen, joe kennedy was to close
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stock exchanges. well, the supreme court -- this was just before it really started overturning all the new deal initiatives it could get its hands on -- finessed the matter. the supreme court said it's wrong, and it's illegal for the government to have abrogated the gold clause in the contracts, but the people who are before us, the individuals who brought the lawsuit that we're ruling on today opportunity have standing to bring the lawsuit. so we're upholding the gold clause. we don't have it before us. so it was a great moment of miness, but that was the context, i think, of the exchange stabilization. yes, ma'am. >> oh, here she is. excuse me. harold, you've mentioned that before, he's a very important figure throughout this entire administration. in "colossus" you present him in the context of the building of
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hoover dam. is his behavior throughout the new deal consistent with that, or was that just an aberration in his behavior? >> well, which behavior in connection with hoover dam are you talking about? >> well, things like demanding that it be call boulder dam instead of hoover dam, all that kind of stuff. >> all right. well, that's that -- harold, as the lady points out, he was franklin roosevelt eat interior secretary, and he was the man who took hoover's name off hoover dam, renamed it boulder dam, and he was eventually overruled in 1947 by a republican congress which is why we still, we once again call it hoover dam. that was very characteristic of harold. as i said, he was a republican, he was known as a curmudgeon and worse. he was a devoted progressive, and he deted herbert hoover. not, not only did he hate hoover, he was very suspicious of hoover. he was convinced that hoover was out there insinuating himself, trying to undermine the new deal
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which wasn't entirely wrong. [laughter] but, now, ickes, very important figure in the new deal in part because he was one of only two cabinet members who served franklin roosevelt for all 12 years that he was in office, the other one being frances perkins. he was a very important aide and adviser to roosevelt, one that roosevelt didn't always take very seriously. he was mercurial, he was a curmudgeon, he would try to get his way by threatening to resign, but he was also known -- the reason that roosevelt put him in charge of the public works administration which ended up with jurisdiction over hoover dam was that he was convinced that ickes would be so careful with the public's money that he would only disperse it very, very slowly which fit
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roosevelt's inclination. and he did. it was never, there was never a whiff of scandal at the public works administration. and it gave us some truly enduring public works. >> you want to call on somebody? >> this gentleman right here. >> if, i don't know if you've done any readings on patrick moynihan's discussions and studies about social security, but if he was alive today, what are some of the things he would say about the condition of? if i remember correctly, he looked at it more as a mathematical equation. in other words, the mortality -- the age at which -- and then the birthrate. is that not still -- >> well, there are a lot of complexities about social
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security. daniel moynihan was, in fact, a member of the greenspan chition in 1982 that saved social security when it truly was in crisis which i would say in distinction to today when it is not in crisis. moynihan actually was -- he did have those views that you talk k about. he thought social security was knot in its form then a sustainable program. but that was a minority view even on that commission, and that commission included conservatives like bob dole and greenspan who was by no means a liberal progressive. i think moynihan's view of social security at the time, they were not the majority view, and even if they would have been the majority view actually have been rectify. they were rectified by the 1982-1983 reforms which put social security on a much stronger fiscal standing. i think you had a question.
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>> maybe we'll just pass it. thanks. >> the influence of the supreme court during the administration of fdr's is interesting. but one of the more interesting things today has been the supreme court decision to characterize corporations with the same free speech rights as individuals and doing away with some of the reform in terms of contributions. t going to have a -- it's going to have a fairly dramatic effect, and i think -- >> i agree. >> -- the influences are going to be significant. can you expand on your thoughts and where that's going to go forward? >> >> with, the gentleman's talking about, i think, the citizens united ruling and maybe some others that really overturned restrictions on corporate spending. i think the current administration probably is getting a lot of heart burn from
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the thought about the makeup of the supreme court, especially if health care reform ends up before this court as it looks almost certain to do. just to focus a little bit more on the supreme court of the new deals age, as i think many of you know the new deal, starting in -- the supreme court starting in 1935 ec warmed on a concerted campaign to overturn major new teal initiatives. they ruled unconstitutional the aaa, the agricultural adjustment administration which was designed to save the farm belt. they overturned the nra which was the industrial analog the aaa. they even overturned minimum wage laws. the court then was controlled, really, by a group of four very, very conservative justices, the four horsemen, they were called,
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and who manageed to gain a fifth, often even a sixth, justice on their side. some of those stinting rulings of the supreme court, overturning that deal, were actually justices like louis brandeis who was a progressive hero actually were very suspicious of big government. they were suspicion of big business, but they were suspicion of -- bigness in all. now, that whole period ended in 937 after franklin roosevelt tried to pack the court which is a subject that's treated in my book, but we haven't talked about it tonight. the supreme court eventually came around, and the most important rulings it upheld, for example, social security in 1937. so we now know that social security is constitutional no matter what you may hear. but, yeah, the court is always sort of a yolker in the deck for
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administrations that are trying to address or change the status quo. yes. >> mine is anecdotal of my experience in in the new deal and before. >> speak louder? >> i was born in 1926. we did very well. my father was a manager in a department store in canton, ohio. we lived on ridge road which overlooked the railroad tracks. and i would see the railroad cars covered with young men who were dirty, bearded and looking quite desperate. in 1934 my father lost his job, and we had to move to
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california. he said we'll go out there and starve in the sunlight. fortunately, we didn't starve, but i'm sure glad we came here. then the new deal took 11 million people including these young men off the railroad cars and put them to useful work, magnificent work along with the wpa which hires writers and playrights and all sorts of people. >> yeah. so there's a chapter in my book about what was on this federal run, which was the arts program. >> right. >> now, 20 years later i was a physician working in harlan county, kentucky, bloody harlan, and i had to go up the three c road, built by the civilian conservation corpses. and i went up that road to a
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miner in if his bed lying in his shack with his whole family around him. he was diagnosed as terminal tuberculosis eave though we -- he had had step to my sin for two years at that time. the miners were on strike for one year because of the terrible hl testimonies. i called the hospital, the umw system, and that day an ambulance was sent out and carried that man to the hospital for yourtive -- >> well, as you pointed out it was the ccc that actually brought those -- and that eat one of the great achievements of that particular program. yes. >> thank you.
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have you read amity shlaes' review of your book in the journal? >> yes, i have. >> do you have any comments? >> of course, i was familiar with her book, amity says is a conservative writer whose book on the great depression is called "the forgotten man." and it's, basically, a critique of the new deal. and i very have some critiques r book in my book. [laughter] though i kept them to the footnotes. i thought it was, under the circumstances, very dangerous and quite gracious. and i told her that i appreciated, you know, that she had actually perceived what i was trying to achieve with my book. and, you know, i'd be happy to debate the political and economic context of the new deal with her anytime though i assume that we would end up agreeing to disagree.
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yes. >> how long did it take you to research and write the book, and what are you planning to do next? [laughter] >> it took me the whole project took probably a little bit more than three years. and my next project is going to be something very different which is going to be a look at nuclear science and politics in the, from the 1940s through the 1950s. >> i spent most of july in the national parks in the western states, and what's really amazing about the national parks is a tremendous amount of work was done as a result of the new deal. it was also interesting that very little has been done since then. and some of these programs that come about as a result of the need to stimulate the economy are things that would never have otherwise been dope, and i think the national park system -- i'm
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not sure how much time you spend on the national parks and the influence of the new deal on the national parks, but very little has been done to the national parks since then. >> of course, as you said, they were the product of a lot of -- and i think it's been pointed out here. including the ccc and the wpa which focused on smaller scale prompts in which more money went into labor than went into material in contrast to the bridge in new york or the bay bridge, laugh you. the point that you raise about how little has been tone such that i think is an important point. these new deal programs, the mix works administration, the works progress administration, the cwa
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which was a precur to have to the -- of course, all these alphabet agency took advantage of the availability of labor and the need to keep money flowing in the economy to do things -- first of all, projects that states and localities wanted, but also for projects that were visionary, that the state, homety t finish if a federal government didn't known they wanted or needed this they carted getting built. we've let all of this, essentially, go to hell, i think. we haven't expanded, a lot of these great structure or these monuments to building certainly over the last 20 years we have really stopped spending. and i think that in stimulus plan of 2009 there was an idea that it should address some of that. but it's, obviously, it's been
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slow. there hasn't been enough money, it would take more, and more should be done because stimulus, public works of that nature are actually investments in the economy. as i said, we drive on these structures, we get water and electricity from them, we fly out of them. laguardia airport was the single largest construction project of the new deal. and they've, they've been oil in the fears of the u.s -- gears of the u.s. economy ever since, and we've let it turn to sand. >> mr. hiltzik, i'm wondering if you might be able to speak to the political comparison again between then and now? you made some of the ox vegases that things were -- observations that things were different
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obviously being one that roosevelt came into office when there was already a huge head of steam and anger directed at some of the big financial institutions. hart hart ole -- what, if anything, you could prognosticate about his chances because of those political differences. >> well, right. as i said, there were political similarities and political differences. roosevelt by no means had an easy time of it even though he came in with -- he did have a head of steam, you know, this desire on all sides to get something done. you really saw that during the 100 days when he proposed 16 separate pieces of legislation. yes, it was are a majority democratic congress rest, but it was not in any manes an
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exclusively aggressive congress. there was real desperation among politics and, of course, tax taxpayers and the public. and poll sixes really felt that. -- politicians really felt that. but opposition both on the republican and democratic sign came to a marriage very quickly. and roosevelt had to triangulate, he had toot a lot of compromising all the way through the new deal starting in late 1933 right think to 1937, 1938, 1939 which i mark as the end of the new deal. it wasn't very long before you started to hear conservative congressmen and senators standing up and saying, this spending is incyren. we're spending ourselves into bankruptcy. quotes really very, very close to what you here today, they did go to roosevelt in withdrawing
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stimulus in 1937, and the result was the root version. so that's the version we'll have, that sometimes you need stop stimulus and the other is before its time. every political prediction you here today is going to be wrong whether it's from me or anybody else in some fundamental way. on the other hand, um, i'm not unwilling to make predictions because when they do or don't come true, no one will remember that i -- [laughter] despite the record that we're going to have on c-span. it's all about, i think, what's the alternative and who's articulating an alternative, and
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what policies are out there. i think the election's going to be a debate about policy. and thus far i've heard proposals from the democrats, i vice president heard anything that -- i haven't heard anything that sounds to me like it'll work from the other side, especially not in light of what we know about how the new deal worked. yes, in back. >> ronald reagan famously or infamously said that government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem. i wonder if you might comment on the notion that the ronald reagan era had a significant role in crystallizing some of these forces and not incidentally lays some of the tough ground work that barack
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obama faces in terms of moving the stone uphill. >> um, well, i don't have any doubt. i don't think this is any doubt among historians, historians of the recent past that that's correct, that it was reagan who did crystallize this notion that was not a new notion when he came into office that government interferes. i think the notion, it really started as a republican tenet under goldwater, but it was reagan who picked up the ball and ran -- ran with it and, of course, had the personal popularity to turn it into a more popular or more broadly-accepted idea or ideology. this goes to, um, to the quote that i read to you from roosevelt.
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roosevelt never -- and it was fundamental to the new deal that there was nothing wrong and there was nothing evil and there was everything right about the government stepping in when private enterprise withdrew. now, that's a keynesian, in economics, that's a keynesian point of view, but the new dealers i would say were proto-caips yang because they weren't familiar with keynes until at least the late 1930s. but they did understand that when private enterprise and the private sector was withdrawing from the economy, that it was really the government's -- the government had no choice but to step in. and i think roosevelt was very explicit about this. he didn't apologize for it. he thought, in fact, that was his role, and that was the role of government. and that was the major flaw of the hoover administration. now, roosevelt and hoover shared
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some fundamental economic beliefs. but they, where they really differed was in their willingness to use the powers that they could find in law and in the constitution to get things done. >> maybe we have time for two more questions. >> okay. gentleman in the back. >> i'm just curious, why do you think fdr spent ten years saying no to the aspiration of african-americans and said yes to every reactionary southern chairman, congressional committee to the point of canceling the '41 march on washington? >> well, i don't think there's -- i don't think there's much hu ri in that. i think roosevelt was quite explicit about it. he recognized that the southern bloc, particularly in the senate, was an extremely powerful bloc, and that they were intransigent on these sorts of issues, and they would simply not give way. now, one of -- some of the commentary you hear about issues like the anti-lynching law which
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came up. senator robert wagner of new york wrote it up year after year after year, and either it got a threat of a filibuster or a filibuster would defeat it. the commentary is that even though the idea of an anti-lynching law actually was very popular, opinion polls showed a majority of americans in favor. but even in the south you did have this on tour rate clique -- on door rate clique or bloc. and you did not have a countervailing passion on the side of getting it done. now, the naacp in this encounter that i talked about a few apts ago, um, they went to the white house, and they said you will be able to defeat the threat of filibuster if you make this ap
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administration bill. there was a procedural step, and it would have made it much harder for the filibuster to take place. roosevelt did not personally want to do it. he did not have a commitment to civil rights. that role in the civilization, i'm sure you know, was played by eleanor roosevelt and harold ickes who had been the president of the chicago chapter of the naacp. and it was the two of them who actually got marian amender to sing in front of the lyndon memorial. in fact, it's the coda to my book because that the first moment in which you you could sd this commitment by the federal government to that sort of racial equality. interestingly enough, if you go back and you look at a contemporary commentary by knee grow writers -- negro writers as
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the accepted term was then, before the election the crisis which was the house organ of the naacp and had been founded by w.e.b. duboise, sort of issued a judgment on all candidates running for president in 1936. norman thomas as a socialist and earl broader as the communist candidate. and the crisis said, you know, for the knee grow in america if we had to choose the best choice for us would be, first, earl browner and then -- but we recognize they have very hitting chance of getting elections, so we're to go ahead with roosevelt. but it is true and it is sort of ap approach that they didn't take racial politics very
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seriously at the time. last question. >> yes. the point was raised about eleanor roosevelt. how influential was she in regards to the new deal and the politics involved? >> well, in most respects she was -- the question is about eleanor roosevelt ander influence -- and her influence on the new deal. in most respects we have to say he was a peripheral figure. he's not involved in any of the nationtives -- initiatives, each social security. she was pursuing her own dreams. where she did v.a. an influence, it was a negative influence, and that was in the creation of resettlement communities. eleanor roosevelt had this idea where she'd been inculcated with this idea that if you could import farmer to an ideal
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collective community, provide them with cows and barns, schools for the children, houses that you would be able to create something for you. and the land was not very good, but this was the first lady's prompt, so it got a lot of promising in funding. and it was under harold ickes who really hates it. [laughter] and, in fact, the government overspent on the houses, they imported houses from napped that turned out not to be ipslated and didn't fit in the foundation. the government spent $10,000 per family when the budget was really 2,000. way wanted to give every family a cow before they realized most of these families had never
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create a -- they staffed it with exappointments of the latest in progressive education only for the families to discover their kids weren't learning how to read, write and do arithmetic. so it all came upon, it lasted about six years because of the first lady. on the other hand, she really was a beacon on civil rights. the home area of anderson controversy which started when marion anderson, greg black -- an american soprano -- was on a singing tour. she was supposed to sing at finish i think it's freedom hall in washington which was owned by the daughter to the american rev
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louis. eleanor roosevelt was a member, and she wrote a letter, and she resigned from the dar. and that put it on the front page. harold ickes stepped in. one of the most magnificent cultural moments, i think, in utah history was marion anderson singing from a makeshift stage in front of the lincoln memorial to 50,000 people. and really it sort of certified that hope for everybody was a part of this administration. >> thank you. >> thank you for coming. [applause] >> for more information and to read the author's column, visit and search michael hiltzik. >> ms. donahue, what made you
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write this book, "slave of allah," and why was it important for you to write it as an anthropologist? >> well, i'd done field work in france before 9/11, in fact, in the '90s off and on for about ten years, and i did field work in an area nearby where zacarias moussawi grew up. this was over in the east of france. and in october of 2001, i read an article about somebody who'd been picked up before 9/11, he was at a flight school in minnesota, and i realized that he had grown up in this area which i was quite familiar with, and he had a background that i knew something about. he is the son of moroccans who had moved to france before he was born, so had difficulty growing up in an area of france which was not always totally receptive to north africans. >> and what was your
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relationship, you know, with the people who were involved in this trial? how did you go about covering the trial? what was that process? >> >> well, curiously, i was the only academic to think of going to this trial. i have a friend from graduate school who had told me she had a connection to the trial, and i learned quickly that anyone was able to go, any person could go to the trial, as hopg as there was space for you in the courtroom. so i thought, okay, i think i need to go there. and the trial, actually, was in alexandria, and they were trying to have the trial somewhere in the same area where one of the attack had happened. and i got to be at the trial, i was at, actually, the initial jury drawing and then at the two different phases of the trial. so i got to know the remember t
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of the press, there were no other people there as academics attending the trial and really got a goodic site into the way in which do press was writing about this person. >> and what role did the media play during the trial? did their coverage affect the outcome or the way people were thinking about it? >> >> i've been thinking about that. and, of course, the jurors were told not to read any coverage. they with respect sequestered then. they were told, however, read nothing, talk about nothing, don't talk to your family, don't -- if you go to work because they would go on fridays z they could go back to their own jobs, don't talk to anybody there. but there were a few people there on the jury who said when they were being interviewed, i don't to nudes, you know? or i don't read the news. on the other hand, the nation was reading the coverage and
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actually was being covered bilal jazeera in the arabic-speaking world. so people were following this trial. the french media was particularly interested, especially as it payment time to decide when he would fete the death pesmty or life in prison. >> and you write about the unexpected that happened. there were a lot of unexpected events in this trial. it took longer to go to trial than people thought, there was some witness tampering. what were the lasting effects, and did the public perception of this trial change because of that? >> well, it was deemed aer -- aa circuit for a while. there was an attempt to get witnesses such as khalid sheikhh mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, to either be able to come to the trial to give testimony or to interview him think some other peens. and that was presented by the
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government, and so there was a legal fight in which the judge threatened to throw the whole case out. the it went up to the supreme court, came back down, and then there was a disto actually have the interviews with people like khalid sheikh mohammed be rewritten into a format that both the defense and prosecution are -- >> and you raised the question of representation. so there's national and there's personal identity. what can we learn about representation from this case? >> well, he -- i argue in this book that he had three different, um -- was attempting to represent himself in three different ways. one was legally, and, actually, for 17 months he represented himself. he, in a sense, fired his attorneys, his defense attorneys. so this was the issue of legal representation. did he have the right to do so? well, the judge decided, yes.
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he actually did quite a good job and kind of stalled out the proceedings. he would actually write his own pleadings, he would do it in land mig, and he would write those online. and the web site which were full of jokes and play on words, and finally the judge had had enough. so that was his legal representation. then there was his social representation. who was this guy in terms of nationality and religion? he was at that point beginning to say, i'm not friend, i have nothing to do with them. i'm a member of al-qaeda, and he was trying to make that clear to the public. then there was his own personal representation, who is this person, and he was feeling, i think, somewhat thwarted in being able to explain who he is and how he thought. so the way in which he managed to get around that was to as the
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judge left the courtroom, he would wait until he was halfway out, and then he would say something like, you know, broad bless allah and say whatever he could before he was taken in the media. figure out what he was saying and duly write it all down and publish anytime the newspapers. >> 9/11 was a day that affected most people in america in some way. so how are you able to separate yourself from the coverage in the news media and whatever you tad to hut together this book? >> well, one thing was that the trial was in 2006, so it was five years laugh 911. i had not in immediate family members, but i knew of people who had died horribly. but you get into the courtroom setting, and sometimes there's a way of removing yourself from
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those perm feelings. on the other hand the, the prosecution would try to bring back those memories especially when former mayor giuliani came to testify. he was determined to personalize the impact of 9/11. i wasn't in the courtroom at that time, but certainly the web site has the coverage and footage of horrifying images, and you just, you know, figure out how to find the person behind this excruciating experience, and who was this man? and that's really what i tried to focus b. on. >> and it's been ten years since september 11th. have we learned anything from this trial as a country? what can we still learn from this case? >> well, sadly, we haven't learned that we can actually have a trial in the civilian court. instead, you know, there's going to be this move to try people


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