>> up next michael hiltzik examines the origins of franklin roosevelt's plan to confront the nation's economic depression. this is just over an hour. >> it is our great honor and pleasure to welcome author michael hiltzik who is here to discuss his latest book "the new deal: a modern history". mr. hiltzik has a ba from colgate university and an m s of journalism from columbia. in his extensive career with the l.a. times he has been a financial correspondent in new york city and bureau chief and financial staff writer, editor and columnist. he has had every job.
topics he has written about include business, technology and public policy. , his many writing awards are the prize for the expos on corruption in the music industry, gerald loeb award for distinguished business and financial journalism, and silver gavel from the american bar association. michael hiltzik's three critically acclaimed books are the plot against social security, dealers of life, and a death in kenya. praise for this book has been enormous including the following:a sweeping, lively survey of the roosevelt administration's efforts to restart the american economy nearly 81 years ago. a timely, well executed overview of the program that laid the foundation for the modern progressive state. please help me welcome author
michael hiltzik. [applause] >> thank you so much for that very kind introduction and for having the collective work out here. for everybody. thanks to all of you for coming out. i am and dancing with the stars -- i have been saved by tivo. we are all here, i hope, for what i think should be a joint effort to affect the turning point in american history and explore how that moment still resonates today. my goal tonight is the same as the goal that i set for myself when i started which is to recover the new deal from the mists of time and the accretion of eight decades of ideology and
misunderstanding. so i am going to speak for half an hour and i hope we will have time for questions from all of you. i just can't cover everything. there are points you will be curious about. but i want to set the stage by establishing a relationship that franklin roosevelt had with the american people so i am going to read from a letter that came in to the roosevelt white house in 1934 from someone in the midwest seeking advice on an excruciating personal dilemma. the letter began dear frank, our neighbor, pete smith loaned us $25 on our mule team. in our he says he will take the mule's unless he can see me when my husband is away. here is my question. what should i do to save the
mule? it is hard to imagine a citizen sending a personal question to any president other than fdr including barack obama but i think this tells you something about the deep personal affinity millions of americans felt for fdr. product of a harvard education, a man who had grown up on a family estate in upstate new york. it tells you not only something about his personality and how he projected the sense that he cared about americans in all walks of life and all socioeconomic classes but about the time. the unique period in our history when america had been beaten down by an economic crisis so crushing that the wealthiest businessman and most serious political leaders we had had thrown up their hands and declared that they had no answers. so roosevelt arrived in the
white house having declared candidly that he didn't have the answers either but he was going to try everything he could to bring america out of crisis. as he put it in an important speech during the 1932 presidential campaign the country needs -- and unless i am mistaken--the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. it is common sense to take a message and try it. if it fails admit it frankly and try another but above all try something. and what he tried was an amazingly varied slate of programs. the new deal closed the banks and reopen them within days under an unprecedented 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 parks and build roads. that was the civilian
conservation corps. the very first work-release 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 the form of mortgages we know today. long-term loans that aim to help you eventually own your holes -- own your house if everything goes right. below is were refinanced at rock-bottom interest rates by the government. this was the homeowners loan corp. which turned a profit for the u.s. government. we would like to see something like that today. the new deal implemented a farm sector that by 1933 had been in the depression for more than a decade. it created social security. it took america off the gold standard releasing the u.s.
economy from the shackles of the past and it built. more than america had ever built before or has since. highways. abridges, tunnels and dams, sewer systems, schools, theaters and airports. for most of us there isn't a day on which we don't drive, 5, play, learn on a structure built by the new deal. the program was so diverse because it was the product of an amazingly diverse team of advisers some of whom are remembered only as names in history textbooks and some of whom have been completely forgotten. one of the ways i tried in my book to recapture the reality of the new deal for modern readers is by bringing these people back to life in these pages. there's frances perkins, the first female cabinet member in american history who almost singlehandedly brought social
security into being and who won her first day as secretary of labor not only had to physically evict the cigar chomping gangster with whom herbert hoover had snagged the labor department but had to take mop in hand to evict the cockroaches from the labor department's filled the headquarters building. and harold ickes, the head of the public works administration. republican but a progressive republican who staged a dumped hoover campaign and the 1932 gop convention but failed because he couldn't find anyone else who wanted to run. my personal favorite, general hugh johnson, a big blustery often drunk profane fax west pointer who brought the national recovery administration into being, retaining -- created a symbol of the blue eagle which many of the vaccine or remember and was famous for being able to
intimidate the nation's biggest industrialists into doing his bidding when he was secretly checking into walter reed hospital to dry out. how big a figure was general johnson? in 1933, the first year of fdr's administration, johnson, not fdr was time magazine's man of the year. today nobody remembers his name. get 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 equations as the editorialists william allen white described him after the election. roosevelt was so adept at making himself seem all things to all people that in reading the memoirs of his closest aides you can sense their love and devotion to the man but also their uncertainty about what he had in mind every time he talked. not that that explains why so
many who had spent years of their lives serving him ended up deeply disaffected they started out working for the fdr they imagine in their minds only to find out that when political expedient called he could be somebody entirely different. that 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 battered in his magical voice delivered confidence. so much so that for the next six years the country went along with it even when it was obvious that one initiative or another had failed. 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 but what the unifying principle and lasting legacy of this disorganized and incredibly messy program if we can 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 to work even when it wasn't being provided by the private sector. so the new deal created the template for federal efforts to improve the lives of all americans regardless of station. in the fairness of the great depression roosevelt administration forged a new style of government and a new vision of government responsibility to its citizens. but i want to talk a little bit before we get more deeply into the new deal to discuss what it was not. one of the most important lessons are learned from writing my book is that today both conservatives and liberals get
the new deal wrong. although the new deal is pictured today as quintessentially liberal and progressive the fact is many of its initiatives were staunchly conservative. the first law passed in the hundred days imposed new regulations on banks that the second piece of legislation was the economy act which mandated a 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 of federal taxes were paid by the middle class and working class and more taxes were piled on them every year. there were higher excise taxes on cosmetics and tobacco and after the repeal of prohibition in 1933 on liquor. there was social security tax.
many new deal initiatives favored by roosevelt were failures and successes were defeated by others. the new deal's first straight triumph, end of the banking crisis in the newer administration's first weeks in office was mapped out not by roosevelt's aids but herbert hoover's economic advisers that the treasury department. fdr was opposed to adding old age pensions to social security until the very eve of the bill's introduction on capitol hill. he threatened to veto a bank regulation bill if it included deposit insurance but he was overruled by congress and luckily so because in time he would claim both of these landmark programs's paternity which is an indication of his political suppleness and his ability to understand when things did work. roosevelt's reputation as a quintessential tax-and-spend
liberal is misplaced. he pushed for balanced budget every year though he never achieved one. he was skeptical of large public works programs and even vetoed bills that he thought would give him too much spending authority. he detested programs he thought would result in too much redistribution of wealth which he dismissed as the goal which is why was the first opposed to old age pensions for social security. the new deal may have forged an alliance between minority voters and the democratic party and lasted to the present day but it is worth the this the worst shortcoming was in racial inequality. many of its relief programs perpetuated racial discrimination and shortchanged black families and some even widen the gulf in wages between white and black workers. when black leaders urged fdr to speak out against the wave of lynchings across the south and
west he resisted almost every time and refused to press for an anti lynching bill giving the naacp and political rationale. he said the bill was so anchor 7 congressional conservatives that there threatened filibuster would jeopardize the rest of his programs and he thought the country should not afford that. fdr enjoyed a democratic majority in congress for route the new deal but that doesn't mean it was a new deal journey. the harshest opposition to his program often came from conservatives in his own party while some of his most dependable supporters were progressive republicans. fdr's delicate triangulation between the liberal and conservative blocks outraged progressives in here just as barack obama's political compromises outrages progress of followers today. think about this. the securities act of 1934 which gave us the securities and
exchange commission and upgraded the disclosure requirements for all corporations was considered by progressive to amount to a total give away to wall street. the new republic greeted the final draft with these words -- the stock exchange should be met with gratitude. this leads us into a question that is hotly debated today of whether the new deal ended the depression or as some would have it even prolong the depression. the facts are these. by the estimation of mainstream economists agree depression ended the sometime in early to mid 1935. the u.s. economy measured by real gross national product grew at a blistering pace averaging 8% a year between 1933, and 1937. that four times the economic growth rate we have right now. the unemployment rate fell
sharply from 23% in 1932, hoover's last year in office to 9% in 1937. the nation's employment rolls grew by ten million workers in that period and that was an increase of 25% in the labour force. the stock market too reacted positively. from roosevelt's inauguration until 1937 the dow jones average nearly quadrupled. record unmatched in any other four year period in history. liberal economists would love to see this as a triumph of keynesian deficit funded fiscal stimulus but the truth is that for the most part the new deal achieved its record without explicitly keynesian -- the renowned economist kerry brown made a famous remark in the 1950s that fiscal stimulus was unsuccessful during the 30s not because it doesn't work but
because it was not tried. for most of the new deal stimulus of programs were almost always paired with counter stimulative programs. in the parlance of those times inflationary programs were paired with deflationary programs. work relief was paired with the economy act. public work with higher excise tax. measures to push prices for farm commodities. with industrial -- by general johnson's and are a which made the crisis on the farm as it happened much worse. the unemployment assistance provision of the social security act were balanced, maybe overbalanced by the new social security tax that went into effect on january 1st. 1937. it was not until 1938 when fdr had to address a sudden sharp recession that the new deal
implemented explicit stimulus program of large-scale public works and the unemployment relief of the sort familiar to us today. that program stopped the recession in its tracks and set the stage for a sharper recovery, one of the strongest in american history. that is not to say the new deal didn't boost federal spending. the budgetary outflow rose from 7% of gross domestic product in 1932 to 10% in 39 and a federal deficit which was 1/2% 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 spending and deficits soared from 1931-1945 but the trend of increases started much earlier. the new dealers didn't think of their spending as stimulus. there were new dealers who were
adherents and pressed for much more but they were largely ignored. roosevelt thought of their spending programs especially work relief and government construction as a way to keep the unemployed fed than spending money to buy time while they tried everything else and the economy tried -- but all of this certainly did have a stimulus to the effect even if they didn't think of it that way. so we have talked about the economic context of the new deal and some of the specific initiatives it put into place. what about the political context? i would like to spend some time on this because i think roosevelt's approach to his political opposition has much to teach barack obama. already alluded to a major distinction between the political environment of the new deal and today. in the 30s the partisan line up
was very different from what you see today. both parties, democrats and republicans had strong progressive wings. one of the strongest progressives, we might a liberal in the 1930s was california at senior senator hiram johnson, the very man who was governor had given us the initiative process and johnson was a republican. he had run for vice president in 1912 with teddy roosevelt on the progressive ticket. both parties have strong conservative wings. among the democrats it was that block of senators and congressmen from the south some of whom would splinter off from the party into the dixiecrats and road stalin -- strom thurmond for president. roosevelt also had antagonism from big business which complained he was creating uncertainty in the industrial economy from all his regulating
of child labor and stock and bond trading and food and drug safety and everything else and we heard lately that same cry of uncertainty from regulation which goes to show that some things in politics never change. today liberals complain about the conservative echo chamber and the influence of fox news and what have you. of course there wasn't a fox news in the 1930s the same role was played by the newspaper industry which was almost entirely controlled by conservative businessmen. i can tell you from reading their editorials that some of them would make fox news blushed today. 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 come back against attacks on him by these businessmen. consider how he responded to the formation of the american
liberty league by several conservative democratic finance years including the dupont family. the league announced as its two founding principles to teach the necessity of respect for the rights of property and to teach the duty of government to encourage and protect free enterprise. roosevelt was with the ring. he described it as, quote, and organization that only educates two out of the ten commandments. he continued the two particular tenets of this new organization are you shall love god and then forget your neighbor. but the concerns of government are about people who want to keep themselves free from starvation, keep a roof over their head, lead decent lives, have proper educational standards and the concern of government is the protection of the life and liberty of the
individual against the 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 money interests. his most famous speech in this vein at a pre-election rally in madison square garden before election day in 1932 he said, quote, tonight i call the roles. the millions who never had a chance. women in sweat shops and men and starvation wages, written on it are the names of farmers is acreage yielded only bitterness. businessmen whose books were portents of disaster. homeowners who were faced with eviction. we will continue to seek to improve working conditions for the workers of america to reduce hours over long, increase wages that spell starvation and end labor of children, to wipe out
sweatshops. for all of these we have only just begun to fight. never before in our history have these forces been so united against one -- there unanimous in their hate for me and i welcome their hatred. we can all imagine what the response would be on cable news if those same words were uttered by barack obama. for all that i don't think it is right to criticize president obama for not being franklin delano roosevelt. roosevelt was a unique political figure with the unique talent for reaching out with his voice from radius speakers in millions of homes and holding his audience's attention. obviously times have changed and we change with them and despite the surface similarities between the great depression and the crash of 1929 on the one hand and the crash of 2008 and the great recession on the other there are of course 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 morgan ten years. it was so long and deep that skepticism and even hatred for wall street had become ingrained in the american psyche and that was reinforced by an aggressive investigation by the senate finance committee under its chief counsel, ferdinand corp.--the hearings laid out how the nation's biggest bankers had connived and conspired to cheat a little man out of his life savings while the biggest banks got more profitable and got away with it. 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 from the new deal playbook. spent to keep people from starving. stimulate the economy with public works and rely on the social safety net. unemployment, social security, work relief that was created under the new deal. so bankers and businessmen who had as much to do with the crash of 2008 as they did the crash of 1929 have been able to leave a regulations of stringency that they were faced with in the 1930s or maybe the public has become so used to bankers making outrageous salaries and bonuses that it is hard to get people stirred up any more or maybe it is 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 to they don't seem to have the hard to defend their own record. something fdr never stopped
doing during the new deal. even when he had to tell voters 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 resembled in terms of 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. by contrast in 1938 when fdr proposed his most sweeping stimulus program yet, he observed in a fireside chats that although unemployment was still high and economic growth too slow the real cause of the depression was a thing of the past. the new deal worked. he reminded them this recession has not returned as to the disasters of 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 50% higher than it was in 1932 and the most important point, government has an established and accepted responsibility for relief. that last point is another one that fdr never stopped making. the importance and responsibility of government to act and here's how he put it in another fireside chat in 1937. i have never had sympathy with the point of view that a session of 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 we all know too well the necessity of preserving the principle of american government
that were introduced during roosevelt's new deal and remained under attack virtually ever since. nonstop for nearly 80 years. i want to spend the last few minutes of my time putting those attacks in perspective. let's tell the story through social security which was the cornerstone of the new deal and to this day stands as the jewel in its crown. we see that social security is going bankrupt and doesn't have money and as a ponzi scheme in which today's workers put in cash so that today's retirees can take it out. quote rick perry, in monstrous lie. i am here to tell you none of those things are true. what is true is there is no getting away from our shared responsibility for one another. the shared responsibility that was the beating heart of the new deal. the principle that the drafters of social security understood very well and here is what at one with, chief draftsman of the social security act told
congress when it began debating his work. with 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 unavailable for the new generation's support or investment and growth. with you an act pension laws or not that cause 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 in some other way there is no way of escaping that. and that reinforces the great virtue of social security which is it made the older generation, every older generation independent and that is important not only for the older generation but the younger generation who are freed to a great extent. not completely nor does anyone want to be free from responsibility to oppose the free from the financial burden
of supporting the older generation and that is important for economic growth. so when you hear social security attacked or being bankrupt or a ponzi scheme keep in mind that that is what it is all about. that is what its critics want to take away from you and that is independence. i only hope democrats in congress keep that thought front and center as they beat down more attempt to cut social security. so once again ever since its first provision was enacted in march of 1933 the new deal has been under attack. as my book points out there was plenty about it that deserved to be attacked but most of the critic of the new deal just want to turn back the clock. to recreate an american system of economic policy that had been born in the nineteenth century and has been shown by the great depression to be unequal to the needs of the 20th much less the 20 first. that phase of american
government died in 1929 and ultimately led to the great depression and the new deal. what we discovered then is society doesn't save money by moving the bill from government to the individual and doing so can actually cost lives. the lesson we learned then is we are all in this together and a policy based on telling people you are on your own really benefits only a small portion of the population. the elements of the community as fdr called them his seek to enrich and advance themselves at the expense of their fellow citizens and the question i will leave with you right now is why do we keep having to learn that lesson over and over? it is a question i may not be able to answer. i opened the floor to questions you may have that hope can answer. thank you. [applause]
>> gentleman in back. >> the idea over time that the new deal, fdr save capitalism? >> the question is do i concur with the idea that fdr saved capitalism? that is an interesting question because in fact the think that is what fdr had in mind. there were new dealers in his administration is braintrust preceded the new deal who wanted a more radical approach. they wanted to nationalize the banks. there was never something that was really on fdr's radar screen. he really wanted to address the crisis by focusing on the abuses of capitalism not remaking the entire structure.
[inaudible] >> legislation passed that led to the gold confiscation in 1934 also established exchange stabilization fund. can you address that? >> yes. in 1934 -- you are talking about the abrogation of the gold bond. >> the role of the exchange stabilization fund. i am doing research for a sequel to inside job and this is one of the things that has come up and is quite touching. >> i don't know as much about the exchange stabilization fund as a do about the abrogation of the gold bond which with a controversial step as i am sure you know. essentially the of flow of gold from the united states and the movement of gold was a problem for economic policymakers during the new deal in part because roosevelt wanted to take america off the gold standard so in 1933
or 1934 congress passed a law that abrogated because in all contracts including federal contract that said the contract could be settled in gold. the case went to the supreme court and there was so much tension how the supreme court would rule that there was an open line between the white house and joe kennedy's office. he was chairman of the fcc. if the supreme court ruled against him he was going to abrogate the supreme court decision. joe kennedy -- if that was to happen joe kennedy was to close the stock exchange. the supreme court, this was just before it started over turning all the new deal initiatives it could get its hands on. the supreme court said it is wrong and it is illegal for the government to have abrogated the
gold clause but the people -- the individuals who brought the lawsuits we are ruling on today didn't have standing to bring the lawsuits so we are upholding the gold bond. it was a moment -- that was the context. yes? >> you mentioned harold wiki. he is an important figure throughout this administration. in colossus you presented in the context of the building of hoover dam. is his behavior throughout the new deal consistent with that or was that just an aberration in his behavior? >> which behavior are you talking about? >> like demanding it be called boulder dam instead of hoover dam.
>> he was franklin roosevelt's interior secretary and he was the man who took hoover's name off of hoover dam and renamed it boulder dam and was overruled in 1947 by republican congress which is why we want to again call it hoover dam. that was characteristic of harold. he was a republican who was known as a curmudgeon and worse. he was a devoted progressive and tested herbert hoover. not only did he hate hoover but was very suspicious of hoover. he was convinced that hoover was insinuating himself trying to undermine the new deal which was not entirely wrong. he is an important figure because he was one of two cabinet members in the roosevelt administration who served franklin roosevelt for all 12 years roosevelt was in office the other 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 and a curmudgeon and would try to get his way by threatening to resign but he was also known -- the reason roosevelt put him in charge of the public works administration which ended up with jurisdiction over hoover dam is he was convinced that harold ickes would be so careful with the public's money that he will be disbursed slowly which it roosevelt's inclination. and he did. it was never a with of scandal at the public works administration and it gave us truly enduring public works. this gentleman right here. >> i don't know if you have done
any reading on patrick moynihan, discussions and studies about social security but if people alive today what would he say about the condition of social security? if remember correctly, he looked at it more as a mathematical equation. in other words the mortality age and the birth rate. is that not still? >> there are a lot of complexities about social security. daniel moynihan was a member of the greenspan commission that save social security when it was in crisis which i would say is a distinction today when it is not in crisis. when an did have those views. he thought social security was not in its form than a
sustainable program but that was a minority view even on that commission and that included conservatives like bob dole and alan greenspan who was by no means a liberal. moynihan's view of social security was not the majority view and even if they would have been the majority view some of the things he pointed out have been rectified. they were rectified by the 1982-'83 reforms which put social security on much stronger -- >> have a question? >> the influence of the supreme court during the administration of fdr is interesting. one of the more interesting things today has been the supreme court decision this to characterize corporations with the same free speech rights as
individuals and doing away with the reform in terms of contributions. it is going to have a dramatic effect. >> i agree. >> the influence will be significant. can you expand on your thoughts were that is going to come forward? >> the gentleman is talking about the citizens united ruling and some others that overturned restrictions on corporate spending. the current administration probably is getting a lot of heartburn from the thought about the makeup of the supreme court especially if health care reform ends up before this court as is almost certain to do. to focus a little bit more on the supreme court of the new deal's age as many of you know the new deal starting in 1930--the supreme court starting
in 1935 embarked on a concerted campaign to overturn major new deal initiatives. they will and the agricultural -- the adjustment administration which was designed to save the farm belt. they overturned the nra which was the industrial analog. they even overturned minimum-wage laws. the court then was controlled by a group of four very conservative justices. the four horseman they were called him managed to get often a sixth justice on their side. some of the most stunning rulings of that supreme court overturning the new deal were 9-0 rulings because justices like louis brandeis were very suspicious of big government.
very suspicious of big business but suspicious of big government of bigness in all. that hold period ended in 1937 after franklin roosevelt tried to have the court which is a subject treated in my book but we haven't talked about tonight. the supreme court eventually came around and most important rulings upheld social security in 1937. so we now know social security is constitutional no matter what you may hear. the court is always sort of the joker in the deck for administrations that are trying to address or change the status quo. yes? >> mine is anecdotal of my experience in the new deal and
before. okay? i was born in 1926. my father was the manager in a department store in canton, ohio who lived on rich growth that 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 california. he said we will go out there and starve in the sunlight. fortunately we didn't starve but i am glad we came here. then the new deal took eleven million people including these young men of the railroad cars and put them to useful work,
magnificent work along with the wpa which hired writers and playwrights and all sorts of people. >> what was known as federal 1 which was the art program. >> 20 years later i was a physician working in harlan county, kentucky and i had to go about greasy road that was built by the civilian conservation corps. i went up that road to a minor lying in his shack with his whole family around him. he was diagnosed as terminal tuberculosis. even though we had streptomycin for two years at that time the miners were on strike for one year because of the terrible
health care conditions. they were on strike for miners health-care system. i called the hospital umw system and that they an ambulance was sent out and carried that man to the hospital. >> as you pointed out it was the ccc that brought that road. one of the great achievements of that program. is? yes? >> thank you. have you read and eddie shea's review of your book? do you have any comments? >> i was familiar with her book. and eddie is a conservative writer whose book is called the forgotten man and is basically a critique of the new deal and i
have some critiques of her book in my book. i kept them to the footnotes. under the circumstances it was very generous and quite gracious and i told her that i appreciated that she had actually perceive what i was trying to achieve with my book and i would be happy to debate the political and economic context of the new deal with her any time ago i assume we would agree to disagree. yes? >> how long did it take you to research and write the book and what are you planning to do next. >> the project took a little 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 from the 1940s to the 1950s. >> i spent most of july in the national parks in the western states and what is really amazing about national parks the personal tremendous amount of work was done. very little has been done since then and some of these programs have come about as a result of the need to stimulate the economy. things that never would otherwise have been done and national parks -- not sure how much is spent on the national parks influence of the new deal but very little is spent on the national parks. >> i didn't focus on national parks perce but they were the product of a lot of the work-release programs that were part of a new deal including the
triple c and the wpa which focused on smaller scale projects in which more money went into labor than into material in contrast to the bay bridge or what have you. the point you raised about how little has been done since then is an important point and is a reproach to us to date. these new deal programs, the public works program, the cwa, the alphabet agencies took advantage of the availability of labor and the need to keep money flowing in the economy to do things -- for projects states and localities wanted but also
projects that were regional, that states and localities and the federal government didn't know they wanted or needed until they started being engulfed. we let all of this essentially go to hell and we have not spent money on upkeep or expanded great structures or monuments to building over the last 20 years. we really stopped spending. i'm really think stimulus plans of 2009, there was an idea that it should dress some of that but obviously it has been slow. there hasn't been enough money. it would take more and more should be done because stimulus, public works of that nature are investments in the economy as i said. we drive on these structures. we get water and electricity from them. we fly out of them. la guardia airport was the
single largest construction project of the new deal. they have been boiled in the gears of the u.s. economy ever since and we let it turn to stand. yes? >> i am wondering if you might be able to speak to the political comparison of then and now. one key is roosevelt came into office three years after the collapse of the economy when it was already a huge head of steam and anger directed at some of the big financial institutions where as obama took office around the time or the beginning of the collapse. what if anything you could
prognosticate about the chances because of those political circumstances? >> there were political similarities and political differences. roosevelt by no means an easy time of it even though he came in -- he did have a head of steam, the desire on all sides to get something done. you really saw that during the hundred days when he proposed 16 separate pieces of legislation. they all got enacted. it was the majority democratic congress but it was not by any means an exclusively progressive conference. there was real fear and real desperation among politicians and of course among taxpayers and the public and politicians felt bad. so certainly at the beginning they were not inclined to stand in roosevelt's way but opposition on the republican and democratic side began to emerge very quickly. roosevelt had to triangulate.
he had to do a lot of compromising all the way through the new deal starting in late 1933 right through 1937-1938-1939 which i marked 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 the spending is the same. we are spending ourselves into bankruptcy. very close to what you hear today. they did go the roosevelt into withdrawing stimulus in 1937 and the result was the roosevelt recession. that is the lesson we have if we listen to it, that sometimes you need more stimulus but the real danger is removing it before its time. in terms of prognosticating, i
am always of two mind about making political predictions. on the one hand i try to avoid them because every political prediction you here today is going to be wrong whether it is for me or anybody else in some fundamental way. on the other hand i am not unwilling to make predictions because when they do or don't come true no one will remember them. despite the record we are going to have on c-span. it is all about what is the alternative that who is articulating an alternative, what policies are out there? the election will be a debate about policy and i have heard proposals from the democrats. i haven't heard anything that sounds to me like it will work from the other side especially not in light of what we know about how the new deal worked. in the back?
>> ronald reagan famously or infamously said government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem. i wonder if you might comment on the notion that the ron reagan era had a significant role in crystallizing some of these forces and not incidentally lays some of the tough groundwork that barack obama faces in terms of moving the stone up hill. >> i don't have any doubt. i don't think there's any doubt among historians of the recent past that it was reagan who did crystallize this notion that was not a new notion when he came
into office that government interferes. the notion really started as a republican tenet under goldwater. it was reagan who picked up the ball and ran with it and personal popularity to turn it into a more popular or more broadly accepted idea or ideology. this goes to the quote that i read you from roosevelt. of the -- roosevelt -- there was nothing wrong and nothing evil and everything right about the government stepping in when private enterprise -- in economics that is a keynesian point of view but the new dealers were prokeynesian
because they were not familiar with john menard cane. his views were not widely known in the u.s. in the 1930s but they did understand when private enterprise and private sector was withdrawing from the economy that it was really the government -- government had no choice but to step in and roosevelt was very explicit about this. he didn't apologize for it. he thought that was his role and that was the role of government and that was the major flaw of the hoover administration. roosevelt and hoover shared some fundamental economic beliefs but 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. ..