Sunday, December 21, 2008

Left-over Obama links

Clearing up some tabs that have been left open way too long…

Michael Barone: With victory in sight, Barack Obama’s supporters are predicting that he will give us a new New Deal. To see what that might mean, let’s look back on the original New Deal.

The purpose of New Deal legislation was not, as commonly thought, to restore economic growth but rather to freeze the economy in place at a time when it seemed locked in a downward spiral. Its central program, the National Recovery Administration (NRA), created 700 industry councils for firms and unions to set minimum prices and wages. The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), the ancestor of our farm bills, limited production to hold up prices. Unionization, encouraged by NRA and the 1935 Wagner Act, was meant to keep workers in jobs that the unemployed would have taken at lower pay.

These policies did break the downward spiral. But, as Amity Shlaes points out in The Forgotten Man, they failed to restore growth. Double-digit unemployment continued throughout the 1930s; despite population growth, the economy failed to rebound to 1920s production levels. High taxes on high earners (a Herbert Hoover as well as Franklin Roosevelt policy) financed welfare payments (“spread the wealth around”) but reduced investment and growth.

Michael Knox Beran: Obama, Shaman.: He is not the first politician to argue that politics can redeem us, but in posing as the Adonis who will turn winter into spring, he revives one of the more pernicious political swindles: the belief that a charismatic leader can ordain a civic happy hour and give a people a sense of community that will make them feel less bad. [Drawings by Arnold Roth!]
One more Ayers item (oh, please, let it be the last).
Sol Stern: The Bomber as School Reformer.: Calling Bill Ayers a school reformer is a bit like calling Joseph Stalin an agricultural reformer. (If you find the metaphor strained, consider that Walter Duranty, the infamous New York Times reporter covering the Soviet Union in the 1930s, did, in fact, depict Stalin as a great land reformer who created happy, productive collective farms.)
There, now I can close that window. On the computer, at least; not on the future.

Once, in a noisy tavern, I was chatting with the lady who supplied the potted plants for the place, and asked her, "What's the matter with my fuchsia?" She said, "Well, maybe you could get a better job, and not spend so much time in noisy taverns."

The fuchsia will be here before we know it.

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