Franklin, come back! Archives

January 2, 2008

The new deal and the real deal

More thoughts on the second coming of FDR:

It would mean the empire would turn inward ... for a spell. The New Deal was not internationalist at all.

I'm not talking about the third term FDR -- that guy, the post September 39 FDR was not Mr New Deal anymore, he was CnC OF the world's new hegemony.

I'm talking about the first two terms ... the first deal and then the real deal.

The first deal was in essence ... and I emphasize in essence -- corporatism; i.e. it was Benito Lite. The National Recovery Act was an attempt to massively violate our constitution, our way of doing business and our sense of what made us America -- but that's about all the good I can say for it. As a way to end the Depression it was, on balance, worse than Hooverism -- once one recognizes the part of the first term that was entrained by Hoover's policies and agencies, many of which were kept in a holding pattern by Congressional dems, waiting for the First Coming, so to speak. (BTW there are more then mere shades of Clinton after Bush I in all this.)

Examples of Hoover endeavours that the New Deal implemented include, off the top of my head, the famed Inauguration Day bank holiday declaration, the nest egg of a new economic order, the reconstruction finance corporation, and best of all, the public works administration.

Let me note, by way of parallel-universing, a Hoover II would not have run the ship through its drills so briskly as the Featherduster was wont to, but if instead of Franklin we had had and American Stanley Baldwin, I doubt the bottom line diff would have been all that much in FDR's favor -- through mid-'34 or so.

But at that point Hoover drops into the dustbin, even in his own universe, because FDR pulled off a second deal even as he coasted through his first term without serious political challenges. And this deal was the real deal, the massive course correction that allowed us to build a world class transfer system and industrial union movement -- the measures, in other words, that brought us all we so cherish that's under siege today.

To be continued....

January 3, 2008

Clap if you believe

FDR all over again, part 3:

Placebo politics ... all the young dudes try to play that game, and FDR was a master of it, for sure, what with "all we've got to fear...", fireside chats can cure, etc.

"He restored America's respect for itself..." "got America to believe in itself again" -- Tinker Bell in a wheelchair.

Personally, I'm not much into faith healing. This shabby holy hot-air act weighs about as much in Clio's scales as fairy dust ought to. But certainly we have one candidature in today's field already feeding the masses this no-harm policy approach, and that's the candidature of the Obama outfit.

Like their blessed martyred template Mattress Jack, the barrack team digs the obvious "cost effectiveness" of serious high stakes placebo politics -- smoke and mirrors, being, of course, even cheaper than talk.

April 2, 2008

This time we're goin' for the whole ball of wax

Not everything you read at Counterpunch is as good as Father Smiff's recent low-Mametic blow. Take this offering:

... titled New Deal Nostalgia by one of those new radical rainbow hypenates, Dunbar-Ortiz.

Off the top -- here's a passage striking a bogus brass bell:

"By 1880, a little over fifty percent of the U.S. population was farming, but the proportion declined to seventeen percent in 1940 and then to about two percent today. The decline to 17 percent in 1940 was largely due to New Deal policies to industrialize agriculture. What happened to those who would have become farmers? Were they no longer needed? Growing food remained and will remain a necessity, but large corporations took over the land and displaced individual farmers. Patriotism -- in the form of allegiance to a distant government, with its flag and other symbols, with its wars in distant lands -- has filled the black hole left by the loss of land and a way of life they loved."
The New Deal -- a death star to yeomanry? Read on.
"New Deal policies were themselves designed to end subsistence farming. Farmers could have survived with government assistance, but the New Deal allowed banks to foreclose and destroyed surplus food production to maintain high prices, while people were starving. The government could have bought and distributed the food they destroyed ("dumped in the ocean," my father used to say)."
To what devil's end?
"the Dust Bowl refugees were put to work picking cotton and fruit for agribusiness in California, the Northwest, and Arizona, driving out the Mexican farm workers, until the United States entered World War II, and the Dust Bowl refugees went to work in the war industry. All those angry ex-farmers and wannabe farmers making bombs and fighter planes, whole new generations following in that nasty work, a good many other of them serving in the military, now a business, not a civic duty. They get to drop the bombs and man the guns on the tanks that the others manufacture. Subsistence farmers, small farmers, like peace -- not war that takes away their young sons, and now daughters. Getting rid of them, reducing them to a tiny minority, has made military recruitment and passive acceptance of war much easier than during World War I, when farmers rose up in rebellion, as did workers, against a "war for big business," which all modern wars are."
"Subsistence farmers, small farmers, like peace -- not war." Could ya expect to find a more flat-footed raw-bar nugget of kandy korn retro guff -- even in a month of secular Sundays?

There's a lesson drawn: "As we search for historical models, it is important that we be fearless in what we draw from them." In this case, according to our radical hyphenate, Howie Zinn sums up the New Deal just right:

"capitalism remained intact. The rich still controlled the nation's wealth, as well as its laws, courts, police, newspapers, churches, colleges. Enough help had been given to enough people to make Roosevelt a hero to millions, but the same system that had brought depression and crisis -- the system of waste, of inequality, of concern for profit over human need -- remained."
The message?
"When we envisage the New Deal as our model for social change, we are accepting the permanence of capitalism and assuming it can be reformed, and we are separating the state from capitalism, rather than acknowledging that the US state is a plutocracy"
Now why does such a black and white checker pattern portrait of the New Deal and arsenal of democracy render me -- fatigued?

Because its center of gravity, the point this thought field condenses to, exists somewhere between hapless bald earth nonsense, and all or zero noodledom. Premise: we need to suggest refoms that burst the bonds of "the system... be realistic and imagine the impossible."

I suggest we find the boundaries of the real and push them for a burst through. Want a for-instance? The arsenal of democracy is a fine figurative blueprint for a clean green automated production machine for Norte America.

This time we don't build a better death star.

November 22, 2008

Compare and contrast

The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.

--Franklin D. Roosevelt, May 1932

* * * * *

Mr. Obama continues to place a premium on deep experience.... "[T]here's going to be no time for experimentation," a member of the Obama foreign policy team said.

-- the latest from Sinai, according to the New York Times

March 2, 2009

Opportunistic Feeders

There's nothing paranoid about observing and detailing the relationships in the incestuous, overlapping, interlocking, patronage-laden pseudo-grassroots organizations set up and funded by oligarchs. That's what right wing oligarchs do. It's how they work. It's a highly successful business model. They coach, groom and recruit the model's next generation of managers and middle managers at the universities. Ask any of the believers, nicely, and they'll tell you life is war. Then they'll try to recruit you. They are collectivists in the narrowest, worst sense of the word and feel most comfortable when they're surrounded by people who are "on message". They run a celebrity jackpot for people at the bottom of the organizational food chain and groom the winners. It's perversely meritocratic, cf Joe the Plumber and Rick Santelli, and they get a nasty kick out of horrifying the respectable liberals by shoving the "lucky" contestants in their faces. Pretty standard épater les bourgeois stuff, disgusting too, but it works as well as the magician's patter.

There's no need for them to do anything but start dozens of greater and lesser freak shows. One of them will get momentum and then the pile on begins. If they get impatient, they wind up a jacquerie; usually a keyboard jacquerie. Anything else is at arm's length, with plenty of deniability.

What's appalling is how much bang the oligarchs get for their buck. Talk about force multipliers! That bang relies on a level of accommodation in their opposition that must surely strain the credulity of anyone supporting that opposition. And that strain does in fact show on a regular basis. It's hard to beat liberals for the energy that goes into an accurate audit trail of how the machinery of capitalism works its violent, vicious scams and thefts. They're stakhanovite in their pursuit of it. They have a deep driving need to know how their world works. But that, alas, is as far as it goes, with the laudable exception of an occasional Ralph Nader. They're crippled by the same ghastly sense of propriety that keeps the "small gubmint" punters coming back to the Republican table. The liberals head to the Democratic table, allegedly the table with better odds. What gets to me, on a personal level, is being told it's the only game in town. Of course it is! That's the first problem. The second is that it's also rigged in favor of the house. The third is the defensive ridicule of people who insist that playing is a virtue.

Hey, the system is not broken. It's working. Isn't that a problem?

March 5, 2009

Antonines and Claudians

Would these men get us out of Iraq?

We've seen good emperors before, haven't we? And if they're cut short -- if Clio scripts a Lincoln exit for 'em -- they can carry the hope/hype through to -- "ahhh, what might have been."

Nor him neither, I suspect -- wearin' the purple changes a feller.

If not them, Owen, you cynical red divil you then by Jayzzzus, wouldn't she get us out?

No? Oh, the terrible blight of it all, mates!

May 21, 2009

Ne detur digniori

In this time of supremely self-made meritorious leaderhood in the White House, I'm reminded -- often -- that it wasn't always worse for our president to be born on third base like boy emperor Bush. One need simply recall the gentlemanly child rentier from Hyde Park, shown above, with a Mom who looks to be as formidable a battleaxe as Georgie's own.

My sense of FDR the "reformer" starts and ends with his risk-taking -- his willingness to advocate a heterodox move -- and his shameless moving-on after a blooper.

In times of severe novelty and crisis, like now, a restless, easily bored, annoyingly overconfident risk-taking spirit is just what the powers that be need at the helm, if they want to keep the smurfs on board -- even if, as with FDR, his fearlessness is the result of a lifetime of consequence-free frolicking.

I've been reading a soft book on the tweener years by some bold ex-broker, and it nicely illuminates Roosevelt the political economist manqué.

The man could be positively spoony on matters economic -- a completely wild and wooly overconfident undereducated amateur who was very often as dead wrong as he was dead certain.


One of his administration's great early achievements, deposit insurance -- he personally fought it to the last House vote. Yes, reader, he was wrong on deposit insurance! Deposit insurance! And in general, he could be, at best, "lightly conflicted" on the depths of deficit spending

One sees the zigzags as his head plays off his hidebound and blatantly silly schoolmarmish analogies to household finance, against his tireless driving need to "do more till we fully recover".

Besides his shaky grip on massive deficit budgeteering -- the key to the recovery -- he was also way wrong on -- well, the list is endless. But here's what's important: his apparent working rule was, "keep punching".

And he sure did that. He followed his instincts till they blew up in his face and he took chances like he was "on the booze", as Keynes remarked. And in a pinch, where his personal idiosyncratic notions failed to guide him, he'd follow someone else's sexy-sounding hunch.

And if that flopped too, if he suffered a knockdown, he jumped to his feet and threw the opposite punch. Punch punch punch! Keep punching! In rapid crisscrossing combinations.

Take gold pricing and the hallowed gold standard: FDR was no Cleveland democrat. He was a de facto "debaser and repudiator" by deepest inclination. And he had no sense of the sacred cow when it came to the price of gold or its alleged "spinal necessity" at the center of any "sound" monetary system.

Nope. One of his first acts in office amounted to taking us off the "procrustean gold standard". In a move worthy of Nixon at his best, Roosevelt "suspended" gold exports. And in a followup move well beyond Nixon's best, a month later before the much anticipated "world economic conference", he allowed the old free-silverist remnants in the House to slip in an amendment authorizing the president to devalue the dollar against gold by up to 50%, and issue a slew of "unbacked dollars."

Man, did this bit of policy send central bankers worldwide into a frenzy, scrambling for advantage while solemnly proclaiming the need for "currency stabilization".

Franklin went on to torpedo the conference itself that summer, with pre-emptive strikes that scotched any chance at a return to gold. Such bankster-type sober moves he waved off, like some louche Moses, as "a specious fallacy".

Brilliant, brilliant moves -- moves he could no more defend "theoretically" than he could have written the Phenomenology Of Spirit.

Actually, that's not quite right. FDR did have a Merlin. Consider my favorite move against the "good as gold dollar".

After he sank the banksters' worl confab, during the next few months King Frank spent the better part of each morning personally buying gold on Uncle's behalf.

Why? For the same reason he did everything else that first year -- so he could raise the price of cotton, timber, coal, steel and corn.

Enter here his guru. Ever the gregarious frat-boy, Frank always had a confederate in these escapades, and in this case it was an agricultural economist from a what Franklin surely considered a second-tier university -- namely, Cornell. The chap's name was George Warren -- bless him.

After an exhaustive study of 213 years of commodity price moves, George claimed to have unearthed the secret origins of the trajectory of commodity prices in nothing less than the rate of increase in the supply of -- gold.

Now as the great Pauli might say, this theory isn't even important enough to be usefully wrong. But homely as it was, this notion and his confidence in himself ultimately led to yet another official indignity aimed at the sacred cow.

Backstory: as everyone recalls, commodity prices had taken a jagged course down and down since 1930, and by '33 were in the deepest smelliest of dumpsters -- all of 'em, across the board, and of course farm mortgages and other such productive borrowings hadn't adjusted their principal values or payments commensurately, so producers were getting pretty badly squeezed.

Now enter the Warren theory of absolute commodity prices and -- you end up with Uncle's prez buying up the magic shiny glowing shit with freshly produced greenbacks.

Was this wrong headed? Well no, it was harmless enough. But did it work? Why yes it did, in one way. It raised the price of gold, causing international currency markets to continue to roil like cheap foil, and yes, it made the respectable financial community in this country and beyond furious -- in my book that oughta count as a home run or two right there -- but no, it prolly had next to zero effect on long-run farm relief, let alone industrial relief.

But as a sample of FDR's contempt for well-heeled authority and for contemporary academic orthodoxy, this adventure was part of a process of bold experimentation in a time of failed theory.

So at the end of the day, yes yes yes.

His aim was correct: to reduce our small producer debt burden we needed -- and got -- producer price inflation.

Keynes would shortly (1936) come up with a theory that led to a straighter more powerful way to accomplish this than a gold price tinker, or for that matter FDR's bigger Gyro Gearloose effort, the NRA.

Roosevelt was a bit like Squire Western in Tom Jones: off in his methods, but he kept groping for his target and punching away, and of course, most importantly, he hardly ever had a problem changing his views swiftly, without the least sense of shame.

Why not keep a bold posture amidst a world of smoking failures?

"He was just a well-intended amateur" -- like this nation's founding planters. This rentier gentleman policy dabbler, with the political kinetics of an alley cat, had a bred-in-the-bone advantage over his merit class "peers":

You couldn't shame him -- even, or especially, when he had a mind to betray his class. And least of all by citing "a recent Harvard study".

Alas, merit rex Obama, on the other hand....

July 16, 2009

The sovereign remedy

Everybody tired of the Roosevelt parallels by now? Okay, so Obama has flunked the test. Big deal -- the test was never fair to begin with.

It's simple -- Obie took power too soon to be a Roosevelt II. He's in old Ram Macdonald's shoes, not Franklin's.

Imagine a presidential election not in '32 but in '30. Then, only a Huey Long dared fume about the need for national topsey turvey -- not respectable progressives like Frank. That took more riot and misery, a lot more riot and misery.

If elected in '30 roosevelt (or Smith) would have been nothing more than reluctant hunger chancellors -- just like Hoover.

And just like Obie is today.

Before Roosevelt took the helm the the system got to cook in its own acids for two more long long years. Not till then and only then could FDR ride the wave of naked need for reform and relief -- yes reform and relief -- emphatically not recovery.

By then the corporate fleet wanted reform like a nun wants Gable -- despite whatever its own captains' blustered. The times gave FDR his free hand. Put all the fool first-term inspired amateur tinkering aside, and all the hoopla, and all the zillion handshake make-work jobs too. Bottom line, the sustained New Deal reforms were system preserving -- right? That's a consensus conclusion today.

Sure we've strayed some, in recent years, but haven't contemporary events provided just the rude reconfirmation Ob will need to mount his rack of reforms and retroforms?

But as for recovery...

Every pundit is howling "where's my recovery"? There will be no full recovery, not for years -- and that's a dead-on FDR parallel. It's an old story, much beloved by Roosevelt haters, but true: New Deal recovery measures failed, if by recovery you mean the comon sense meaning of the word: a return to spontaneous self-sustaining full-capacity running speeds, not a limpy pegleg job full of emergency leaf-raking charity fests and other assorted googoo.

Nope, the Roosevelt recovery was as woefully inadequate from '33 to '39 as I suspect Obie's will be, from here to whenever the trade winds can rise again. FDR flunked then, and Ob will flunk now, and for the same reason: the global credit system required then -- just as it does now -- a serious, maybe decade-long drydocking, a decommissioning of its agencies, time to reshuffle the paper work.

In the blowback of all this reshuffling, earth's jobbled masses will be forced to take on lots of misery, a noble selfless sacrifice indeed, to save the big guys' system.

We could take another path, of course. We could really fire up a recovery so strong it morphed the system for ever and a day -- but such pink threats to hyperdrive our production platform are not in the new deal Ob has in store for us, any more than it was in Franklin's new deal.

Full-tilt action to fully employ the multitude comes only during global war drills. That's a hard and fast rule: the totalization of a modern sophisticated corporate economy can and will occur only as the response to a nation-threatening war cloud -- a real, honest-to-Ares war cloud. And I don't mean somethin' asymmetric, I mean a big-power-against-big-power thunderhead.

What about our climate anti-climax? That's the moral equivalent of a war, isn't it?

Nope, not threatening enough, in the near term, to the right people. Sorry.

Hey, I can hear FDR II now. He's telling his fellow Americans the dead end on the way to hope:

I hate war. War is a son of a bitch. Thank the God of me and Reverend Jeremiah there will be no war in my time. But my friends, when it comes to recovery, to good jobs, to a bright future, there is no substitute for war, but war itself.

August 7, 2009

Differing Realities

Differing realities... with a difference! One of them is real, and appears in the Black Agenda Report. The other is post modern rabbit hole stuff, chasing the ghosts of the shadows of a meliorism that was never seriously considered, and it appears (where else?) in the New York Times.

I could see getting terribly upset over the cranky and outright mentally unbalanced "town hall" disruptors and their astroturf-driven civic model if the brouhaha over health care reform had any element of reform, other than finding a way to shovel more money at the people responsible for making it a misery. As things stand, there's a good chance this will be much worse than RomneyCare, and create more impediments to any reform that makes things better.

Addtionally: One of the commenters at Black Agenda Report posted a link to this Business Week article.

As the health reform fight shifts this month from a vacationing Washington to congressional districts and local airwaves around the country, much more of the battle than most people realize is already over. The likely victors are insurance giants such as UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Aetna (AET), and WellPoint (WLP). The carriers have succeeded in redefining the terms of the reform debate to such a degree that no matter what specifics emerge in the voluminous bill Congress may send to President Obama this fall, the insurance industry will emerge more profitable. Health reform could come with a $1 trillion price tag over the next decade, and it may complicate matters for some large employers. But insurance CEOs ought to be smiling.

Executives from UnitedHealth certainly showed no signs of worry on the mid-July day that Senate Democrats proposed to help pay for reform with a new tax on the insurance industry. Instead, UnitedHealth parked a shiny 18-wheeler outfitted with high-tech medical gear near the Capitol and invited members of Congress aboard. Inside the mobile diagnostic center, which enables doctors to examine distant patients via satellite television, Representative Jim Matheson didn't disguise his wonderment. "Fascinating, fascinating," said the Democrat from Utah. "Amazing."

Impressing fiscally conservative Democrats like Matheson, a leader of the House of Representatives' Blue Dog Coalition, is at the heart of UnitedHealth's strategy. It boils down to ensuring that whatever overhaul Congress passes this year will help rather than hurt huge insurance companies.

Some Republicans have threatened to make health reform Obama's "Waterloo," as Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has put it. The President has fired back at what he considers GOP obstructionism. Meanwhile, big insurance companies have quietly focused on what they see as their central challenge: shaping the views of moderate Democrats.

The industry has already accomplished its main goal of at least curbing, and maybe blocking altogether, any new publicly administered insurance program that could grab market share from the corporations that dominate the business. UnitedHealth has distinguished itself by more deftly and aggressively feeding sophisticated pricing and actuarial data to information-starved congressional staff members. With its rivals, the carrier has also achieved a secondary aim of constraining the new benefits that will become available to tens of millions of people who are currently uninsured. That will make the new customers more lucrative to the industry.

So, there's the reform.

August 24, 2009

The Fog Horse


i owen lattimore paine
do sincerely think policy discussions get ridiculously fogged in
by galloping trojan horse socialisms
we lefticles devise mindwise like pub op
yes we need to be able to call the balls and strikes here from the stands
but ..welll .....for instance
after long and deep meditation i think the formal diffs between
any of these elves vs dwarfs health payment reforms
are wildly secondary to over all health sector cost containment


i mean we honest pwogs need to get off the pri sec for profit jag

one way or other we're gonna get universal coverage
and that puppy all by itself will entrain the rest of the story
so i say leave "our side" of this studio grapple to the merit goo goos and move on
well ..... meat and fries issues not merit spinich fests
like uncle health care

ought not the real anti corporate america fight
be over an actual class universal
like full employment macro
minimum wage indexing
job orging rights ???

September 12, 2010

Dumping Obama

jeffroby proposes a "Dump Obama Movement". I think it's a good idea. Dumping him is essential for people who think there's some use to be squeezed out of the Democratic Party.

Political parties and small "r" republicanism require constant stewardship and at some point that entails forcing a change in leadership. Obama has proven completely useless in advancing a liberal agenda. His claque shows more hostility to the party's supporters than it does towards the Republicans. Their behavior is bizarre, even by the standards set during the Bush regime.

Obama himself has no skills beyond campaigning. It's possible, and likely, that he really has no idea what's going on in the world. He appears to be totally self-involved, incapable of anything but adding fraudulently obtained energy to an increasingly incoherent marketing schtick.

I don't think the party is salvageable, but if people want to try, then dumping him is the right move.

About Franklin, come back!

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in the Franklin, come back! category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Enter the dragon is the previous category.

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