Let's Get Back to Job Stimulus: FDR's 1938 Fireside Chat

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One of the most important speeches by President Frankllin D. Roosevelt, one that speaks to us today, was delivered in 1938, in which he declared a return to the robust relief and job programs that had gotten us out of the Great Depression. The back story is that In 1937, four years after Roosevelt's daring stimulus packages started bringing us into recovery after the economic collapse of 1929, all that progress started to nosedive. Roosevelt, under pressure from deficit hawks, had cut back on job creating stimulus programs. Results were renewed unemployment and layoffs -- the ugly face of double-dip depression. Were FDR’s daring programs all about green jobs? Well, not really but there is a parallel: Fear of deficits curtailed growth when Roosevelt in 1937 pulled back on job stimulus funding in favor of what today is called “fiscal conservatism”. Roosevelt is accused by the right today of having been a socialist, of moving United States politics and economics to the far left. Actually, given the national mood and world politics at the time, FDR’s approach was very centrist. In Germany & Italy, people had fallen into line with fascist dictators who had promised to bring economic stimulus through military control of their nations. Russia was under a complete Communist revolution and the worldwide Communist Party movement was held at bay in the U.S. because of aggressive jobs programs and poverty relief measures that FDR implemented during his first term. After this Fireside Chat, President Franklin D. Roosevelt resumed his relief and job stimulus programs, and for the rest of his administration – and the administrations of the next 3 presidents after him – the United States experienced the biggest economic boom in all of its history. (Credit where credit is due: This episode was inspired by a December 2010 Randi Rhodes show.)

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