Sunday, March 22, 2009
OBAMA AND FDR: A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO ECONOMIC RECOVERY
There are many who are comparing the actions of President Franklin Roosevelt with those of President Obama regarding the handling of our economic depression. I use the word depression because if we are not there, we will be soon. The following is a brief summary of FDR’s actions:
“FDR declared a "banking holiday" to end the runs on the banks and created new federal programs administered by so-called Alphabet Agencies. For example, the AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration) stabilized farm prices and thus saved farms. The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) provided jobs to unemployed youths while improving the environment. The TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) provided jobs and brought electricity to rural areas for the first time. The FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Administration) and the WPA ( Works Progress Administration) provided jobs to thousands of unemployed Americans in construction and arts projects across the country. The NRA (National Recovery Administration) sought to stabilize consumer goods prices through a series of codes. Through employment and price stabilization and by making the government an active partner with the American people, the New Deal jump-started the economy towards recovery (fdrlibrary.maris.edu).”
Many Republicans argue that FDR’s actions actually prolonged the depression in the 30’s, created a new era of ‘big government’ and stifled the ‘free’ economic market. Many on the right of the political economic spectrum also say that Obama will and even should fail because he is not focusing on the economy. Instead, he is wasting time dealing with such silly issues as healthcare and education reform, stimulating alternative energy production and being concerned with environmental issues.
Our bodies, life, politics, economy and society are holistic. You cannot separate the parts from the whole. If a person is ill, it is necessary to examine not only the immediate symptom, but all factors that contribute to the illness. A heart attack may be the result of a combination of diet and stress in one’s life. While you can ‘treat’ the immediate issue of the heart attack, if the other issues are not resolved, the likelihood is that the heart attack will occur again. Issues in politics and society are holistic. Poverty cannot be solved simply by giving people money. Concerns regarding family values, cultural traditions, employment history, education and even health come into play. Obviously, very few politicians get elected or are effective if they only deal with single issues and not the complete array of problems confronting our society.
One cannot solve our economic crisis simply by focusing on banks. We have already seen that to be true. We cannot solve the crisis by focusing on credit; that has been obvious. Those who say focus on the economy only are the same ones that had no problem with giving money to the banks and who also have big problems with new rules or regulations. After all, we do not want to disrupt the ‘free’ economy. I am not really sure what economy they refer to. If by free they mean let business do as they please, one cannot help but see that this very attitude created our current issues. Do they mean that business should be free to have their products produced in Chinese sweat shops? Do they mean that business should be allowed to produce crap that must be replaced soon after the purchase? Do they mean that business should be free to destroy the basic eco-fabric of the planet in order to keep profits and bonuses high? Do they mean free to charge usurious interest rates? Do they mean free to convince you that you need products that have no lasting value? By focusing on the economy do they mean to simply deal with the issues of huge corporations, at the expense of the small businessman?
In order to deal with our economic crisis, I think president Obama is right. Our economy is not AIG or CitiBank. A truly functioning economy is based upon an educated consumer. People must be healthy to be productive. We cannot continue to destroy the environment else we may have profit, but no world in which to spend it. Some would argue for the quick fix. This will not work. Our issues are to complex and too braid to think we can go back and do things the way they were done in the past. Our economic body must be addressed holistically. FDR saw this in the 1930’s. Was he totally correct? Maybe not. However, he saw that the depression required more than just fixing banks. Yes, we have to deal with energy, the environment, agriculture, education, healthcare and a total review of our economic rules and regulations if we are to have any chance of reviving our economy. If we do not do these things now, there may never be another chance in the future.