FDR created blueprint for stimulus plan

Published 11:22 am Friday, February 20, 2009

For the most part, barring three U.S. Senators, Republicans have just said “no” to the Obama stimulus package. They have found fault with its rush through Congress, at the same time criticizing the President for not signing the bill for four days.

They have claimed there was no time to read the 1,100 page bill, though they picked at the tiniest elements of the bill for weeks. But most of their criticisms are founded in one aspect of the bill … it is a Democratically written bill, with Democratic ideas and programs.

And while it may be the largest tax cut in American history, it is not a tax cut for Americas’ wealthiest individuals.

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These complaints are understandable, if unreasonable.

Just what did they expect when the public elected more Democrats than Republicans in 2006 and 2008?

Of course the stimulus would look different than if the Republican Party wrote the bill.

But, as the Bush administration often reminded us, elections matter. And while the new president hoped to invite Republicans to support the bill, he could never offer many of the Republicans the only thing they wanted … a bill that was all tax breaks with dividend cuts, corporate cuts, and reductions in taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

The president could not offer what the Republicans sought because we have learned at least three important lessons from our economic collapse.

First, tax cuts skewed to the wealthy do not stimulate the economy.

Second, lax enforcement of regulations, a Republican policy, do not work and only encouraged the bankers to steal the nations’ wealth.

Third, free trade helps the wealthiest Americans and Big Business but destroys American industry and the living wages of American workers.

Now our Republican friends tell us that this recession is unlike the Depression of the 1930s and that the Roosevelt Administration was a failed administration. One Ohio congressman, Steve Austria, went so far as to claim FDR caused the Great Depression. No student of history, Austria apparently was not aware that FDR took office three years into the depression.

Republicans tell us the Depression policies created work, but not jobs. For one unemployed one might guess that was a difference that made no difference when a paycheck was earned. So those short term solutions helped many families. Those solutions also built roads, bridges, and dams, much like America needs again today.

The FDR Administration also gave us FDIC, a program that protects our cash in the banks, a provision we should all value today. FDR policies also included the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission, an agency that fell asleep at the wheel this time around, but could have prevented much of the theft of the economy.

Finally, the FDR Administration created much of our current social safety net, including Social Security. And while Republicans wanted to transfer retirement to the stock market, Social Security has protected the retirement of Americans for 60 years.

Part of what went wrong in the economic collapse was the aggregate of all of the policies aimed against the middle class. Lax regulatory policies; a Federal Reserve dedicated solely to protecting the stock markets; a slow dismantlement of the social safety net; and the loss of living wage American jobs to foreign workers subsidized by their government and often living in poverty.

The stimulus may work, or may only help, with other solutions added along the way. But let us, as a nation, never have to learn again, that the policies of greed will not sustain a nation, but will rob those who work of their security.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.