In this shocking and groundbreaking new book, economic historian Burton Folsom, Jr., exposes the idyllic legend of Franklin D. Roosevelt as a myth of epic proportions. With questionable moral character and a vendetta against the business elite, Roosevelt created New Deal programs marked by inconsistent planning, wasteful spending, and opportunity for political gain-ultimately elevating public opinion of his administration but falling flat in achieving the economic revitalization that America so desperately needed from the Great Depression. Folsom takes a critical, revisionist look at Roosevelt's presidency, his economic policies, and his personal life.
Elected in 1932 on a buoyant tide of promises to balance the increasingly uncontrollable national budget and reduce the catastrophic unemployment rate, the charismatic thirty-second president not only neglected to pursue those goals, he made dramatic changes to federal programming that directly contradicted his campaign promises. Price fixing, court packing, regressive taxes, and patronism were all hidden inside the alphabet soup of his popular New Deal, putting a financial strain on the already suffering lower classes and discouraging the upper classes from taking business risks that potentially could have jostled national cash flow from dormancy. Many government programs that are widely used today have their seeds in the New Deal. Farm subsidies, minimum wage, and welfare, among others, all stifle economic growth-encouraging decreased productivity and exacerbating unemployment.
Roosevelt's imperious approach to the presidency changed American politics forever, and as he manipulated public opinion, American citizens became unwitting accomplices to the stilted economic growth of the 1930s. More than sixty years after FDR died in office, we still struggle with the damaging repercussions of his legacy.
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The Great Depression has a whole new meaning now.
Here's the funny thing: I have never met a person who lived through the 30's who loved FDR. In fact, I recall one old woman in the 80's saying, "I hope he's enjoying Hell." I thought they were all nuts. Every textbook forced upon me in grade school raved about the saintly works of FDR. I came away from from college imagining the Republicans crying their eyes out from the shame of having to run a candidate against him every four years, they loved him that much. "Oh, why doesn't God banish Jesus from heaven and replace him with FDR?" That was the gist I had nurtured throughout my youth.
But there were always the nagging anomalies: Why were the alphabet soup agencies gone so quick? Where did all the city trolleys go? Unemployment was how high at the end of the second term? A Supreme Court with 15 judges? What? These issues and more didn't jibe with what I had learned about FDR. All of these points had to be crazy talk. That one woman in the 80's I heard, must have been on some whirlwind global speaking tour.
Then I read this book. I have had an FDR antique "collector plate" from WWII hanging in my dining room for 22 years. I took it down half-way through this book.
OMG! I couldn't believe it. OMG! No wonder they passed the 22nd Amendment while his casket was still on Pennsylvania Ave. He elevated the concept of corrupt Tammany Boss to a national scale. Nixon suddenly looks like an pillar of virtue by comparison. Even worse, FDR was the guy who threw gasoline on the sparks from the 29 Stock Market crash that really caused the Depression and didn't care. In fact, he fanned the flames to exploit the power of crisis. OMG!
If you want to have 70 years of blinders ripped from your eyes, read/listen to this book. OMG! But be very careful, it will show you the real FDR and it will shine a new light on our trillion-dollar stimulus packages. You don't want to see either.
Why only four stars? I am punishing the author for destroying my naiveté, which I had enjoyed for 52 years.