Still, a review of the record of Roosevelt’s New Deal suggests that a sentient voter, slimed or not, might pause before signing up for the newest new deal.
When Roosevelt ran for office in 1932, a shocking one in four workers was unemployed. Roosevelt promised to get employment back to usual levels, which then as now meant one in 20 out of work, or 5 percent joblessness. He blamed the downturn in part on “obeisance to Mammon” — an unwillingness of wealthy Americans to share. To recover, the president suggested, America needed the federal government to provide “more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth.” The gravity of the crisis, Roosevelt argued, warranted emergency authority for the chief executive — license to play around, applying even conflicting theories seriatim through “bold persistent experimentation.”
Once elected, Roosevelt hiked taxes on the rich and kept them high, even pushing an “undistributed profits tax” to eat at business savings. He ramped up tax authorities’ investigations and urged the authorities into punitive audits. The “green” component of the New Deal was reforestation: Roosevelt promised to employ 1 million men in restoring forests, parks and fields. To create additional jobs, Roosevelt poured hundreds of millions of dollars, then a large sum, into infrastructure: bridges, schools, power plants, and the establishment of new institutions such as the Tennessee Valley Authority. In the name of helping the working man, the New Deal instituted minimum wages. Roosevelt’s 1935 Wagner Act, a tiger of a law, gave the labor movement such power that unions were able to force large companies such as automakers to accept collective bargaining, willy nilly.