How Election 1936 Gave Us Election 2008

The presidential campaign of 2008 advertises itself as being about the present, but it also reflects some old political challenges. One is officials’ affection for infrastructure projects. Another is their affection for spending in general. Whether Democrat or Republican, candidates must address the same dilemma: on the one hand, voters have enormous faith in the private sector; on the other, they expect the government to provide them with evermore generous entitlements. Whether the label is “earmark” or “stimulus package,” the intent is the same: to pay off various political groups.

In this lecture Amity Shlaes takes us back and demonstrates that the roots of the problem lay in a single election year, 1936, when Franklin D. Roosevelt systematically established modern political interest groups from unions to artists to senior citizens. Roosevelt\’s electoral strategy was to lavish federal money on these groups, so much so that federal spending that year outpaced state and local spending for the first time ever in peacetime. The consequence was the Roosevelt landslide of 1936 and the setting of the modern spending trap. Roosevelt often spoke of the \”Forgotten Man, the man at the bottom of the economic pyramid. ” Shlaes shows that Roosevelt’s New Deal created a new: Forgotten Man,” the man who subsidizes the funding of other constituencies and who haunts the politics of all developed nations today. This lecture is based on Miss Shlaes’s national bestseller The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (HarperCollins, June 2007).

The New Deal in Perspective Excerpt

Each year since 2004, on September 17th, we commemorate the September 17, 1787 signing of the United States Constitution by thirty-nine American statesmen. Legislation creating Constitution Day was fathered by Senator Robert Byrd and requires federal agencies, and every school that receives federal funds, including universities, to have some kind of educational program on the Constitution.

I cannot think of legislation that makes greater mockery of the Constitution, or a more constitutionally odious person to father it – Senator Byrd, a person who is known as, and proudly wears the label, A King of Pork.

Let’s examine just a few statements by the framers, and some of their successors, to see just how much faith and allegiance today’s Americans give to the U.S. Constitution.

James Madison is acknowledged as the father of the constitution. Surely he would know what the Constitution permits and doesn’t permit. In 1794, Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief for French refugees who fled from insurrection in San Domingo (now Haiti) to Baltimore and Philadelphia. James Madison said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the…

Read her full article “The New Deal in Perspective”