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Long Shadows

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TIME - The NEW New Deal

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By David Glenn Cox

The "American Spectator" calls it Obama’s New Deal; CNBC and its parrot networks call it Obama’s New Deal, as well. As would be expected, the right tries to frame the argument by smearing the left. So lost and out of touch are these Ba'thist dead enders that they fail to realize that a New Deal sounds like a pretty good idea to millions of struggling Americans. But Obama’s stimulus program is not another New Deal, it is merely patching the old tire and trying to get the wagon out of the ditch so we can go down the same old road again.

I wish that it were a New Deal, because even the term "New Deal" was designed to bring hope to struggling people. It was a program not to fix the old wagon so that we could continue down the same path, but to build a new wagon to go down new roads. FDR’s New Deal was aimed straight at the heart of America’s poorest regions; the Tennessee Valley Authority brought jobs, infrastructure, roads and education into the southern United States. Their goal was not to put it back the way it was, but to change it forever.

The WPA and the CCC built hospitals and schools; these leftist programs went so far as to feed children lunch for free. Your tax dollars would be given to farmers to buy up their excess products and then to feed the poor with leftover commodities. Republicans fret about spending on condoms and John Boehner complains about spending on Pell grants. Visibly angry he asks, "How will passing out Pell grants stimulate the economy?"

You see, it's not the spending of money that bothers them, it is who Obama wants to spend it on. The Republicans have no problem financing abstinence-only programs or spending ten billion dollars a year on missile programs that don’t work. Much like the Republicans of FDR’s day complained, "Why do they need closed sewer culverts and public health administrations?" But Obama’s plan, however noble, is designed to repair the road for the old ways and not to find the new.

In FDR’s New Deal the public was offered free, clean showers in the summertime. While that might sound laughable to us today in our air-conditioned world, think of the unending, stifling summer heat. Then think of the feeling of taking a good, cool shower and how much better the world looks when you emerge. You could call it a sanitation program, or a crime prevention program, or a social program, but what it really should be seen as is a "Care" program. The public knew that someone cared about their wellbeing in the summer heat.

The WPA offered summer programs for children with classes in music, art and sports leagues. Where little girls were taught to sew and given patterns to make themselves dresses, so at the end of the day when they went home they did so with a full stomach and a new dress. They also took home new skills and confidence that maybe the world wasn’t all bad and that maybe things could get better because someone cared.

In the evenings the WPA sponsored dances and plays and symphony orchestras for people without enough money for food, let alone entertainment. People who lived night and day with worry and stress, so if we can walk a mile in their shoes for a moment here, what would the prospect of a night out mean? Perhaps it would return just a modicum of dignity and normalcy into their lives?

The CCC offered young men a chance to get out of the house and to earn $30.00 a month doing it. From sitting on an inner city front stoop doing nothing with no prospect of a job, to building roads and learning to work on heavy equipment or surveying, learning that there was another way of life. That there was a big world outside of the city, learning a trade and seeing a clear example of the power of knowledge.

The Home Owners' Loan Corporation, established in 1933, saved over one million homes from foreclosure by 1935, at a time when America only had 125 million inhabitants and the rate of home ownership was much lower. They established the principle of the 25 to 30-year fixed-rate loans. Until that time private banks would offer no more than 15-year loans. How much did this big-spending, leftist program cost the long suffering American taxpayer? 100 million? 500 million? A billion dollars? It cost nothing; it cost the taxpayers not one dime. When it went out of business in 1951, it returned a small profit to the US Treasury.

The benefits are immeasurable in dollars, these programs built a different America, and they approached problems with a new sense of optimism and power. If we try to merely quantify it with dollars and cents, we miss the point. The New Deal was a chance to throw away the bad and begin again with the new. How do we gauge the benefits of a million families that got to keep their homes?

"Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men." (FDR)

But we have forgotten such things; we have become divided from ourselves with the false ideology of the golden shekel with its nine commandments that start with "I" and its one commandment that "helping others diminishes me." A phony wooden idol that is quantified in dollars and cents only, and if it cannot then it has no proof of benefit.
\Obama’s plan is only a stimulus plan; it falls far short of the lofty goals of the New Deal's creators. They were giants whose dreams cast long shadows; they sought to change America for the better. To tear out by the roots the weeds which sow the seeds of corruption and to replace them with a belief that a decent job and a home and wholesome food and healthcare and retirement were a birthright and not a privilege.

Our enemy is the same as it has always been, the wealthy and powerful and well-connected who rail about their taxes being too high and destroying productivity while they spend $68,000 for an office chair or $2,000 for a pair of shoes. Who worry about the cost of Pell grants for needy students and consider ketchup a vegetable. They don’t sing, "This Land is Your land, This Land is My Land," they sing, this land is my land and you're damn lucky we let you stay. My taxes shouldn’t be spent on Pell grants or on hungry children because it’s mine, all mine. Their love for America is only their love for themselves and for what America has given to them and their ever-insatiable greed for more. They want Obama to put their wagon back on the road so that they can continue on their path.

While Roosevelt dreamt of a New Deal, Obama’s stimulus package is only seeking to commune with the dealer.