January 23, 2012

A great new book on The New Deal

The New Deal: A Modern HistoryThe New Deal: A Modern History by Michael Hiltzik

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent review of the New Deal, the motivations and organization of Roosevelt (and his Brain Trusters) and more.

Some of the best analysis is  near the end. Economists like Paul Krugman have had to defend the New Deal, and Keynsianism in general, against charges it actually made the Depression worse, by citing FDR's second term balanced budget focus. Hiltzik goes even further and notes that in Roosevelt's first term, only one year had a near-adequate amount of stimulus, with deflationary measures undercutting stimulus ones in other years. He even has Roosevelt's own words to quote. And ,he doesn't hesitate to tie this back to today.

Hiltzik also has a short but insightful chapter on the Supreme Court packing decision, including noting that, even after Roosevelt started getting "better" votes from the court, he couldn't let go of the "packing" idea.

Hiltzik also, among other things, says we should drop the "100 Days" focus, and more, of New Deal study.

Finally, Hiltzik, among many other things, notes that FDR's fear of "the dole" led him to reject the ideas of Frances Perkins and others, and NOT fund Social Security immediately and out of general revenue. (The immediate payroll tax deductions, but without benefits payments until the 1940s, were one of those deflationary measures mentioned above.)

This is an excellent starter and overview book on the New Deal. Without calling them "parallels," Hitzlik lets the reader see just how some of FDR's actions, and lack of system behind them, and the results of lack of system, apply well to The Great Recession of today and its aftermath, too.

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