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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Legacy of FDR

There was an interesting OpEd in The Boston Globe this morning, by Professor Patrick Maney, of Boston College.  An historian, Professor Maney is the author of The Roosevelt Presence: The Life and Legacy of FDR.

The essence of the article, "The legend of FDR's first 100 days in office," is that FDR provided the inspiration, but the US Congress, which had been exploring options for several years, provided the power to pass needed legislation, often of its own conception.  Here is the quote:
The problem with the 100 days paradigm is that it obscures the vital role played by Congress - Republicans as well as Democrats - in crafting the First New Deal.  It's too FDR-centric, what with Roosevelt and his brain trust bending a pliant Congress to their will within months of taking power. ...

The real 100 days - March 9 to June 16, 1933 - bear little resemblance to the legend.  True, Roosevelt inspired a nation as perhaps no president ever has, and yes, the early months of his administration produced an outpouring of constructive legislation unequaled in the nation's history.  But the early New Deal was hardly a one-man operation.  As often as not, Congress, not Roosevelt, forced the action.  Of the 15 major bills that constitute the First New Deal, most originated in Congress and many had legislative histories predating Roosevelt's assumption of power.  There were even some key measures FDR initially opposed.
A prime example provided by Professor Maney was the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which was an idea out of Congress.  Then there was TVA, which had been pushed in several sessions of Congress, but was finally passed and signed in the 100 days.

I wish to take nothing away from President Roosevelt.  He did provide the inspiration.  But, it is important to understand that our Central Government is about the US Congress, which passes legislation.  Those 535 members must be strong and intelligent and provide leadership for the nation, along with the President.

Professor Maney makes the point that a misunderstanding of Roosevelt's 100 Days places too much of a burden on the Presidents to follow.

Regards  --  Cliff

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