GET OVER IT, FOLKS….It’s astonishing, really, that conservatives are still exercised about FDR and the New Deal 70 years after the fact. Not just in a historical sense, mind you, but in the same kind of immediate, visceral sense that you and I might be outraged by the war in Iraq or yet another tax cut for the rich. Pejman Yousefzadeh, for example, reports that a passage in George Will’s column today “made me spring out of my chair and pace around in abject disbelief and not a little anger.” Here it is:
Some mornings during the autumn of 1933, when the unemployment rate was 22 percent, the president, before getting into his wheelchair, sat in bed, surrounded by economic advisers, setting the price of gold. One morning he said he might raise it 21 cents: “It’s a lucky number because it’s three times seven.” His Treasury secretary wrote that if people knew how gold was priced “they would be frightened.”
Dude: That was 74 years ago. What’s more, there was even a reason for it. Roosevelt scholars should feel free to jump in and correct me if I get this wrong, but my recollection is that FDR wanted to raise the price of gold as a way of inducing inflation — a policy that, correct or not in hindsight, was certainly defensible given the farm crisis he was dealing with at the time — but that he wanted the price to rise gradually and erratically so that speculators couldn’t take advantage of predictable movements. Lots of people were appalled by Roosevelt’s apparent casualness about the gold price, but as usual, there was method to his madness. I, for one, am glad that he was president in 1933 and not George Will.