A new conservative take on FDR

A NEW CONSERVATIVE TAKE ON FDR…. Conservatives have argued repeatedly of late that there’s no reason for the Obama administration to look to FDR as an example. The New Deal, according to many on the right, was a failure. FDR didn’t help pull the United States out of the depression, they say, he made it worse.

It was curious, then, to see this item in the Wall Street Journal this week, arguing that Roosevelt’s economic policies really did work, but only because they were actually conservative.

The piece from the University of Kansas’ George Bittlingmayer and George Mason University’s Thomas W. Hazlett present a novel argument:

Roosevelt initially tacked right on fiscal issues. On March 10, he asked Congress to slash the salaries of federal government employees by $100 million, with an additional $400 million sliced from veterans’ pensions. This stunning cut — total annual federal expenditures then running at $4.6 billion — came in a measure called “A Bill to Maintain the Credit of the United States Government.”

[Raymond Moley, an FDR adviser intimately involved in crafting the bank holiday and other 100 days policies] said the “psychological effect was electric. The bill [was] greeted with loud shouts of approval by all articulate conservatives. But I am confident that deep down in the consciousness of the average people of the country it found a similar response. Somehow or other . . . Hoover had always seemed to be an expensive President.” […]

Whatever is to come, an Obama administration reset that focused on investment incentives could stimulate confidence and give our economy a fighting chance to recover. That is the message being conveyed by pro-Obama business champions such as Warren Buffett — and it was in fact the strategy executed by FDR.

I see. So, as far as conservatives are concerned, FDR was both an ineffective liberal who made the crisis worse in the 1930s and an effective conservative who helped address the crisis with conservative ideas. The New Deal failed because it was liberal and it succeeded because it was conservative.

Good to know.