Obama And FDR

Posted by | August 28, 2010 21:25 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

A few weeks ago I posted about the comparison between liberal reactions to FDR and Obama (they were both negative).  However this left open the question of why FDR thrived in the 1934 midterms and Obama’s best case scenario is a moderate loss of seats.  New Deal Democrat has a plausible explanation of the difference.

…while FDR and the New Deal democrats in Congress focused on Relief, Recovery and Reform, the failure to even consider a new WPA is emblematic of the neglect by Obama and the current Congressional democrats of the critical first link — Relief — and this is why their prospects this November look so different than those of 1934.

I think this is right in the analysis of the impacts on the electorate but wrong in the blame placed on Obama.  Indeed, more relief measures would improve people’s lives and allow the Democrats to enter the 2010 election making the claim that they are working to improve people’s lives.  But Obama and Pelosi face a very different political climate today than FDR did in 1933-34.

First of all, Democrats in FDR’s day held a 59-37 margin in the Senate and a 3-1 margin in the House.  This made passing statutes much easier than with the Democrats’ majority today.  Second of all, while FDR’s opposition disagreed with the New Deal, Obama’s opposition’s only strategy is to ensure that Obama fails.  Therefore, blocking statutes (even those as benign as extending unemployment insurance) that bring relief to people and make them feel better is of paramount importance.  Republicans want an angry electorate in November.  They just don’t care whether the electorate is also miserable, as long as they are angry.  And right now, it’s working.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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