Thursday, September 03, 2009

Comparing Obama and FDR

This New York Times op-ed, Roosevelt: The Great Divider, argues that FDR rammed through his New Deal program with nary a care for the opposition. The implication is that Obama can and should do the same with health care reform.

However, there are some key differences between the situations faced by Obama and FDR:

1. The economy was much, much, much worse during the Great Depression than it is now. Much worse. Unemployment was 25%. There was no government safety net to speak of. The severity of three and a half years of Depression prompted the electorate to demand a radical response.

2. The economy was so bad, in fact, that the middle class identified politically with the poor, which is rarely the case. It certainly is not the case today.

3. The Congress is much more evenly split today. In 1937, the GOP was down to 17 seats out of 96 in the Senate and 88 seats out of 435 in the House.

4. The populist energy during FDR's administration was on the left and it demanded change. Today, the populist energy is on the right and it opposes change.

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