Would the President Do?
John T. Flynn
he was with a depression on his hands eleven million men out of
work, the whole fabric of his policy in tatters, his promise only
a few months old to balance the budget still fresh in the minds
of the people and yet pressing the necessity, as he put it himself,
of spending two or three billion a year of deficit money and, most
serious of all, as he told Jim Farley, no way to spend it.
now was a gift from the gods and from the gods of war at that.
Here was the chance to spend. Here now was something the federal
government could really spend money on military and naval preparations.
in the disturbed state of the world, something could be said for
this. But Roosevelt in 1932 had denounced Hoover for spending so
much on the army and navy. Now he promptly set off on an immense
program of military and naval expenditures which was proper and
in which Congress concurred but without making any retrenchment
in the enormous outlays he was putting out on all the other New
Deal departments of spending, all with borrowed money and more government
debt. He simply increased his government borrowing. He was now committed
all≠out to the theory which the Planners and the Spenders had sold
him, that government debt means nothing. He could now spread his
wings for a grand flight under the influence of this new theory
without troubling his soul about the economic consequences.
January, 1938, I talked with one of the Presidentís most intimate
advisers. I asked him if the President knew we were in a depression.
He said that of course he did. I asked what the President proposed
to do. He answered:
spending." I then suggested he would find difficulty in getting
objects on which the federal government could spend. He said he
knew that. What, then, I asked, will the President spend on? He
laughed and replied in a single word:
I asked why. He said: "You know we are going to have a war."
And when I asked whom we were going to fight he said "Japan"
and when I asked where and what about, he said "in South America."
"Well," I said, "you are moving logically there.
If your only hope is spending and the only thing you have to spend
on is national defense, then you have got to have an enemy to defend
against and a war in prospect."
the best hope of a war at that moment for popular consumption was
with the Japanese, who had just sunk the Panay, and as there was
little chance of arousing the American people to fight around Japan,
South America seemed a more likely battleground to stimulate our
fears and emotions. There is nothing new about this. Kings and ministers
have toyed with this device for ages and convinced themselves they
were acting wisely and nobly.
the highly recommended Roosevelt
Available online: http://www.hazlitt.org/e-texts/fdrmyth/hbzfrm.htm