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Web Letter

We have become a sad country of really dense people. we have given over the power to sell our childrens' futures to a few idiots who are proficient at doublespeak, and we continue to give them that power because we are too lazy to pay attention. Large corporations have exported our jobs and the sweat equity of our parents to foreign countries, and we keep electing the same idiots.

JAMES PINETTE

Caribou, ME

Sep 19 2008 - 7:24pm

Web Letter

The only problem with Mr. Zinn's article is that he fails to mention that the New Deal was responsible for turning a short recession into a prolonged depression. The reason the depression ended is that the needs of WWII required removal of many of the unconstitutional laws on business.

The Supreme Court found the majority of the New Deal unconstitutional, and this was the reason FDR attacked the Supreme Court, which led to his infamous "court-packing scheme"

While Roosevelt sold his New Deal as a way to "save America's free enterprise system," the truth was that his regulatory, taxing and welfare schemes were directly contrary to the principles of free enterprise and private charity. By stealing money from winners or prosperous companies and wasting it on the losers, he killed many more jobs than he supposed created. Socialism always leads to misery, starvation, and poverty--unfortunately, the left never learns from history and keeps trying to push failed philosophies. See "Don't Forget Roosevelt's Attack on the Judiciary," by Jacob G. Hornberger, April 25, 2005.

Robert Exton

San Fransisco , CA

Sep 18 2008 - 9:24pm

Web Letter

People seem to forget that the majority of the New Deal's programs were a huge failure. The New Deal exacerbated the Great Depression, turning what could have been a regular recession into a huge catastrophe. I agree that FDR was the greatest president of the twentieth century. However, economically, he was one of the worst, even if he did raise confidence in American capitalism(which, admittedly, didn't need saving in the first place). The way to help American society isn't by (often) unfairly punishing the private sector, but embracing it to fulfill new potential.

Nuwan

Naperville, IL

Sep 18 2008 - 3:50pm

Web Letter

Howard Zinn is correct. We should not pay attention to those who complain that this is "big government," when government serves to make opportunities for creating wealth available to every citizen. Big government will be necessary if we should in fact "initiate a project drawing on the heritage of the 1930s," as he suggests, "if there were a popular upsurge that demanded it." He says the "momentum of such a project could carry the nation past the limits of FDR's reforms." But, a project must first be put in motion before it can gather momentum; and, big government as we know it will not draw on the heritage of the 1930s.

What Roosevelt said about the hatred the wealthy class held for him can be paraphrased to reflect the regard our corporate-owned government has for the American people today: "We are hated by 75 percent of the people, but we don't give a damn; we are in control." It is not the size of our government but its attitude and goals that are loathsome.

If the upsurge that accompanied FDR's reforms during the Great Depression didn't gather sufficient momentum to carry the nation beyond the limits of the New Deal then, there is little chance that any equivalent upsurge now, when Americans are no where near as bad off as they were then, will gather enough momentum to free us of corporate government. Who among the Democratic or Republican candidates in recent history would champion the cause of such a reformation? Barak Obama? Hillary Clinton? Not likely. If the changes that have to be made are to take place, it will only be done after the death of both the Republican and Democratic parties that now jointly control the three branches of government that were each intended to check and balance the powers of the other two. Yet come Election Day, voters will flock to the polls to choose their own poison.

"Our nation is in crisis, just as it was when Roosevelt took office.... [Americans] needed to know that the government was for them and not just for the wealthy class. This is what the American people need today," Zinn says. That's true, government is supposed to be "of the people, by the people, and for the people," but we can't wait Zinn's imaginary "bold candidate" to materialize.

The innovations of the New Deal were fueled by the militant demands for change that swept the country as FDR began his presidency, as Zinn says--the key word being militant--and we will need a similar mobilization of citizens today to unmoor from corporate control whomever becomes President. The American public is notably unconcerned with its own political and economic freedom, and there are no organized groups that are large enough to bring the government under control. Americans cannot wait for a bold candidate; they have to embolden themselves and militantly confront their problems with adverse government.

Organized labor, the largest group that comes into consideration, is neither organized nor militant. Unions have become businesses unto themselves with leaders that care no more for workers than do corporate executives, and they influence workers to rely on them to determine their economic fate. Rather than confronting the true enemy of the people, the federal government, labor unions trifle with collective bagaining from an ever-weakening position only to hasten their own demise. They worry about law suits, about the Taft-Hartley Act, and about issues specific to their own needs. They act alone, isolated in time, in location, in goals, and are ineffective against their common enemy which is government.

If the total workforce, not just unions, could simply pick one issue at a time and demand that the government take whatever corrective measures the people deem necessary and back up the demands with work stoppages, there would be no more need for self-defeating strikes against employers. There would be no more begging or bargaining from a position of weakness. Demands should be made with the goal of wresting control of the government from the hands of the rich and powerful, not for a little more pay or a better pension for some faction. All of those issues can be addressed in stages of government reform that will benefit every citizen, not just a few who belong to unions or who even have a decent job.

The programs of the New Deal brought relief to some of the victims of the economic system but not to all. It provided emergency first-aid to stem the arterial bleeding of a dying economy, but it did not stop the seepage that still bleeds the working class to feed a blood-sucking ruling class. The threat of communism and open revolt demanded a socialist solution to a failed capitalist economy. What resulted is a mixture of socialism and capitalism that like oil and water don't mix well. Now, what is called big government is really only the result of two opposing forces trying to control a government which is out of control. Friction between the the two ideologies has reduced our political and economic freedom nearly to a vanishing point. The big problem is not only that some are filthy rich while some are desperately poor but that the ownership of the means of acquiring wealth are concentrated in the hands of the few. The New Deal did not correct that problem.

We can do those things Zinn suggests: retracting our military presence in 130 countries, putting young people to work in WPA and Conservation Corps kinds of projects, recruiting young people to build rather than destroy, and providing greater educational opportunities. Those are sensible goals if we can concentrate our taxes on both the incomes and accumulated wealth of the super-rich and if that supply of money is sustainable into the future--which it probably will not be, if the military-industrial complex is torn apart by our military retraction and jobs continue to go offshore. What Howard describes should serve as a transition from a corporate form of government to a democratic form where economic and political freedom is extended to every citizen, a transition that provides the "ladders of opportunity" to a higher standard of living for all now and in the future.

The following paragraph is from another article that appeared in The Nation, "Democratizing Capital" by Sherle R. Schwenninger:

The belief of New Deal progressives in an economy that could create good middle-class jobs stemmed in part from their resistance to large social welfare subsidies to individuals, on the grounds that this would encourage an unhealthy dependence on the state. Moreover, even though they favored progressive taxation, New Dealers were skeptical of a society dependent upon the permanent redistribution of income. The principal goal of many New Deal programs was not to relieve the conditions of poverty--although they often did so--but to build physical and human capital that would allow people to escape permanently from poverty. Thus New Dealers emphasized government programs that expanded education, spread property ownership, invested in America's common physical and knowledge capital, and seeded the industries of the future. It was not perfect, in large part because it preceded the civil rights revolution and thus left out millions of African-Americans. But it did build the largest and most secure middle class America has ever known.

New Dealers were skeptical of a society dependent upon the permanent redistribution of income. Redistribution of income means taking income earned by one group and giving it to another group that did not earn it. Rather than redistributing income, government should by now have taken steps to redistribute the ownership of large corporations to individuals, not to the state, not to a socialist government. It should have encouraged and fostered more capital ownership among families and individuals. It should not have allowed the concentrated ownership of capital to continue and progress to the present condition of concentrated power in the hands of the few who can call themselves capitalists.

The transition to an economy where government redistribution of income is no longer necessary can only come about with the support of a government that will, through tax reform, diffuse the centralized ownership of capital and foster the creation of new capital and capital ownership with the goal of shifting the income of citizens from wages to the wealth produced by capital ownership. Big government would have to force corporations to distribute all profit to shareholders, educate the public in business and finance, finance and insure new investors in the stock market, and provide venture capital for new businesses. With wider, less concentrated ownership of corporations, big business would no longer control our government. The ladders of opportunity for individuals would now reach higher, beyond the scope of having a job at the discretion of management, to owning the corporation.

If jobs continued to go offshore or be eliminated by robots and automation, average citizens would still receive income from ownership of the corporations. Unions would no longer have to fight behemoth corporations; they could devote their time to monitoring the new, big government and to take an active part in it to provide momentum to a well-directed, vigorous movement that would go well beyond the New Deal. As the new economy expanded, people would no longer have to worry about retirement income if their main source of income was no longer from wages but from investments. Big government could do all these things.

In such an economy, globalization would not be the scourge it will be if large corporations continue to control governments. We would no longer have to compete with cheap labor. Workers in developing countries would have the same opportunities if workers throughout the world joined the same movement to bring a "New Deal" to the world economy.

Another election day is coming. The "bold candidate" is not. There are, however alternatives to the garden-variety, bought-and-payed-for Republican or Democratic politicians. Go to the polls on Election Day, vote independent or not at all, and demonstrate against corporate government. Create the movement that will match the New Deal in vigor but will gather the momentum to change the character of our capitalist system in ways the New Deal did not.

John Guiel

Ludlow, MA

Aug 10 2008 - 9:31am

Web Letter

I was born in 1937, and the first news event I can remember was Pearl Harbor. I do remember that FDR was almost worshiped.

The people felt that he was on their side, and he was on their side. Even from a wheel chair, this man could lead. He lead us out of a depression and through most of World War II. He knew how to pick his subordinates, and delegate authority.

He wasn't perfect, but, perfect or not, there has never been a better President. We should have such imperfection now!

Pervis J. Casey

Riverside, CA

Mar 31 2008 - 4:45pm

Web Letter

Not only did FDR not run on a platform anything close to the New Deal, he was regarded by knowledgable pundits as a lightweight and unserious person, see for example the comments of Walter Lippmann. Roosevelt surprised everyone. Obama and McCain also might. Not a chance with Hillary. We already know too much about her and what she would be likely to do.

Norman Ravitch

Savannah, GA

Mar 26 2008 - 1:03pm

Web Letter

I hope for the same future as Howard Zinn, so I can't believe I'm about to write this... I disagree that a candidate with this platform is the missing link. This is actually the platform that Dennis Kucinich has run on--twice. Come on, you know, the candidate that never got called on in the debates because of his platform. That nerdy, alien looking little vegan from Cleveland with the "it's gotta be a "Weird Science experiment" hot wife. The guy that voted against the Iraq invasion and occupation from the beginning and offered up the only actual national healthcare plan.

The problem the Dennis Kuciniches face today that FDR did not have to contend with is television and its zombie minions who care more about American Idol than American policy. Most recently, one only has to look at how the media used a couple of very choice sound bites from very long sermons to demonize Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright (and Barack Obama) to see how easily a man dedicated to peace and understanding can be distorted into a radical, hate-mongering bigot--in a single day. If you don't know what I mean, my point could not be better made.

I'm afraid the American experiment is failing and it would be in our best interest to figure out what we have to do next before it continues getting done to us. I suggest we reclaim our airwaves and demand that the FCC re-regulate the communications industry. Too few control every aspect of the modern way we interact with one another and the world. In most cases, those few do not have our best interest in mind, let alone at heart.

John Stifler

Dallas, TX

Mar 26 2008 - 10:04am

Web Letter

I could not agree more that we need a new New Deal. But I would not necessarily argue that the Democratic presidential candidates should promise one before the election. You will recall that during his campaign against Hoover, FDR promised to balance the federal budget!

Robert P. Forbes

New Haven, CT

Mar 25 2008 - 2:18pm

Web Letter

Thank you, Mr. Zinn. I'm not old enough to remember FDR, but I was raised by people who certainly did. All were grateful. I am, however, old enough to have been reading Zinn pieces for about forty years. Keep 'em coming, please.

I had an uncle who lost a leg to a landmine in the Battle of the Bulge as a combat photographer with Patton's army. He spoke German & Hungarian and his first job after high school in Manhattan was with the CCC--down South.

I learned to love books in a WPA building, the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza. A beauty (except for the lobby, desecrated in the Nixonian early '70s).

The FDR administration made a better life possible for almost every American I know & knew. I have, however, come to know some other Americans who, to this day, consider FDR & his wife "Commie Jews" in thin disguise, traitors to their class. And I'm not exaggerating. These detractors still parrot their parents & grandparents. And they are all--surprise surprise--G.W. Bush supporters.

If President Obama's administration can accomplish what the New Deal did, there will be much for the vast majority of Americans to look forward to. May he be protected.

R.H. Weber

Geneva, Switzerland

Mar 25 2008 - 12:05pm

Web Letter

Thank you, Howard Zinn, for an inspirational article. I am old enough to remember how the era of FDR brought forth amazing things out of chaos and despair. I was thinking along those lines especially when Barack Obama spoke so passionately about his community work and how to put young energy into constructive projects.

I feel there is great possibility in what you wrote and that Senator Obama offers us positive leadership for the future. I hope it happens soon as I want to have a few final years of living in a more hopeful and healthy country. Near my home in Florida is a park with a beautiful wooden suspension bridge over a river built by the CCC. It always brings back memories of what can be accomplished with proper organization, will and true leadership.

Your article echoed my deepest hopes for our country's future.

Pearl Volkov

Sun City Center , FL

Mar 24 2008 - 11:28pm

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