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Web Letter

Anytime a progressive idea surfaces or resurfaces, you can expect a book, article or blog to appear to counter it. There are an endless number of right-wing think tanks that are paid to do a number on any idea that threaten the economic elites or the policies of other nations. The book reviewed is probably one of those books. Look at the author and his or her connections!

Pervis J. Casey

Riverside, CA

Mar 27 2008 - 2:21pm

Web Letter

Kim Phillips-Fein is dead wrong to say that FDR's New Deal did not restore health to the US economy. Growth was significant under FDR during the 1930s; important and new roads, bridges, dams and other public facilities and buildings provided the foundation during that time, and especially after WWII.

Most important, when FDR took office in 1993, unemployment was 33 percent. By 1939, unemployment was down to 4-5 percent, if one includes workers at the WPA, PWA and CCC, which are not included for official statistics. We can thank Conrad Black's magisterial biography of FDR for figuring out what too many historians fail to understand.

The New Deal worked. That's the story we have to tell over and over as we face new structural crises.

Professor Phillips-Fein also has a less than full understanding of the 1920s economy. Outside of major cities, there was much poverty throughout rural America, where there was often horrible deflation--which ironically played a role in the abuse of the land that led to the 1930s Dust Bowls. Further, many urban workers' wages did not grow anywhere near as much as their productivity rates would have justified. There was a prominent economist named Stuart Chase during the 1920s and 1930s who made these points about the major holes in the 1920s US economy in at least three books during this period of the mid-1920s through early 1930s. I find Chase's analyses far more insightful than the usual nonsense about the 1920s economy being "roaring" and that it somehowjust "collpased" in 1929 and early 1930. What happened instead is that the house of cards for proto-Yuppies, which included a run-up of real estate and financial ripoffs that would sound very familiar right now, fell apart. The 1920s were already a rough decade for those who fell through official statistical cracks.

It is a sad irony that the New Deal gets less credit than it deserves, while the 1920s economy gets more credit than it deserves. I expected better from The Nation than an "analysis" more fit for CNN or some other corporate media outlet.

Mitchell Freedman

Poway, CA

Mar 21 2008 - 5:22pm

Web Letter

Without FDR and the New Deal we would have had either a socialist or a fascist America. Fascism was more likely than socialism. FDR saved American capitalism and American freedom.

Norman Ravitch

Savannah, GA

Mar 21 2008 - 9:29am