FDR (and RN) biographer Conrad Black has posted a thoughtful and instructive piece on The Daily Beast: “Why The Right Should Leave FDR Alone”.
Apparently some right wingers (specifically “some supply-side economic purists”) have been bashing FDR, claiming that he actually prolonged the Great Depression.
After first dispatching the Yalta canard, Lord Black surveys the bleak scene when FDR was sworn in:
On Inauguration Day, 1933 (then March 4), there were machine gun nests at the corners of the great government buildings in Washington, for the only time since the Civil War. All banks in 32 states had been closed sine die. Six other states had closed almost all their banks. In the other ten states and D.C., withdrawals were limited to 5 percent of deposits, and in Texas to $10 per day. The New York Stock Exchange and Chicago commodity exchanges had also been closed, indefinitely. The financial system had effectively collapsed, and was threatening to take the life savings of millions of people and what was left of the world’s financial system with it.
After a detailed deconstruction of the intervening years and the five successive New Deals, the erstwhile Floridian, drives his argument home:
Unemployment declined from about 33 percent when Roosevelt entered office to half of one percent when he died in office 12 years and 39 days later, and had been at that point for four and a half years, since several months before Pearl Harbor. The average per capita income doubled under Roosevelt, and was more equitably distributed, as the United States led the Allies to victory over the Nazis and Japanese imperialists, and the admission or restoration of Japan, Germany, France, and Italy to the democratic and civilized Western Alliance.
Roosevelt won four consecutive presidential elections with an average of more than 56 percent of the vote, and his party, while he led it, won seven consecutive elections of both houses of Congress. These are not the usual rewards for prolongation of economic distress. FDR had his faults, but he was a great leader at a time when America and the Western world had to have a great leader in the White House, and the American loony right should aim their spitballs elsewhere. There is no shortage of deserving targets.