Friday, January 6, 2012

Why FDR was America's Worst President

(Author's note 1: To quote George Bernard Shaw, I apologize that this post is so long; I did not have time to make it shorter.)

Introduction

Recently, President Obama infamously asserted his presidential accomplishments to be the fourth greatest of all time. But while that’s surely vain and false, what’s even more false is his list of the top three: Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Baines Johnson. I consider Lincoln a tremendous (although imperfect) president, but FDR and LBJ have done more to harm this country than any other two men (with the possible exception of John Maynard Keynes). In particular, I hold FDR to be the worst president our nation has ever had.

This probably runs contrary to most of what you’ve been taught in school. Roosevelt was a tremendously influential president, who had stellar oratorical skills and a great deal of power. He was immensely popular in his day, and won four terms in office (perhaps he’d have won more if he hadn’t died in office). His face graces the US dime. He is often credited with ending the Great Depression and guiding the nation through WWII. These accomplishments, combined with his popularity and how he revolutionized the office of the presidency, are often cited in the argument that he is the greatest president of all time.

But the truth is, our country would be much better off today if FDR had never been elected and his ideology had never been implemented and spread. This is true even when we leave aside the realization that he did not end the Great Depression; truly, he only prolonged it. But more important to Roosevelt’s legacy than the results in that individual decade is the impact his presidency has had today. And today FDR’s presence is most felt by the precedent he set that it was okay for presidents to trample all over the only thing that gives them any right to power at all: the constitution. In short, FDR was a tyrant.

The best way to evaluate a president is compare the job he did with the job he was supposed to do. How well did he fulfill his job description? First, we must determine what he accomplished by comparing the the responsibilities given to him with the responsibilities he met. Next, we must inspect how he accomplished those things by comparing the powers granted to him with the powers he actually exercised. When we do this for FDR, we discover he was our worst president because the job he did was not the job the constitution establishes for the president. He did not fulfill his job description. He fell short of his responsibilities to faithfully execute the rulings of the other branches, and to respect the system of checks and balances. He fell short of his duty to use only the legitimate powers authorized to him in the constitution while doing so. And he did all of this to such a greater extent, on such a larger scale than any president had ever done before him. By doing so he set the tragic precedent that the constitution could and should be ignored by future presidents as well. Therefore, he was our worst president.


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Redefining the Arrogance of Power

The first thing to understand about President Roosevelt was that from most personal accounts, he was incredibly, pompously vain. The truth is that most modern presidents are. Think about that job for a moment. You can allocate or cut off funds to any executive agency you don’t like, and then redistribute that funding to any other agency. You can tinker with and eventually propose the entire US budget. At the push of a button, you can drop a nuclear bomb anywhere in the world that you so choose - no permission required. You can deploy troops anywhere in the world and have them fight and kill anyone you like, without trial and without questions. If it suits your fancy, you can torture them. You can individually and exclusively negotiate and sign agreements with the governments of any other nation on earth. You can appoint as many executive officials as you like, and then give them executive orders to carry out your bidding. You can use signing statements to “interpret” any law passed by Congress into whatever interpretation suits your agenda, and can scour the dicta of Supreme Court decisions to interpret their rulings as you see fit. If anybody tries to stop you, you can have them arrested for treason; if anyone is arrested who you feel should not be, you can pardon them immediately. You are, in short, the most powerful man in the most powerful country on earth.

Only one man can have that job at a time. In order to become president, one must first decide to run. That decision is no casual happenstance. Only a certain type of person makes such a decision. To most people, the presidency would not be a fun job. Could you imagine being president yourself? Imagine the media microscope of the most high profile celebrity in the world. Every action you take is analyzed by millions. Every expression you utter is dissected by the media incessantly. You have more responsibility and more work to do than anyone, and you are ultimately responsible for everything the government does. You must decide that you want all that power and attention for yourself. This is only an attractive proposition to a certain type of person: a person who’s highly narcissistic, highly ambitious, who loves to be in charge and who loves to be in the limelight. The president must honestly believe that he or she is the single most qualified person in the country to take on that responsibility. No matter how qualified they actually are, that takes a certain amount of vanity.

Then, the would-be president must dedicate an entire year of their lives to tirelessly giving speeches, placing advertisements, and campaigning across the country. They must convince millions of other people that they ought to be granted that power, because they are more qualified than anyone else in the world. They must seek the endorsements of famous, powerful people. To succeed they must be cunning and cutthroat. They must present only their strengths, and hide all of their weaknesses. They must never tire of hearing their own voice, or of hearing massive crowds cheer them and chant their name. They must dedicate every moment of their attention to inflating their own public image.

Think of how arrogant somebody must be to do all that, to decide that they both want to be and ought to be the most powerful person on earth. Imagine that ego. And then recognize that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ego was far larger. For Roosevelt did not make the decision to run for an existing office which held such immense powers; rather, he made the decision to bestow those powers upon himself. Remember when I listed all the crazy-powerful things the president can do a few paragraphs ago? What many don’t realize is that none of those powers belonged to the president when FDR ran for office! Most of those powers were invented out of thin air by Roosevelt himself, for himself. At least modern presidents know that somebody must inherit that office and assume those abilities; they must merely ask themselves “if somebody has to do it, why can’t it be me?” But in Roosevelt’s time, nobody had to do it. Roosevelt simply wanted to do it, so he systematically, brilliantly, and dangerously seized the ability. Even worse, by buying off the press to portray him as a hero, he set the precedent that this behavior not only could be done by future presidents, but should be. The next section will detail how he did it.

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Seizing Power

One of Roosevelt's first power grabs involved an obscure, oft-forgotten office called the Bureau of the Budget (today, it’s called the Office of Management and Budget, or OMB). This Bureau had been created in 1921 to track government expenditures. Previously, each bureau had its own budget, and nobody even bothered to check whether the sum of these budgets was covered by federal revenue! If we ended up spending more than we took in one year, we could either use previous surplus’ to cover the difference, or else just borrow it. The total budget of the US was so small that it didn’t really matter. Each bureau of the government figured out how much it needed to spend to accomplish its duties for itself, and Congress generally gave them what they needed. Could you imagine if our bureaucracy today tried that?

Anyway, after WWI increased spending significantly, it became clear that some central authority needed to keep track of all this and tell Congress how much total money they had to spend in any given year. This was called “central clearance power”, and Congress granted it to this tiny office called the Bureau of the Budget. This Bureau was safely tucked away into the Department of the Treasury, away from Presidential authority. After all, the constitution explicitly grants the power of the purse to Congress.

But Roosevelt didn’t like that. He wanted that power for himself, because he recognized it would be a useful tool in allocating funds to his New Deal programs. FDR eagerly sought a way to justify assuming control of this Bureau. What he found was an obscure constitutional law that granted the president exactly six additional staff members. So what did he do? He hired himself thousands of additional staff members at taxpayer expense, saying that it was within the spirit of the law because the overall purpose was to grant him more staffing flexibility. Hey, each of those six staff members probably need their own staff, right? Nobody challenged him on this. He then created from among these staffers something called the Executive Office of the President, or EOP. Nobody had authorized him to do this either, but since nobody really saw the harm in it, and nobody wanted to stand in the way of a popular president over such a trivial matter. This office couldn’t do anything other than Roosevelt himself could do, right?

Wrong. In 1936, a few years after he’d gotten away with this and when he was at the peak of his power, Roosevelt issued another “executive order” which simply placed the Bureau of the Budget inside the EOP! He literally just wrote himself the power to set the budget. Congress was rightfully outraged, but what could they do? Roosevelt led the executive branch, and the executive branch held the gun. They couldn’t move for impeachment or anything else, because the people loved him. They had no choice but to let it go, and the Office of Management and Budget has been under presidential control ever since. This is why presidents today are expected to propose budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, even though the constitution explicitly grants this power to Congress.

That wasn’t the only “executive order” Roosevelt issued. He use another one to forcibly close all of the banks in the country, in what is today referred to as the “bank holiday” to prevent a feared run on the banks. He justified this power by saying it was a “state of emergency”, which to him meant he was justified in doing whatever he liked. Historically, a state of emergency was pursuant only to a Congressional declaration of war. But FDR argued that there were lots of emergencies that weren’t war related. So, he pressured Congress into revising a totally unrelated bill (which had banned trade with axis powers during WWI) to include the president’s ability to declare similar “economic emergencies." These emergencies could be declared by the president at any time, and during those declarations, the president could mandate practically anything via executive order.

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The President's Precedent

Prior to Roosevelt’s presidency, these executive orders didn’t really exist (with the exception of the Louisiana Purchase 130 years before). If they were used, it was an order about how to enforce a law which Congress had written, not just a random command that is to be followed simply because the president wants it to be. The whole concept of an executive order is rather contrary to the system of checks and balances in the constitution. The framers enumerated the powers of each branch to avoid just such a system. But Roosevelt despised these checks. He loathed the idea that anybody else could tell him what he could or couldn’t do. He governed with the motto that “I’ll mandate the law, and dare them to overrule it”. And due to the Great Depression, nobody was willing or able to do so. Roosevelt was reelected three times. It may have been more had he not died before his fifth attempt. This sent every future president the message that if you want to stay in power, it helps to behave as FDR did.

So naturally, other presidents have followed into his footsteps. Today, executive orders are stretched far and wide to include just about anything the president feels like doing. President Clinton that placed 6,000 acres of Western land off limits for development via executive order, citing his authority to do so from a law passed by Congress for the preservation of a very specific area...IN 1880!!! President Reagan struck down any federal regulation that he didn’t like by citing the Paperwork Production Act, which had been made by Congress to limit the amount of forms businessmen had to fill out (not the actual number of rules they had to comply with). This would have been unthinkable when the constitution was created, but since Roosevelt set the tone that this was acceptable, other ambitious presidents have been quick to use it to advance their agenda.

Similarly, the constitution specifically requires the president to get the Senate's approval before making any treaties with other countries. But of course, FDR believed that only he should have that power. I suppose he figured this was just one giant constitutional typo where the framers accidentally included an entire sentence that they didn't really mean. So to get around their unfortunate blunder, he simply changed the word "treaty" to the word "agreement". Hey, the constitution says nothing about “agreements”, right? So Roosevelt began negotiating “agreements” with other countries, rather than treaties, without any congressional approval whatsoever!

Naturally, Congress was again outraged, and this practice soon found its way to the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court was very hesitant to challenge the president in these times - partially due to the war, and partially because most of them were his appointees by this time anyway. So in a move that can only be described as cowardly, the courts supported Roosevelt's interpretation. They cited the fact that congress could pass legislation to overturn these agreements as a sufficient constitutional check on the President’s negotiating power. But the president could still veto that legislation just as he can veto any others! The result is that today, Congress needs a veto proof, two-thirds majority in both houses to prevent the president from entering the United States into any contract he so chooses, rather than the president needing two-thirds concurrence in the Senate to have any power at all.

This is why we have so few treaties today, and so many agreements (the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, is one example). There are also dozens of secret agreements, which the president conceals from Congress because he fears they would be overturned. Congress tried to address this problem by passing the CASE Act, which stipulates that all “executive agreements” be presented to Congress by years end. How did presidents get around that? By simply changing the word again! Now they call them National Security Directives, or NSD’s. Bush used one such secret NSD to authorize the waterboarding of suspected terrorists (which is completely unrelated to making "treaties" anyway!). When one of those directive’s leaked to the press, he issued another one authorizing “extraordinary rendition”, codename for taking suspects outside the country and doing the same thing. Hey, if Roosevelt (who everyone knows was one of the best presidents ever) can do it, why can’t I?

The executive orders didn’t stop there. In 1942, the infamous Executive Order 9066 authorized the establishment of “exclusion zones” where people who were deemed a threat to the United States’ war effort could be contained. These are today known as the Japanese Internment Camps, one of the most shameful government actions in American history. FDR’s Vice President and successor, Harry Truman, cited the same emergency power to send troops into Korea without Congress’ permission, effectively wrenching the power to declare war away from Congress as well. It was done on the order of one man, free from any power restraints or constitutional checks whatsoever. And it was all started by FDR.



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Hoodwinking the Desperate

How did he get away with this, one may ask? Why didn’t anybody cry foul? Why were the checks and balances in the constitution ignored? The simple answer is that the guardians of that constitution are less strong, and have less resolve, in times of confusion and desperation. The Great Depression was one such time, and Franklin D. Roosevelt brilliantly capitalized on this opportunity. People’s defenses are weak when they’re hungry, out-of-work, and scared for the future. When somebody promises you food, a job, camaraderie, and security in such conditions, people are eager to accept. The freedom they must sacrifice to do so seems less pressing, especially when you're paying with someone else's freedom instead of your own. And when the power of the presidency is expanded with the justification of “taking emergency action” to address the problem, people are willing to tolerate that expansion. Roosevelt ran his campaign on this message, and found a people very eager to grant him whatever power he needed to improve their desperate condition.

But even Depression-era circumstances were not large enough to cover up these power grabs on their own. To get away with this heist, Roosevelt need to cover it up. So just like any good dictator, he presented people with only the information he wanted them to hear. FDR was an absolute master of media manipulation, and he invented most of the tactics that presidents use today.

One way he did this was by buying off newspaper reporters. When FDR entered office, the front-offices of most big-city newspapers opposed him. So Roosevelt cunningly went around them and targeted the reporters themselves. He played poker with them, let them ride on the presidential train, and did all sorts of wining and dining with them to get them on his side. Nobody had ever done this before, and the lowly reporters who never got any attention loved it. More importantly, he’d promise them invaluable “scoops” about upcoming decisions and events, but only on the condition that they promised to report on those scoops in a way that showed him in a favorable light. Whichever reporters wrote the stories he approved of most would be first in line for the next scoop. At the time, this was incredibly valuable information, because information travelled much more slowly. Being in the know first could mean your  newspapers stories were full day ahead of your competitors, which obviously would win you more business. Some papers were even known to hire unemployed mobsters left over from Prohibition as hit men on other reporters, so that they could get the scoops first! Imagine, then, how much they’d be willing to bias the article if that meant getting first dibs on a hot new lead.

Sometimes, Roosevelt could even write the stories himself, or have a member on his staff write it for him. He did this through press releases, which he was the first president to truly utilize. These were prewritten news announcements that would be released only to whichever newspaper promised to publish it in full, unadulterated format. Naturally, they were biased towards the president (just as they are today), so this posed a predicament to newspaper editors. Either publish the biased stories as are and make a lot of money, or stick to the principle of unbiased reporting. You can guess which they chose (to be fair, one notable exception was the Chicago Tribune, AKA the McCormack Papers, which did hold out against the bribes).

FDR also made use of frequent news reels. When you went to the movies in those days, you’d see two feature films, some commercials, and a 10-minute news reel. But these news reels were created and inserted by the government! The amount of bias in these news reels would be utterly laughable by today’s standards (which is saying something because today’s media standards aren’t particularly high). They displayed Roosevelt as the center of everything. Even in the movies themselves, the actors were always incredibly reverent of “the president!”, and every idea he proposed was hailed as heroic and compassionate. It was like presidential product placement. One film even used synchronized swimmers to spell out FDR in a pool!

But the most famous way that Roosevelt influenced public opinion was through his utilization of the radio. The president’s frequent “fireside chats” conveyed the impression that he was coming right into your living room to talk to you. Decades later, people who heard those chats still remember the soothing, assuring feeling he gave them as he assured them that somebody in Washington was doing something to ease their troubles.

It didn’t much matter what he happened to be doing, so long as he convinced people that it was for them. Nearly all of the New Deal programs were built on this brilliant but unconstitutional strategy: if you give people whatever they want at taxpayer expense, they will vote for you. Unemployed? Here, take a job at the Works Progress Administration. Elderly or poor? Here, I’ll give you some social security money. Energy worker? Come work at the TVA. Farmer? Here, take some farm subsidies. In fact, take some money not to work, and to pour milk down the drain and kill your pigs early, to prevent the price of food from going down for the other farmers. Artist? Come join the New Deal Painters Project. Or the New Deal Writers Project, or the New Deal Poets Project. People were literally paid to write odes to America, many probably about how good Roosevelt himself was! He could promise you a job, security, camaraderie, a feeling of service and inclusion and membership, he could promise you the sun and the moon at someone else’s expense – so long as you vote for me!!! Government had never offered that before, and people were too poor to ask questions about why it was doing it now. No wonder he was viewed as a savior!

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Packing the Court

Of course, the reason government had never offered it before was because it was all unconstitutional in the first place. But after a while, Roosevelt’s power and popularity grew to such an extent that he could overtake the last the remaining guardians of that constitution, the last remaining barrier between him and total control. That barrier was the Supreme Court.

For years, they really did hold out. For years the conservative majority on the court stood up to Roosevelt’s bullying and exposed his unconstitutional power grabs for what they were. This enraged him. Roosevelt repeatedly berated the Supreme Court in his fireside chats, referring to them in one speech as “nine old men” that he wouldn’t let stand in his way. As he gained popularity and momentum, he moved in for the kill. On February 5th, 1937, he introduced the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill. The bill granted the president the power to appoint a new Supreme Court justice for each member of the court that exceeded 70 years and 6 months in age (up to a maximum of six). A month later on March 9th, he made the plan the topic of one of his fireside chats, pleading the case for Americans to let him pack the courts with as many new justices as he desired so that he could get his way.

Even by FDR's brash standards, this was a bold and daring move. Never before in American history had there been a more transparent attempt to manipulate the system of checks and balances for personal gain. But in the end, it worked; not because Roosevelt's absurd law passed, but because the Supreme Court caved under the pressure of having their legitimacy annihilated. Twenty days after Roosevelt's speech, the Supreme Court published a decision approving a Washington state minimum wage law by a 5-4 vote. Conservative justice Owen J. Roberts, who’d previously voted against most New Deal initiatives as unconstitutional, had switched sides. He continued his 180 degree about face in most future votes as well (with the notable exception of the Japanese Internment camp issue). Outraged at the politics entering the supposedly non-partisan court, conservative justice Willis Van Devanter resigned, allowing his replacement to be nominated by Roosevelt. When another anti-New Deal justice died later that year, Roosevelt’s majority was solidified. The court packing plan was rebuked by Congress and the American people for its blatant abuse of power, but it didn’t matter. Roosevelt had successfully bullied the Supreme Court into compliance with his agenda.

Even more damaging to our Republic were the many Justices Roosevelt appointed over the next eight years, which continued to advocate his “the government can do anything” attitude long after his presidency ended. Because he was elected to four terms in office, Roosevelt had nominated all of the justices on the Supreme Court by the time of his death. And by the time the most damaging event of Roosevelt’s entire presidency came to pass, they were all his nominees. That time was 1942, and the case was Wickard vs. Filburn.

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The Day the Liberty Died

Wickard vs. Filburn is the most cited Supreme Court of all time. More future Supreme Court decisions have been influenced by this decision than any other, and the implications of the ruling are far reaching to this day. The specific part of the New Deal which prompted the Wickard ruling was called the Agricultural Adjustment Act. In an attempt to end the recession by keeping food prices high to enhance farm profits, this law restricted the supply of food by limiting how much produce farmers were allowed to grow. Each county would distribute licenses to farmers granting them permission to grow crops on a certain acreage of land. A wheat farmer named Roscoe Filburn had all of his fields licensed except for a small plot of land adjacent to his home, on which he grew food for his family's personal consumption. When the government found out about this, they fined him for violating the law, and he took the law to court. The Supreme Court was asked to decide if banning Mr. Filburn from growing crops to eat himself fell within Congress’s constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce.

To me, and to most people, the answer seems a clear cut no. Mr. Filburn was not engaged in interstate commerce. Commerce is defined as economic trade, and he was not trading the wheat in question with anybody. Not only was he not engaged in interstate commerce, but he wasn’t engaged in any commerce at all. But in 1942, the Supreme Court was full of Roosevelt’s appointees, and striking down one of his laws seemed simply out of the question. So the court bent over backwards to keep the law intact. They argued that the “principle of abrogation” meant that even though the wheat being regulated was not part of interstate commerce itself, his decision NOT to sell it could still have a ripple effect on other interstate commerce, because that is less wheat that he would have to buy from somebody else, which would decrease the demand and lower the price. Therefore, it affected interstate commerce, and therefore it could be regulated.

While I recognize my bias, I don’t know how any person can read that logic with a straight face. If the ability to regulate interstate commerce includes the ability to regulate anything that remotely affects any commerce at all, then Congress’ power is unlimited, because everything affects commerce. Everything costs money, and every behavior might conceivably impose some cost on somebody somewhere down the line. It is against the very purpose of a constitution with enumerated powers, against the entire concept of limited government, to have a one power that has no limit, which can be cited to justify absolutely anything. But that was the way Roosevelt wanted it, and so that’s what the court did.

In every subsequent legal challenge to a constitutional action that the government took citing the commerce clause over the next 50 years, the power was protected citing the precedent of Wickard vs. Filburn. Not until US vs. Lopez in 1995, when the government tried to encroach on the second amendment via the commerce clause because guns cost money, did the court say enough was enough. The Great Society, the massive growth of bureaucracy, the creation of entire executive departments, the assumption of massive debt to pay for all these programs, I could go on an on; all were deemed constitutional only because the government could simply yell “commerce clause!” before it acted. In other words, all were possible only because FDR did it first.

Crippling the Courts

Even when FDR’s court’s died out and new justices were appointed, they found it very difficult to strike down these presidential power grabs. Rather, by placing limits on powers which didn’t exist, they actually served to legitimize other powers by not explicitly banning them!

One example is the so called “executive privilege” cited by Nixon during the Watergate scandal. He claimed he didn’t have to turn over those tapes because of “executive privilege." Prior to then, the only known instance of that phrase being applied was when President Washington tried to protect a General from questioning during the Indian Wars. But when the Supreme Court tried to restrict this power, they wrote that “although the principle of executive privilege is well known”, it doesn’t apply here. Why was it well known? It had never existed before! It’s nowhere to be found in the constitution! By limiting a power that didn’t exist, the Courts set a legal precedent that the power does in fact exist. The same occurred with President Bush and the power he claimed to designate people as “enemy combatants”, which could be tortured. The Court ruled that enemy combatants had rights and could be tortured, but in doing so legitimized the president’s power to declare somebody as an enemy combatant in the first place.

All of this originates back to FDR. In the seventy years after FDR, the courts have feared direct conflict with the president, because he nominates them and he has the gun! FDR threatened to pack the court or just ignore it, and then appointed justices who established precedent over his four terms. By the time Eisenhower took office, courts had been full of Roosevelt/Truman appointees for 20 years! Even the conservatives that have been nominated since don’t want to issue rulings that break from those 20 years of unlimited-government precedent. They are worried that if thy do, the executive may ignore and circumvent their rulings. And if that happened, it would set the precedent that they can be ignored and circumvented.

The result is that generations of ambitious presidents have each pushed their power just a little bit, and the court has been fearful to be stickler’s for such borderline cases. But after a few generations those powers have been expanded a lot, and each president appoints judges willing to condone the minor power grabs of the former. By the time it becomes clear that massive power grabs have occurred, the courts are so fearful of enacting such a radical departure from the status quo that they don’t stand up to the power grab of the originals. So they either draw a line slightly beneath what the president has most recently assumed (but greatly above what the constitution actually authorized), or just permit all of it. None of that happened before FDR.
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Conclusion

In conclusion, no other president carried as much disdain and flippant disregard for the constitution than FDR, and no president dismissively broke its rules more frequently. By doing so he set the precedent that the executive branch, charged to enforce the rulings of the other two, could actually just enforce whatever it liked, a notion which greatly restricts freedom in this country to this day. When compared to the job the constitution authorizes him to do, the job he did was further off the mark than any other president in American history. Therefore, he was our worst president. Perhaps Obama’s comparison wasn’t so far off the mark after all.

...
(Author’s note: Much information in this essay were presented to me by Professor Benjamin Ginsberg in a series of lectures at Johns Hopkins University. The research is all his, and I do not claim it as my own. Only the implications I draw from that research, and the opinions I express regarding those implications about President Roosevelt, are my own.)

50 comments:

  1. so true.... FDR truly set the country on a path from which we may never totally back-track.

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  2. THis has really helped me with a speech I am doing for school... You ROCK!

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    1. Could you post your sources for those of us trying to use this information in projects?

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  3. I disagree with this article so much with the fact that FDR set the wrong principles and foundations for our country. My knowledge leads me to believe that everything FDR sought out to do, he finished it. The only reason you could debate this article would be to say that he served more than 2 terms unlike every other president. WRONG! The reason behind why he sought out to do 4 terms was because from what he was doing, was satifying every American opinion along with him. The Great Depression wasn't FDR's fault if you use logical and common sense.

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    1. You totally missed the point in the article. It doesn't matter if the president does what is popular with the people or satisfies "every American opinion" if the constitution doesn't give the congress and president the power to do something, they can't do it, no matter how popular or wanted it may be with the people. That's the whole point. What's popular isn't always legal. Same with Obama and many of the things he does today, as well as all the other modern presidents.

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  4. Whether you agree or not, this blog is horribly written, without source and just drones on and on like the buzzing of a fridge

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    1. I actually sort of agree with you haha, which is why I opened it with the quote apologizing for length. I didn't have time to write a tight, organized essay, I just had a lot of thoughts in my head so I jotted them all down. So yes, it rambles, and stylistically it's not my best. But I think the content is good.

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    2. What an awesome read, the layout and the missing of sources are for the OCD crowd, the content was great.

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    3. I just finished three books on FDR, and they agree entirely with what Andrew has said. I had come to the conclusion that FDR, holy saint of the liberals, was a criminal and of course our worst president by far.

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  5. "Everything FDR set out to do, he finished it." Okay...why does that make the things he did good?

    "The reason behind why he sought out to do 4 terms was because from what he was doing, was satisfying every American opinion along with him." - Very wrong. He was satisfying about 60-65% of the Americans at his peak. That is called "tyranny of the majority."

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    1. I think the person misspoke he wrote "every" American opnion. In any case, the majority (at best) is what runs things.I think the point is that America was willing to vote for him for four terms... just like NYC was willing to vote for Bloomberg for a third term.

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  6. AMEN!I think FDR was a stupid,obnoxious,left wing uber tyrant and I for one am weary of the worship of this idiot

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    1. Well done! He truly was a hipocrite...albeit a charming one! He charmed the country, but he lacked character and moral leadership.

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  7. Lincoln was worse. By a hair.

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    1. How do u figure? He put his life on the line.

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  8. I agree with the article, but I differ in your treatment of Lincoln as a tremendous President. If you look at his actions closely including his suspension of habeas corpus, you will see that he was a dictatorial tyrant and power grabber as well. I would recommend that you check out some books on the issue by Judge Andrew Napolitano.

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    1. I'm getting to Lincoln in one of my upcoming posts, I took an entire class on him this past semester and he was actually reverant on the constitution and cited it for almost everything he did, yes he went too far but I'll give my reasons for why I still like him and how his overall philosophy is beneficial for liberty in the essay.

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    2. Actually the suspension of habeas corpus is ALLOWED by the Constitution, in times of rebellion, and in times of invasion, so in that regard, Lincoln was acting within the scope of the Constitution.

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  9. I'm probably old enough to be the grannie of everyone here. I strongly suggest that you keep on researching the periods of the Depression and WWII. Millions of people in the US were saved from death during the Depression by FDR. Veterans were homeless and starving because of the irresponsibility the selfish, reckless Wall Street investors and banks of the 1920s and Hoover's refusal even to give veterans what the government had promised them.
    The degree of documented poverty in the US in the 1930s was so great that it boggles the mind. The notion that the laissez faire economists would have made it all better is sheer ignorance of economic history.

    The fact that spoiled young people of today cannot even imagine that bone-shattering poverty is due in great measure to the effect of FDR's efforts on the subsequent half a century. About 80+ percent of the US population does not want to end the protective social programs FDR put in place. The pay of all ununionized labor and ununionized labor's working conditions were vastly improved by the unionized labor that he supported.

    FDR was a brilliant leader in WWII. In contrast, his opponents in the late 30s included Nazi sympathizers. I shudder in horror to imagine what the positions of women and African Americans would be today in the US and the world if FDR had never had not been president.

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    1. Roosevelt actually created shortages in the food available to Americans at that time by paying farmers to destroy their crops in an attempt to price fix. This in turned worsened hunger and food shortages.

      Unions may have done some good at that time but today they have obtained too much power and are very detrimental to our country with their current demands. The work place is safe; therefore we need them no longer.

      As a young middle class woman I would love to end social security. I believe in taking care of myself and planning for my own future. Taking care of the poor should be the job of churches and charities NOT the government. The government is very ineffective at taking care of those who need the most help. These programs just encourage people to remain helpless and dependent.

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    2. ^ What she said! Thanks for knocking that one out of the park for me haha

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    3. We had the "War on Poverty", and War on Terror", how about a "War on Social Dependency" and a War on "Sloth"

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    4. The Social Security program was established to provide "security" in retirement. It is no accident at the inception of this "wonderful" program that the age selected was well past the known life span of individuals. This "wonderful" program was a way to take money from people without their consent to help others. Not necessarily bad per se, however there was no true intent of helping people in "their old age." That is why the program continues to teeter on bankruptcy.

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  10. "The notion that the laissez faire economists would have made it all better is sheer ignorance of economic history." Right. And enlightened bureaucrats know better than the free markets. Just an FYI, there was nothing laissez faire about the economic policies that led to the Great Depression (Smoot-Hawley, NRA, burning crops, gold confiscation.) And oh yeah, if people were starving, then why was FDR burning wheat and slaughtering livestock to artificially adjust food prices? That seems laissez faire to you? Your problem is your another brainwashed fool who thinks some moron in Washington actually cares about you. I hope you enjoyed a decade living in poverty listening to FDR's radio addresses about how his bureaucratic programs were "helping you." I'm not really sure he was a great war time leader, either. Abandoning Poland. Ignoring the holocaust. Being way toO friendly with Stalin. Putting Americans of Japanese decent into internment camps. Wow. Yeah, great president!!

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  11. I agree with the blog that FDR was the worst president ever for his abuse of power. He would not have needed to "save" people from poverty if he did not create it in the first place with bad economic policy.

    The irony is that liberals blame Hoover for creating the depression and credit FDR for ending it. WRONG! Hoover's policies started the depression and FDR's policies expanded it. Even FDR's administration later admitted that his policies were "an expansion of Hoover's".

    It is a fact that the economy was no better at the end of FDR's second term than it was at the beginning of his presidency. So had he followed the 2-term precedent, he would have left office after 8 years without getting the economy out of the depression, which would have resulted in him being considered a miserable failure. The economy only improved after the war took FDR's attention away from messing up the economy, and the biggest reason that it recovered after the war is that FDR died and Truman did not have the guile to force his will on the congress. The Revenue Act of 1945 undid some of the high taxes and regulations imposed by FDR, and the economy finally breathed some fresh air.

    As to being a smart war president? While he was slick and generally outsmarted those around him, Stalin made a fool out of him. When Stalin played hard to meet with in person, FDR agreed to meet in Tehran at the Soviet embassy, where Stalin had the place bugged and picked up everything he needed to know about his bargaining power with the US. Basically, FDR was willing to concede Poland and Eastern Europe as long as the USSR joined the UN. If once was not bad enough, FDR was dumb enough to meet Stalin in Yalta and be bugged again. The irony is that FDR illegally spied on his political enemies (and even friends) under the ruse that this was for "national security", so you would think that he would have known better.

    FDR is the worst president ever and no one else even comes close.

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    1. Very true about FDR's policies being an expansion of Hoovers. Also an interesting contribution with the bugged meeting story, I didn't know that. Stalin is not somebody you want to play hardball with haha. For all we rag on FDR on this page, Stalin made him look like a Saint.

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  12. The comment from the "grannie" is silly, and she's the one who needs to do her research. If you disagree with free market principles, it's fair to call me misguided; it is unfair to call me spoiled, as that's a personal attack which has nothing to do with wise economic policy. Her age is also completely irrelevant, unless she is over 90 years old, because nobody under 90 can accurately remember what things were like in the Great Depression. The Great Depression started 80 years ago, and nobody under 10 can follow the news on their own and form unbiased opinions about such complex issues. Considering most people over 90 years old aren't trolling the comments on political blogs, she probably just remembers what her parents told her, which makes her no more qualified from a first-person perspective than I am.

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  13. Due to the high volume of traffic on this post, I made some edits to enhance readability. The original version was just me ranting on one January afternoon, so hopefully these edits will make the actual content of my rant more organized and cohesive.

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  14. If it wasn't for Woodrow Wilson and his Federal Reserve, there would not have been a depression. Ben Bernake admitted that himself in a speech in 2002 at a conference to honor the great economist Milton Friedman. And if not for FDR we would not have had a great depression. His polices prolonged the depression as he inhibited economic growth. He thought that competition was to blame for the troubles. You get out of a depression by encouraging economic growth not strangling it. (read about Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon for proof of that)

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    1. I think everyone would agree you get out of a depression by encouraging growth haha, the question is just how to do that. However I agree that he prolonged it, and also agree that early mismanagement and ignorance of monetary policy played a role, and that's part of why the great economist FA Hayek predicted the collapse during the 20's (while John Maynard Keynes was blindsided by it).

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  15. FDR worst president ever? I think you forgot about President Bush? Bush was the worst president in history hands down. When Clinton left office we were in a 236 billion dollar surplus. In Oct. 26th 2001 Bush signed the Patriot Act, giving away certain freedoms, because it "Was essential to winning the war on terror" You can never win a War on terror, for the simple fact that terror is an emotion. Then FOR THE FIRST TIME IN AMERICAN HISTORY HE SIGNS WARTIME TAX CUTS. Which adds 2 trillion in debt while he was in office, and the following decade an additional 4 trillion. Then he invades the wrong country, costing 4,500 troops and the taxpayers well over a trillion dollars. Then in 2006 at the Peak of the housing bubble by Wall-Street gambling. Bush and republicans assure us (as always) that Wall-Street can "regulate itself" and that Regulations are "job-killers". Between 2007 and 2009 8.8 million Americans lose their jobs in the worst economic crash since the Great Depression, mostly due to the giant Wall Street poker game and the related housing bubble enabled by the laissez-faire economic ideas of "conservative" Republicans. If you believe that FDR is a worse President than Bush. You have your Heads way up your asses. Imagine a U.S. President Standing under a Mission Accomplished Banner, Telling us that the Iraq war was a success, first of all there was no point in going to iraq, no weapons of mass destruction, trillions lost, thousands of troops gone, iraq is at its most unstable state ever. YET HE SAYS MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. GWB is the worst president hands down.

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    1. Bush was a bad president, and he did abuse the constitution as well. But he was not the worst, because he didn't really abuse it in any new ways that other presidents hadn't already done before him, and didn't set the precedent that doing so was okay in the future. I'll address your ancillary concerns in the order you presented them.

      1. Yes, the Patriot Act was a bad idea and a needless, fear induced power grab. It was giving the terrorists what they wanted; by sacrificing our freedoms for security, they successfully wielded terror to weaken our nation.

      2. I have no problem with the tax cuts. I have a problem with the big spending. Spending causes debt. Taxes never do. Not taxing is not an action, it is inaction. Spending is the guilty activity.

      3. He invaded a different country for different reasons. It was a bad move, but it wasn't the "wrong" country. You say that as if he didn't know which country the "bad guys" were actually in.

      4. Bush was not to blame for the housing crisis. He played little role in the federal reserve's policy, and the collapse was not brought about by too little government involvement, but too much. It's pretty funny to hear people blame laissez-faire for the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - two GOVERNMENT entities!

      5. Iraq is not in it's most unstable state ever. It is far better off today than it was under Saddam. Also, the troop surge worked at reducing violence. You can feel the war was unwise and immoral, and those are separate debates, but don't pretend living under a ruthless, violent dictator was better than living in a turbulent but relatively free democracy.

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    2. The worst president in the history of the United Stated was FDR.

      Here's why.

      http://www.usnews.com/news/history/articles/2007/02/16/worst-presidents-introduction

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  16. 5. Iraq is not in it's most unstable state ever. It is far better off today than it was under Saddam.

    What? go and have a read - or better travel to iraq to find out yourself.

    !0 years ago iraq was a place where you could go almost anywhere, anytime safely - today the only safe place would be the bunker at at U.S. Embassy.

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    1. 10 years ago anywhere in Iraq was safe? Tell that to the Kurds.

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  17. Very impressed with your knowledge of the subject, and your insight as a young adult.
    Back in my day, we were taught that he was the best President in our recent history. As we now know, we were just being indoctrinated.
    Now as a thinking adult; I totally agree with your assessment of FDR, his dictatorial style, and his dismantling of the Constitution.
    Keep up the good work my friend!

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    1. Thanks for the compliments! Glad to hear it's not just young people in the liberty movement (you were taught FDR was the best president in RECENT history, eh?), but those who are young at heart as well!

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  18. Just read this article. Couldn't agree more about FDR. They taught me growing up going to public schools that he was our best president ever. Completely the opposite of what he actually was. On the other hand, I disagree that Lincoln was a bit better than him. He alone destroyed states rights and changed our country from a Republic to the majority rule Democracy we have today. I get disgusted when people defend him and tell me " but he freed the slaves!!". People being so uninformed about history when we have this great invention of the internet is ridiculous and ignorant to me. If the internet was around when Lincoln/FDR was president, we wouldn't be in the complete mess we are today. Have to throw Obama into this mix too as some of his current policies are surely going to destroy the nation within the next ten years or so. Why isn't Ron Paul president?

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    1. no free cell phone with your vote

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  19. Bravo, very well written. It's about time someone told the truth about FDR. The new deal is the biggest bunch of unconstitutional hogwash in our countries history! Cudos to you sir!

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  20. I'm getting to Lincoln in one of my upcoming posts. I took an entire class on him last year so I'm aware of his criticisms, but based on my readings of his I believe he was actually reverent of the constitution, because he cited it for almost everything he did. Yes, in some places he went too far, but in my post I'll give my reasons for why I still like him and how I believe his overall philosophy was and is beneficial for the cause of liberty.

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  21. dude. are you f***ing yourself??

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  22. Was FDR a Nazi sympathizer?
    Certainly his good friend Thomas J. Watson (yes, the IBM guy) was. And FDR never distanced himself from him.

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  23. Where did you get all this information?

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  24. FDR was awful… but what about Woodrow Wilson? He created the income tax and the Federal Reserve, the later of which caused the depression.

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