It's become trendy for pundits on the right to downplay (or even refute) the role of FDR's New Deal in ending the Great Depression. The title of Jim Powell's book tells you everything you need to know: FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression. Released in 2004, FDR's Folly neatly set up the two-part game that many pundits (both professional and amateur) are playing today. They ask, is Obama's stimulus the second coming of the New Deal? And, if so, will it be enough to get us out of the Great Recession?
Problem is, not many people--pundits included--know enough about the New Deal to answer either question.
To help people who want to play the "Stimulus vs. New Deal" game at home, journalists Richard Greene and Katherine Barrett have published a Q&A on The Recovery Act blog. The post compares President Obama's Recovery Act and President Franklin D. Roosevelt's programs that comprised the New Deal.
The overview of the two initiatives' similarities and differences come from Paul Posner, Director of the Master's in Public Administration program at George Mason University. Posner, who is well known in the world of state and local fiscal affairs from his current work and prior efforts at the GAO, compares and contrasts President Obama's stimulus to the New Deal.
About the difference in political climate, Posner said:
FDR had enormous personal popularity that translated into support from an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress. But the Republicans of that day, many of whom were progressives, grudgingly voted for many New Deal programs as well. In this administration, no House Republican voted for the initial stimulus and both parties continue to escalate their rhetoric as the November elections approach.
Regarding the political impact of delivering stimulus funds through state and local governments, rather than directly through the federal government:
The President's ability to deliver rests on the shoulders of thousands of non-federal implementers, all with different priorities and capabilities. Most critically, the responsibility for the outcome of the programs is highly dispersed and there's no clear line of sight for the public to attribute credit to the President, particularly since the Governor, mayor and other political figures are likely to be competing for public approbation.
Follow Gadi Ben-Yehuda on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gbyehuda