Actions Speak Louder

by Anita on June 27, 2011

In the June 22nd Wall Street Journal, Michael Barone writes about World War II: “…a united nation was mobilized for total war…. Unions agreed not to strike in return for government encouragement of unionization and higher wages.”

Yes, organized labor pledged it wouldn’t strike. The reality was quite different. Labor unions pledged an “all-out war effort” but during the same week they pledged no more strikes, for example, the welders’ strike in San Francisco continued. Strikes plagued the defense effort in 1942. During 1943, a total of 3,752 strikes took place in the United States, involving over 13 million man-days of labor.

President Roosevelt usually refused to become involved. He wanted labor’s votes, and unless strikes threatened the entire war effort, he did little. If aircraft, coal, or other vital materials were involved, he did send in the Army to run industry until workers returned to work, but by the spring of 1944, FDR had ordered such military action only 15 times in the midst of thousands of strikes.

FDR’s statements about national unity, and especially labor, often reflected what he wanted the public to think was happening, rather than truth. But facts in the historical record speak louder than FDR’s words.

President Obama is following exactly the same strategy in his presidency. His statements in many speeches describe what he would like to see — not what is really happening. A study of FDR’s wartime policies hold many warnings for Americans today and prove that even with an American president, actions speak much louder than any words.

FDR Goes to War,  co-authored by Burton W. Folsom, Jr. and Anita Folsom, will be available in October, published by Simon & Schuster.

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