What Does It All Mean?

by Burt on August 13, 2009

Conservatives are ecstatic.  The poll numbers show that the president’s health care proposal is growing in unpopularity faster than one of those tumors that may or may not be covered under the federal plan.  Another poll shows that most Americans want to return the remaining stimulus money to the taxpayers.  In fact, many more Americans see the budget deficit as more urgent than health care reform.
Those are the numbers that lull to sleep those who need to be vigilant.  The president is showing poor skills in handling these issues, and if he shows a learning curve much could yet change.  Ben Franklin, after the constitutional convention, told an inquiring mind, that she had a republic, if she could keep it.  Keeping freedom is a challenge for each generation.  The poll numbers are encouraging now, but in the 1930s, when massive spending was the new and popular experiment, FDR was politically shrewd and kept the federal faucet flowing for all of his first two terms in office.  It did the national economy little good, and unemployment was almost 21 percent in April 1939.
Even with flawed programs, however, FDR was so politically shrewd that he was almost impossible to stop.  He didn’t overexpose himself with national radio appearances, and when he did speak, he had something new to say to make his case before the public.  And when his programs failed, he always had a scapegoat handy to blame (unsually businessmen).  He also, as I try to show in New Deal or Raw Deal? used federal funds cleverly to buy votes in key states and congressional districts.  His popularity persisted even though his policies were unsound.
Yes, balanced budgets and free markets are doing better in the polls.  That is reason to take heart, but not reason to lose our heads through overconfidence.  The glue to reattach them may be rationed.

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