Friday, September 16, 2005
  LBJ ?= GWB ?= FDR

Bush's speech last night has been compared to FDR and LBJ in its expansion of government.

Yes, but which? The difference is important.

Here is a description of what LBJ was doing. A quote from Fred Siegel, perhaps the only modern thinker who accurately describes the purpose of welfare:

[Before the welfare explosion of 1965] New York City had a black male unemployment rate of 4 percent. We were in the midst of the greatest economic boom in U.S. history. The city was thriving. Five years later, there were 600,000 more people on welfare. Now, this was a tragedy in many ways, especially for the city's African-Americans. They were on the up escalator of jobs and participation in the economy, but they were pulled off the up escalator and shunted off into welfare. The effect on the city was twofold: Fiscal calamity and family breakdown. It's fascinating that this policy was specifically chosen. People sometimes argue that this welfare explosion was the price of good intentions. Nonsense. The theorists behind this movement are two people named [Frances Fox] Piven and [Richard] Cloward, who are still alive. It's difficult to imagine how they get through the day knowing what they did, but they seem to do it. One's at Columbia University, and the other is at City University of New York. Their logic is that, if you expanded the welfare role sufficiently, you would bankrupt the city, force a political crisis, and set people at each other's throats. The idea was that New York was at a median point, so if New York exploded like this, then the rest of the country would have to respond. Well, they succeeded in part. People were at each other's throats, and the city did go bankrupt.

This was the logic that LBJ adopted as the basic principle of welfare.

A permanent underclass with a carefully developed sense of entitlement, ready to riot at the drop of a diss. (You can hear this class loud and clear in this morning's news!)

---

Now here's FDR's approach, as given in 1933, Fireside Chat 2.

First, we are giving opportunity of employment to one-quarter of a million of the unemployed, especially the young men who have dependents, to go into the forestry and flood prevention work. This is a big task because it means feeding, clothing and caring for nearly twice as many men as we have in the regular army itself. In creating this Civilian Conservation Corps we are killing two birds with one stone. We are clearly enhancing the value of our natural resources and second, we are relieving an appreciable amount of actual distress. ...
Second, I have requested the Congress and have secured action upon a proposal to put the great properties owned by our Government at Muscle Shoals [Alabama] to work after long years of wasteful inaction, and with this a broad plan for the improvement of a vast area in the Tennessee Valley. It will add to the comfort and happiness of hundreds of thousands of people and the incident benefits will reach the entire nation.


Note the emphasis on work and improvement, for the men who will be earning money and for the land. Note also: for FDR, improving the land meant flood control and parks, to be used and enjoyed by people. Not returning the land to its prehistoric malarial condition and bringing in wolves and bears.

So which way did Bush go? Both. Too much of the rhetoric in his speech belongs to the Loony Left:

Our third commitment is this: When communities are rebuilt, they must be even better and stronger than before the storm. Within the Gulf region are some of the most beautiful and historic places in America. As all of us saw on television, there's also some deep, persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality.

But the programs he announced are much more New-Dealish, with a focus on home ownership and jobs rather than entitlement.

When the streets are rebuilt, there should be many new businesses, including minority-owned businesses, along those streets. When the houses are rebuilt, more residents should own, not rent, those houses. When the regional economy revives, local people should be prepared for the jobs being created.

The real question, then, is whether he will crack the whip to hold Permanent Washington in line. The bureaucrats are pure LBJ, and if allowed to run free, will generate 100% class war and 0% work.
 


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