Delivering a New Deal to the American People

This is taken from Prof. Heather’s June 15, 2023, Letters from an American. It begs the question of why can there not be another New Deal for Americans?

When he accepted the Democratic nomination for president in July 1932, New York governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt vowed to steer between the radical extremes of fascism and communism to deliver a “New Deal” to the American people. 

The so-called alphabet soup of the New Deal gave us the regulation of banks and businesses, protections for workers, an end to child labor in factories, repair of the damage to the Great Plains, new municipal buildings and roads and airports, rural electrification, investment in painters and writers, and Social Security for workers who were injured or unemployed. Government outlays as a percentage of GDP began to rise. World War II shot them off the charts, to more than 40% of GDP, as the United States helped the world fight fascism. 

That number dropped again after the war, and in 1975, federal expenditures settled in at about 20% of GDP. Except for short-term spikes after financial crises (spending shot up to 24% after the 2008 crash, for example, and to 31% during the 2020 pandemic, a high from which it is still coming down), the spending-to-GDP ratio has remained at about that set point.

So why is there a growing debt?

Because tax revenues have plummeted. Tax cuts under the George W. Bush and Trump administrations are responsible for 57% of the increase in the ratio of the debt to the economy, 90% if you exclude the emergency expenditures of the pandemic. The United States is nowhere close to the average tax burden of the 38 other nations in the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), all of which are market-oriented democracies. And those cuts have gone primarily to the wealthy and corporations. 

Republicans who backed those tax cuts now insist that the only way to deal with the growing debt is to get rid of the government that regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, promoted infrastructure, and eventually promoted civil rights, all elements that stabilized the nation after the older system gave us the Depression. Indeed, the Republican Study Committee calls for making the Trump tax cuts, scheduled to expire in 2025, permanent. 

“There are two ways of viewing the government’s duty in matters affecting economic and social life,” FDR said in his acceptance speech. “The first sees to it that a favored few are helped and hopes that some of their prosperity will leak through, sift through, to labor, to the farmer, to the small businessman.” The other “is based upon the simple moral principle: the welfare and the soundness of a nation depend first upon what the great mass of the people wish and need; and second, whether or not they are getting it.”

Crumbs falling off the table, trickle down economics. It has yet to work and it will not work this time around if Repubs get there way. Groundhog Day continuous repeating the same scenario over and over again.