I’d noticed the same comment about FDR that Obama made at his White House meeting with bloggers that Anglachel brings up, made a mental note to look into it and never got around to it. So thanks to her, we know that Obama was completely wrong in his assertion that FDR didn’t tackle the problems of the Depression from Day One. She refers to this post by Thomas Ferguson:
The bottom line is this: Hoover and a substantial bloc of New York bankers wanted Roosevelt to commit to staying on the gold standard and US participation in the upcoming London Economic Conference. These commitments would have meant continued austerity and completely destroyed any chance of fundamental reform — which was why the banks and Hoover were so insistent. In effect, they were hoping to continue with Hoover’s policies, if not Hoover himself.
Roosevelt exchanged some messages with them, but finally refused the whole package. He and his advisers correctly concluded that the idea was to suck them into a foolish set of commitments. FDR was simply not willing to make the kind of arrangements with bankers that President Obama was. That’s the heart of the matter.
We haven’t returned to the gold standard (yet), but the other demands sound all too similar to what the current administration is advocating for all of us little people.
In this way Obama ends up being a recapitulation of Hoover – unimaginative, a willing hostage to hip conventionality, uncomfortable with fundamental changes to the status quo, preferring to let the situation right itself than to chart a new, daring course. I fully agree with him that his administration did not do anything that Franklin Delano Roosevelt did:
Between March 8th and June 16th 1933 fifteen legislative proposals were passed into law. Never before had Executive and Legislative branches, co-operated to make such a profound impact on the country in such a short period of time. Private interests were subordinated to public policy, and the federal government took on the mission of doing what no other interest could do on its own. The role of government was transformed.