Friday, September 10, 2010

Another Play Out of the FDR Playbook

"Roosevelt had played around with economics, and economics hadn't served him very well. He would therefore give up on the discipline and concentrate on an area he knew better, politics."
The Forgotten Man by, Amity Shlaes (246)

At almost precisely the same point in his first term as Roosevelt was in his, Obama seems to be shifting from playing around with the economy, to hard-boiled, special interest politics. Economics hasn't served him very well so he is returning to the divisive accusation-driven speeches that hallmarked his campaign.

Back to Shlaes for a moment: "If he (FDR) followed his political instincts, furiously converting ephemeral bits of legislation into solid law for specific groups of voters, then he would win reelection. He would focus on farmers, big labor, pensioners, veterans, perhaps women and blacks" (246).

This was Roosevelt's strategy for re-election in the face of economic failures and disappointing rulings in the court against his Great Government Centralization Plan. Obama is taking the same bet. He's just raising the stakes some with angry and accusatory rhetoric. FDR, too, lashed out at the media and Supreme Court when he lost the Schechter Brothers case to a unanimous decision signaling the death knell for the NRA. He tried castigation and abandoned it. Conciliation and clever co-opting became the new calculation. And it worked.

Luckily for us, there is not a conciliatory bone in Obama's body.

There are more similarities. Social Security legislation was assigned to Frances Perkins of the Labor Department. This was a high priority item. Think ObamaCare in measuring its importance to the Administration. Ms. Perkins worried that she would have difficulty getting her social insurance system past the Court. A little snag called The Constitution. She confided her worry to Justice Harlan Stone. Stone gave her the following advice: "The taxing power of the federal sufficient for everything you want and need" (Shlaes 229). Justice Stone was providing the critical clue to how the Court would view the Constitutional test of Social Security. If it was insurance it wouldn't hold up. If it were simply another tax, it would meet the threshold.

In response to the various suits against the Constitutionality of ObamaCare, the government is now scrambling to take the same position.

One can hope they are just a little too clever too late. Setting your defense after the offense has already run the play doesn't usually work out so well.

Fingers crossed, set, hike.

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