Published: Wed Aug 31, 2011
History professor Patrick D. Reagan recently published an essay on business-government relations during the Great Depression and World War II, which will appear in "A Companion to Franklin D. Roosevelt," edited by William D. Pederson.
The volume is part of a major new series of Wiley-Blackwell Companions in various subject areas that include state-of-the art reports by recognized national experts to educate not only scholars and students but also the general reading public in community college, college, community and school libraries across the nation.
Reagan's piece details the complicated relationship between government officials and private business leaders and corporations in a time of national emergency between 1933 and 1945--worldwide depression and global war.
Reagan shows that contrary to the popular view of business and government clashing on economic policies at every turn, American political economy changed over time as these public actors moved from completion, criticism and conflict with each other during the Great Depression to association, collaboration and cooperation during World War II. New Deal Democratic reformers saved capitalism for U.S. capitalists unwilling to invest private monies in a flagging economy--some FDR advisers called it a "strike of capital" during the recession of 1937, when cuts in public spending intended to increase business confidence and private spending led to flat investment in the midst of a depression within a depression.
When FDR’s wife, Eleanor, referred in the President’s presence to the event as “Roosevelt’s recession,” the first couple did not speak with one another for days. Unemployment levels for millions of ordinary Americans sunk to early Depression levels. Only dramatic increases in temporary government spending in the spring of 1938 led to the beginnings of economic recovery.
One scholar has called World War II, “the greatest public works project in American history.” The Allied war against international fascism led to massive increases in American defense spending. To partially finance the war effort, Republican treasurer of the R.H. Macy Department Store, Beardsley Ruml, convinced Congress to expand revenue through a new Pay-as-You-Go federal income withholding tax which brought nearly 75 percent of Americans into the taxpaying citizenry by the end of the war.
Many of the essays in this major new work contain lessons for contemporary America still caught in the wake of economic and social destruction wrought by the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and the missteps in policy making by both business and government (Democrats and Republicans) that followed from the failure to understand and learn from the forgotten lessons of 1933-45.
Please call 372-3342 for a longer version or other formats of the essay.