A November 24th 2008 Time Magazine cover titled “The New New Deal” had Barack Obama’s face superimposed over FDR’s face on a famous photo of Roosevelt riding in a car, smiling, with a cigarette clenched in his teeth.  One need not believe in Reincarnation to see the striking similarities between Barack Obama and FDR.  If you dig a little into history, you’ll find what both were, and are, up to.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States.  Roosevelt was a staunch liberal Democrat, the only American president elected to more than two terms, who defined his ideological position as “a little left of center.”

Roosevelt graduated from Harvard and attended Columbia, as did Barack Obama.  FDR claimed, “I took economics courses in college and everything I was taught was wrong.”  He also declared: “A progressive government, by its very terms, must be a living and growing thing.”

FDR denounced Herbert Hoover’s failures to restore prosperity and ridiculed his huge deficits.  Roosevelt campaigned on advocating “drastic reductions of all public expenditures, abolishing useless commissions and offices, consolidating departments and bureaus, and eliminating extravagances.”

When Roosevelt was inaugurated in 1933 a quarter of the U.S. workforce was unemployed. Two million were homeless. In his inauguration address Roosevelt blamed the economic crisis of the Great Depression on bankers, the quest for profit, and the self-interest basis of capitalism.

Historians consider the 1932 & ‘36 elections as realigning elections that created a new majority coalition for the Democrats, made up of organized labor, blacks, and ethnic Americans. That transformed American politics and started what was called the “New Deal Party System.” Roosevelt dominated the American political scene not only during the twelve years of his presidency, but also for decades afterward.  FDR’s New Deal Coalition united labor unions, big city machines, white ethnics, and African Americans.

The rapid expansion of government programs that occurred during Roosevelt’s term redefined the role of government in the United States, and Roosevelt’s advocacy of government social programs was instrumental in defining liberalism for generations to come.

In his first hundred days in office Roosevelt spearheaded major legislation and issued a profusion of executive orders that instituted the New Deal. The economy improved rapidly from 1933 to 1937, but then relapsed into a deep recession.

Several recent studies have found that the Depression was prolonged some seven or eight years longer by the actions of President Roosevelt – the equivalent of two terms in office.

FDR’s opponents said the New Deal was hostile to business and involved too much waste. The opposition lambasted his administration for corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency.

FDR created The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, The Federal Emergency Relief Administration, The Civilian Conservation Corps, The Indian Reorganization Act, The Agricultural Adjustment Administration, The Public Works Administration, The Tennessee Valley Authority, The Securities and Exchange Commission, The Fair Labor Standards Act, The Works Progress Administration, The Social Security Act, and The National Labor Relations Act.

Roosevelt’s series of radio talks, known as fireside chats, presented his proposals directly to the American public – His social media of the day.

Under FDR’s watch payroll taxes were introduced in 1937 and withholding taxes in 1943.  To pay for increased government spending FDR proposed that Congress enact an income tax rate of 99.5% on all income over $100,000.  When the proposal failed, he issued an executive order imposing an income tax of 100% on income over $25,000, which Congress rescinded.  In 1944 the President requested that Congress enact legislation which would tax all unreasonable profits, both corporate and individual.

FDR also issued an executive order that declared all privately held gold of American citizens was to be sold to the U.S. Treasury.  Exceptions were made for jewelers, coin collectors and a few others.

Al Smith, a Conservative Democrat and New York Governor, equated Roosevelt with Marx and Lenin.  Roosevelt was, in turn, known to initiate FBI and IRS investigations of his critics.

After Roosevelt’s death in 1945 an editorial by The New York Times declared, “Men will thank God on their knees a hundred years from now that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House.”  It’ll be interesting to see what the Times headline will be when Barack Obama leaves.

Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, was published bi-monthly from 2009 to 2017.  He’s an author, a former nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit Ministries in Jamestown, Indiana.  He can be reached at www.builderofthespirit.org.    

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