During times like these—when there is a growing disparity in wealth and income between rich and everyone else—Republicans always try to sabotage economic recovery efforts. What we’re seeing now is a repeat of what conservatives did to the New Deal in the 1930s—and for exactly the same reasons.
Historian Carl Abrams was professor of history at Bob Jones University when he wrote his extensively documented book, Conservative Constraints; North Carolina and the New Deal (University Press of Mississippi, Jackson & London, 1992, 285 p.).
Abrams makes it crystal clear that North Carolina politicians deliberately sabotaged the New Deal because, if successful, it would have raised taxes on the wealthy, and increased labor costs to major agricultural and industrial interests. These results would reduce profits, as well as make North Carolina businesses less competitive with northern industries.
Today, on a national basis, Republicans and conservative Democrats have exactly the same motivations, except they now know that lower unemployment and higher wages would either reduce corporate profits and/or make the U.S. less competitive on the world market. (And that’s a whole ‘nuther story.)
The following excerpts from the book are self-explanatory:
The history of the period reveals that probusiness politicians dominated state government and thwarted change on several fronts, from gubernatorial to congressional. Though tobacco and cotton farmers embraced agricultural policies that meant higher prices, this same group resisted New Deal efforts at rural and urban relief. Moreover, when conservatives expressed enthusiasm for the New Deal agendas, too often their fervor merely cloaked economic self-interests.
The NRA [National Recovery Act] stood in stark contrast to the New South economic growth philosophy. Those few textile mill owners who wished to expand production with no limits were horrified by the NRA proposal to restrict hours of operation in the factories. Some owners knew that such restriction would allow the New England textile mills to regain some of the competitive edge that they had lost in the last few decades to the more expansive southern industry. The NRA labor philosophy also posed a serious threat to the low-wage tradition that was a key part of the New South economic growth. Government support for collective bargaining and unionization for mill workers clashed with southern insistence on cheap labor as an advantage to their competition with northern industry.
Farmers and businessmen, seeking help through the AAA and NRA, resisted relief because it threatened a cheap labor supply and the middle-class work ethic. State politicians, from the governor on down, opposed state matching funds for relief, or delayed compliance when faced with the inevitable, as in the case of social security. … Conservative political and economic opposition further neutralized the promise of New Deal relief for predominantly poor and rural North Carolina.
A close examination of state government and politics during the height of the New Deal reveals a stubborn probusiness ideology that not only resisted Roosevelt’s measures but set forth a conservative agenda for North Carolina. … A balanced budget achieved through extreme retrenchment and regressive taxation was more important than relief, welfare, jobs, health, or education. For example, in 1933 the state’s educational institution experienced a 42 percent cutback. North Carolina, at times inhospitable to New Deal efforts to fight the Depression, was even less interested in the state taking measures to improve the plight of suffering Tar Heels…. Public rhetoric supportive of Roosevelt, owing to party loyalty, deference to the president’s popularity, or partial sympathy for some New Deal measures, rarely translated into enthusiasm for the relief and reform programs….
[Conservatives] denied the state’s poverty when New Dealers argued for progress and reform, but at the same time pled poverty as an excuse for not increasing taxes and financing New Deal relief and recovery efforts…. [They] also hypocritically demanded fiscal responsibility from Roosevelt but voted for huge expenditures, especially for agriculture, which required deficit spending.
Abrams’ book could have been written today. Republicans “plead povery as an excuse for not increasing taxes and financing [New Deal] Obama’s relief and recovery efforts.” Mick Mulvaney and his Republican friends also “hypocricially demand[ed] fiscal responsibility from [Roosevelt] Obama but also vote[d] for huge expenditures, especially for [agriculture] war, which require[d] deficit spending.”
Go through the rest of Abrams’ book and you can make the same substitutions for yourself. Think about what they mean, and what they suggest about how you should vote in the upcoming election.