FDR: was he really such a hero?

Just wondering if anyone can give me some reasons why someone would not have liked FDR in his time. He helped fix the economy, and according to everyone around me here, saved our country. I don’t know much about him, but I can’t see any immediate reason not to agree.

I would be interested in hearing what some of his critics would have said about him and why.

Well, his critics said he was a Communist who set up giant government programs and took the taxpayer’s money to do it. His critics also accused him at different times of wanting to set up a dictatorship, wanting to get involved in WWII, and of being a secret Jew.

It’s hard to find a president who was more loved and more hated than FDR…maybe Lincoln.

Three thoughts come to mind. I’m not interested in arguing these points since there’s already a lot of great literature about FDR. I’m simply pointing to subjects of contemporaneous criticism.

  1. All of the alphabet agencies of the New Deal faced some sort of opposition, even the CCC. They paved the way for the welfare state.

  2. His attempt to pack the Supreme Court with extra justices when the Court would not go along with his schemes raised ire as well and a general lack of respect for the Constitution.

  3. FDR’s dual diplomacy was editorialized to a great extent, moving away from isolationism on the one hand, but promising peace with the other.

His disastrous economic policies which prolonged the depression, his doing the exact opposite of his campaign promises, his contempt for the constitution which led to the NRA and subsequently the court packing scheme, his hunger for power, his demonizing of political opponents, and his duplicitous foreign policy would all be good reasons to dislike FDR.

Social Security

If anyone but the government tried to run an insurance policy like this one they would be put in jail.

I have never heard the “secret jew” thing before… You could be a lot worse things than Jewish, unless a Nazi is accusing you. Did the people making the “secret jew” accusation have any credibility, or were they just way-out fringe elements?

I have heard about him being a quasi-socialist or even a communist.

A lot of the criticism of him tends to revolve around “socialistic” policies and the increased role of government in people’s lives and the affairs of the states. It is likely that with the rise of America as a world power, a lot of these “Rooseveltian” features of the national government would have happened anyway.

90% of this could be said of Nixon, and 75% of it could be said of most presidents.

Pre-FDR USA was a country of small government, and, by today’s standards, states ran themselves without interference from DC. There was little in the way of a welfare state. Post-FDR USA was - is - a country where the Federal Government intervenes in everything, and the old and infirm have a government-organized safety net. Depending on your point of view, this makes him a hero or a demon. He certainly pushed the country in a new direction. But if he hadn’t done it, maybe someone else would have - it’s the same direction the rest of the western world had been going in.

The Mises Institute has this article http://www.mises.org/freemarket_detail.asp?control=258&sortorder=articledate .

For some less subjective views: http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/recovery.htm shows that unemployment went down and GDP went up between 1933 and 1940, although the shift was not constant–sometimes during the pre-war FDR years, GDP actually went DOWN and unemployment UP from one year to the next. Also, the entire shift is not of a magnitude to declare FDR’s policies an unqualified success: According to those charts, unemployment went from 25% to 15%, yet 5% was the baseline before the events of 1929. GDP went from $550B to $950B, slightly exceeding 1929 levels. However, the page notes that:

<<The rise in GDP was not sufficient to drop the unemployment rate from depression levels because while the GDP was growing after 1933 the labor force also was growing. Furthermore increases in productivity meant that for the same level of GDP there were fewer jobs. In order to bring down the unemployment rate the rate of growth of GDP has to be greater than the sum of the growth rates of productivity and the labor force. >>

So, based purely on the numbers and ignoring the (quite sound) arguments that FDR trod all over freedom and the rule of law, it looks like Roosevelt was neither the savior nor the destroyer of the economy; rather, his policies put the economy slightly below the 1929 levels by 1940–meaning that he failed to save the country from eleven years of depression, but he did eventually drag it out just before the economy-boosting war machine would have done it anyway.

They were mainly fringe elements…largely isolationists and pro-Germans. I know Gerald Smith called him “Rosenfeld” Admittedly, this wasn’t a criticism made by most people, but some isolationists and pro-Nazis liked to say that he was a Jewish agent.

While FDR is a hero of mine, I do NOT agree with his support of Somoza (“Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”), or his treatment of Eleanor.

He wasn’t perfect, no, but he was a good-perhaps even a great-man.

All my relatives of my parents (and grandparents’) generation idolize the guy. These were really poor people who went thru the depression and WWII, some of them have “Greatest Generation” class stories. The quality of their lives after the war was dramatically better than before, all of which they credit Roosevelt.

Note that the Republican politicians of that era (and still) showed total contempt for the hard-up people of this country. The fact that the President was clearly on their side was a matter of major significance. The Republicans were also stronly isolationist and the first few years of WWII would have been really bad if Wilkie had been elected in 1940. There was no major Republican figure that could have handled those situations a tenth as well as Roosevelt.

The “modern welfare state” that got demonized in the '80s was the result of Nixon’s “New Federalism”. Roosevelt’s plan, like Johnson’s Great Society, were antithetic to people staying on welfare. (Which also worked, contrary to revisionist writings you might have read. Look at any plot of poverty rate from 1920 to present.)

As for FDR trying to pack the Supreme Court, it will be considered a far less worse constitutional malfeasance than the impeachment of Clinton (and the non-impeachments of Reagan and Bush I) by historians.

…if they were true. :wink:

My grandpap (rest his soul) was aghast when he heard that FDR was one of Time’s candidates for Man of the Century, since he blamed Roosevelt for, among other things, American involvement in World War II. I also get the impression that he didn’t particularly like Roosevelt’s economic policies, but I can’t ask him about that now.

How is FDR blamed for American involvement in WW2?

This seems more like a Great Debate, so I’ll send it over there.

Looks like a troll post to me.

Yes, FDR was a great man. He led this country through the depression, including his fight against Huey Long, who would have turned this country socialist, and he beat Hitler and Tojo at the same time. While there are any number of people who have hated FDR and his policies, none of those people accomplished anything close to what he did, and as a consequence, I consider FDR bashers to be nothing but losers who can’t get over it.

I somehow knew DPWhite would consider any thread which questioned FDRs legacy as a “troll post”.

Question of trolling aside, there is a deplorable tendency for some of our friends to pull their debating points out of out of date editorials. As far as FDR is concerned, my father never uttered his name in my hearing. He was always called “That Man.”

Two points have to be conceded, it seems to me. First, FDR came to office at a time that there was a very real possibility that this country, like much of Western Europe, would slide into anarchy and perpetual economic disaster. While he may not have ended the depression, his leadership did stave off a looming catastrophe. He did persuade the vast mass of people who had been kicked in the teeth by a failed economy and a government that was unwilling to act that his administration was at least trying to do something to improve their lot.

Second, FDR saw that the containment of the Japanese Empire and the and the suppression of European Fascism was critical to the security of the US, at a time when many opinion makers were committed to isolationism or saw a fascist regime, or a socialist regime as an answer to America’s problems.

As much as FDR and his administration fell short of perfection and ideological purity, it seems to me that this would have been a very different country without him and that this is a better country for his having been President during a period that was as perilous as was the time of the Civil War.

Yup, and my opinion that it is a troll post is the nicest thing I think about it. People are entitled to their opinions about FDR, and I’m entitled to my opinions about people with their opinions and they’re entitled to their opinions about me.
FWIW, the reason I think it is a troll post is because it is phrased in the negative, basically a challenge to dis the fellow. It doesn’t even come up with anything on its own.

Frankly, I think that FDR and Winston Churchill, despite their many faults, are admirable on a scale just below Jesus.

FDR in 1932 ran against the excessive spending and stupid economic policies of the Hoover administration. He was resoundingly elected. However instead of keeping his promises he went the opposite way spending more money in his first term than all of his predecessors combined and extending the government control of the economy. This lengthened the great depression, keeping tens of millions of people in poverty.
In 1944 he ran for president again despite failing health and was too frail at Yalta to stand up to Stalin, thus sentencing millions of Eastern Europeans to 45 years of slavery. One of his aids at this conference was the Soviet spy Alger Hiss. He had been warned years earlier about the infiltration of Soviet spies into his administration and chose to ignore it.
He did do some good things such as getting us into WW2, but that should not mean we have to ignore all the terrible things he did.