One of my favorite themes is to trace the immense distance today’s liberals have traveled from the liberalism of Franklin Roosevelt. Liberals used to hate it when Ronald Reagan quoted this remark FDR made in a speech to Congress in 1935:
“The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit… It is in violation of the traditions of America.”
That’s only the first of many I could offer from FDR that display a positively conservative outlook on religion, bureaucracy, business enterprise, and other subjects. (There’s a short catalogue of them in the FDR chapter of a certain new book mentioned here a couple of times before.) So I’m wondering how liberals will react to Robert Samuelson’s column today, “Would Roosevelt Recognize Today’s Social Security?”, which shines a deserved spotlight on a new book, Sylvester Schieber’s The Predictable Surprise: The Unraveling of the U.S. Retirement System, published just last month.
Here’s the key item in Samuelson’s column:
Discovering that the original draft wasn’t a contributory pension, Roosevelt ordered it rewritten and complained to Frances Perkins, his labor secretary: “This is the same old dole under another name. It is almost dishonest to build up an accumulated deficit for the Congress . . . to meet.”