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Historian Alan Brinkley on a new ‘New Deal’

When President Obama called for massive spending on infrastructure, it was hardly the first time he’d done it. Last fall, he called for $50 billion to put unemployed construction workers back to work.  “All we need is the political will,” he said at the time.

But what sounds like a necessary investment in our future to some ears sounds like big government run amok to others. Supporters would point to Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-era public works initiatives to build American cities and roads, airports, water systems and housing.  Of course, FDR had his critics, too.

It remains to be seen how Obama’s agenda plays out for him. Historian Alan Brinkley joins Jon Meacham to discuss the Obama presidency and the challenges it faces.  He is a professor of history at Columbia University and has written extensively about FDR and the New Deal.

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  • Larry S

    While I thought the program was fair and reasoned I must take exception to both parties referring to Presidents by surname only. They continually referred to President Obama as “Obama” and President Clinton as “Clinton”. This has become pervasive in media and undermines the office of the Presidency.

  • Jane

    Check out the names President Bush was called for eight years. Was that undermining? Again tonight it was stated that Obama inherited so much, the Republicans refuse to co-operate, The Tea Party is to blame bla,bla bla.He has been in office two years now and the economy is worse, jobs are no where to be found, a healthcare was pushed through with more then half of the country rejecting it, Gitmo still alive and well, talk of American’s being enimies, refusing to meet with Republicans to discuss policies, spending money the country doesn’t have,unemployment twice as bad, sueing states, and many numerous un-presidentcial remarks made on and off camera. The blaming by this president and 99% of the media is becoming quite old and extremely stale. He keeps saying we can do better, well it’s about time to do so and quit the blame came.

  • Bobby Taylor

    I love the Republican Party 1940s film opposing Roosevelt and The New Deal. The Republican Party glossed over the fact that Wendell Willkie endorsed and accepted large measures of The New Deal.

  • Mkcs2000

    I watch all the documentary films about the former Presidents on PBS.
    ‘New Deal’ during FDR era was different. When FDR was in power, Republicans and Democrats worked together. FDR was a Democrat who earned full support from many of the Republicans, even though he had some critics. But that is not the case today.
    President Obama has lot of opposition and needs to earn the support from the Republicans too.
    It is easy to give a speech but is really difficult to earn their support to execute some of his ideas.
    When Bill Clinton was the President, it was completely different. He did not start a War. So he did not have to do anything special. The Economy took care of itself.
    Today many Americans are facing the worst economy; many companies have been shut down.
    Many are unemployed and many American families have lost their homes.
    Many financial institutions, including countrywide committed major fraud and went out of business.
    These banks have to be bailed out using Taxpayers’ money. Today many banks do not help the genuine taxpayers even though they took the BAIL OUT money $30 Billion FREE OF CHARGE.

    This was not the case when FDR was in power. Many Americans, Democrats as well as Republicans, trusted FDR 100%. There was no fraud. People saw honesty in everything they saw, heard or done.

  • Sunflowercat

    Interesting that the Republican Party video criticizes the government for paying higher salaries than the private sector. If there was more acknowledgement of the national crisis and less greed by the owners of private sector businesses, the wages paid there would have been competitive. This remains the problem today — those at the top reap more-than-comfortable profits, yet refuse to hire or increase wages. I do not think American greed can be fixed by any president.

  • The Big Orange Guy

    The greatest legacy of the “New Deal” was bringing security to millions of Americans who would have suffered greatly without government intervention. FDR’s “New Deal” ironically saved Capitalism from itself as many Americans of that era thought that a Communist revolution was coming as the big business tycoons exploited workers in every manner possible. FDR ended child labor, brought us the 5-day workweek, 8-hr workday, overtime pay, the minimum wage, allowed unions to form to give a voice to the working class, etc., all which relieved the pressure from those on the far left to foment revolution. Now the right-wing has been on a 30+ year propaganda offensive to convince the vast majority of Americans who have benefited from those “New Deal” programs that they are actually evil as they actually force the wealthy to pay some taxes back to the country that provided the stable environment for them to become wealthy (as opposed to those who just are wealthy because they inherited their wealth, i.e., G. W. Bush). The most successful economic boost we ever had was the massive deficit spending by the federal government to build the material to win WWII. The absolute last thing you want to do when you have a fragile economy is to cut federal spending as it has a cascade effect that crashes through the strata of the economy falling hardest on the most vulnerable as we saw under G. W. Bush’s failed tax cut & spend policies.

  • Guest 5

    Its not a “new deal ” that’s needed its common sense simple economics not complicated trickle down ideas. Err all this thinking makes my head hurt!
    Get people working on Infrastructure, roads, railways, alternative energy, and becoming not the ethereal best health care system in the world, we are 37th globally and then pay 2.5 times as much to be 37th as our competitors!! Education, math and science dropped to 25 th globally. Internationally on any level diplomatic or whatever including currency we have no credibilty.
    We have politicians playing political games that the increase in the debt ceiling is directly related to ” future” government budget spending plans. The debt ceiling for this year has no direct relationship to future budgets cost cuts and deficit reduction. Take care of todays debt ceiling amd work together on a future plan for balancing budgets and debt reduction.
    look at he deficit commision report. If any US party thinks it can be done without some tax increases then as Wilson said “you lie!!”
    Guest 5

  • mc

    Besides Economy, our High School Education in Los Angeles County is not as expected as it should be. We should not make unfavorable comparison of American Kids with children from South Korea and Japan. Asian kids learn differently and are dedicated and so also their teachers.
    But in Los Angeles, many teachers are highly qualified and fully credentialed to teach;
    yet many students fail miserably in English, Mathematics and Science. If the students cannot learn, they simply drop out of the class or school itself. That is really sad.
    Some students seek private tutoring; they learn better and much faster. Not all tutors are necessarily credentialed tutors. Something is fundamentally wrong with the Los Angeles Unified School System Teaching Methods. Our credential system is not working as expected and does not meet the standards required for the learning process.
    Only experienced, qualified and knowledgeable persons should be given opportunity to teach.
    A person may be a scholar with all the credentials but he or she may not be a good teacher;
    whereas a person may not have Ph.D or the teaching credentials but that person may be a very successful teacher from whom many students learn a lot.
    We must awake, arise, and act before it is too late. Shifting the blame on the economy or shutting down the schools is not an excuse.

  • Irvinbuckman

    I taught public school for 23 years. That gave me about twenty years to work at other jobs. While teaching I learned the one thing that matters most to influence how our schools operate. It is the union. I have felt this way for forty years, I am now 90 and am more sure this is the problem every day!!

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