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The New Deal Has Lessons for the Coronavirus Crisis—But Not the Ones You Think

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tags: New Deal, Franklin Roosevelt, Economic Policy, coronavirus



As a student of the New Deal, I’m often asked what’s most surprising about what I learned.

Here it is: Most people are wrong about Franklin Roosevelt’s goals. Until it was drawing to a close, his New Deal was not primarily aimed at jump-starting the faltering economy, although he hoped it would do so. 

His policies’ most important components, instead, aimed to alleviate financial hardship for individuals and families, keeping them fed, clothed and sheltered to give the economic cycle time to right itself.

That’s an important model for the decision-makers working on the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus crisis. They should be focused on the immediate goal of protecting American households from the hardships of lost jobs. Setting the stage for a resumption of economic activity is important, too, but at this very moment it’s secondary.

That’s the flaw in the Senate Republicans’ stimulus bill as its details emerged over the weekend. It’s been far too focused on help for corporations that can be put off until later, and doesn’t deliver enough for the average American household.

That’s also the focus of Democratic objections to the bill. According to reports Sunday, Democratic pushback had persuaded Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at least to improve direct cash benefits for the lowest-income households. But the bill as described still didn’t do enough for them.

Read entire article at Los Angeles Times

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