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It's Obama's Vision Versus ‘American Girl' Power

Author: Amity Shlaes, Former Hayek Senior Fellow for Political Economy
July 3, 2008


July 3 (Bloomberg) -- Would I be ready for that? That’s the question most of us have when we hear about a family facing a home foreclosure in, say, Ohio.

The question of readiness is the latest line in a conversation that the U.S. has been having with itself for the past few years. It’s the discussion about the possibility of a serious economic slump today. What can the Great Depression tell us? What about the New Deal?

Such chatter is happening on two levels. One is political. The other is cultural—as in the film about the 1930s, “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,” released nationally this week. The conclusion to the conversation isn’t always the same.

On the political level, the logic is pretty straightforward. It starts with the premise that it is time for a “surge” at home, collective domestic action on the economy. And who led such a surge in the past? Franklin Roosevelt, when he created the New Deal.

In this argument, the New Deal is the most important part of the 1930s story. The Great Depression, for its part, is the backdrop, the period that is important because it is when we learned we needed broad federal programs.

The emphasis is on pulling through collectively, as a national team led by politicians who change laws. Last year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a “First 100 Hours” of legislative activity by the new Democratic Congress, a play on Roosevelt’s “First 100 Days” in 1933.

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