I’ve been engrossed with Robert Caro’s biography of LBJ. I’m almost finished with volume 1 and am finding it tough to put down. I was reminded of the old adage, “the more things change the more they stay the same” as I was reading last night with CNN News on in the background. The news shows are full of budget and deficit talk. Last night the big story was the new proposal by the Gang of 6. It’s political theater.
Getting back to Caro’s LBJ. I’m currently reading about Johnson’s lack of a legislative record during the course of his time serving in the House. Caro points out that while LBJ ran for his Congressional seat shouting , “Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Roosevelt any chance he had, and promised to be a backer of the New Deal, he was silent when it came to debate on almost every issue of the day. It wasn’t like there weren’t major issues being debated.
I was struck by what I came across on page 550. I have to admit I don't know much about this recession in '38 and need to do more research. According to the US Bureau of Labor statistics the US unemployment rate hit 19%, up from 14% in ’37. To quote Caro,
Most significant of all, 1938, the year in which the New Deal had to face its own recession, was the year of the great debate in Washington over whether to fight that recession with mammoth new spending programs , or whether a balanced budget—the balanced budget which the President himself so devoutly wished for--- was more important: an issue whose resolution was to affect the fundamentals of American life for years, if not decades to come.