On Deja Vu

What you see above is a 1934 Chicago Tribune political cartoon that was rerun on the paper’s website on June 10, 2009. In case you were wondering, the artist was critical of the New Deal, or what today we would call a “stimulus”. Struck by the familiarity of it all, I decided to do a little digging to find out more about who the historical characters depicted were. 

The man in the mortarboard whipping the (Democratic?) donkey is Rex Tugwell, the leader of FDR’s “Brain Trust” that was supposed to come up with new ideas to help America. The two kids in the wagon wearing mortarboards represent those recent Ivy League college graduates that were hired to staff the New Deal. They were called “Pinkies”, a slang term at the time for communists or socialists.

The man shoveling money off the wagon is Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace, who was a member of the Progressive Party and had socialist leanings (he was a great supporter of Joseph Stalin). While he was Secretary of Agriculture, he ordered the slaughtering of thousands of pigs and the burning and plowing up of thousands of acres of corn, wheat & cotton fields in rural America in order to drive up the price of these commodities in an attempt to stabilize prices (even while many Americans were going hungry). He was also involved in removing gold as a fixed standard behind the dollar, which FDR enacted as part of a clause in the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1934. This clause (the Thomas Amendment) allowed the President (not the Congress) broad expansionary powers over monetary policy, including the printing of more money as well as determining the value of gold to a dollar. Since 90% of the American population was dependent on farming during the Great Depression, FDR knew that the pressure to pass a farming subsidy bill would be enormous, despite the unconstitutional clause that undermined American currency.

The man behind Wallace is Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of the Interior and director of the Public Works Administration (PWA). As head of the PWA, Ickes was in charge of determining what and where public works projects were to be built. Needless to say, he picked the winners and losers, usually by political cronyism.  Ickes was also the father of Harold M. Ickes, a key player in the Clinton administration.

The other man behind Wallace is Donald Richberg, who was called “assistant president” in the FDR administration. Both he and Ickes were active in Chicago politics and were leaders of the Progressive movement there. Ickes and Richberg were also active in pushing the National Industrial Recovery Act, which imposed highly restrictive codes of conduct on American industry, as well as dictated how key industries in America were to be run. These codes were usually favorable only to big business (i.e. large political contributors) as only they had the capital to jump through any additional regulatory hoops, while small business (their competition) did not. The National Recovery Administration was ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court in 1935, a decision that led to FDR’s constant effort to try to fill the Supreme Court with more cooperative justices (easy to do when elected to 4 terms as President). After FDR’s death, wisdom prevailed about giving one man that much power over the American people for so long, and led to the passage of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution in 1947 (ratified in 1951), which limited Presidential terms in office to two.

The man standing to the right of the cart is Joseph Stalin, the communist dictator known for measures such as the violent confiscation of the harvest by the government, the forced resettlement and murder of the most successful farmers and businessmen as counterrevolutionary elements, and the arrest of millions of innocent citizens as a source of cheap labor which eventually led to countless millions of deaths from both the worst man-made famine in human history and from disease in the Gulag camps. He also executed thousands who disagreed with him politically or voiced opposition to his tactics.

The man sitting in the bottom left corner of the cartoon is not labeled, but his 1934 “plan of action” sounds a bit familiar, don’t you think?

This 76 year-old cartoon depicts the visible signs of economic and social manipulation by the financial elite that ran America in 1934 and throughout the Great Depression. Contrary to many historical revisionists and liberal professors, these men did not pull us out of the Great Depression, they merely extended it. The Great Depression ended only with our entry into World War II. But World War II ended up costing us far more than any stimulus past or present ever would: the blood of the 400,000 American soldiers that were killed. 

Déjà vu.

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Socrates (469 BC–399 BC), classical Greek philosopher

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