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The Invisible Hands Meet the Raised Fists

March 10, 2011

I WAS BORN IN WISCONSIN. I AM A SUPPORTER OF THE NEW DEAL AND THE GREATEST PRESIDENT WHO HELPED THE DOWNTRODDEN, THE POOR, THE OLD, THE WORKER, THE EVERYDAY AMERICAN. I AM COMMITTED TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT TO RESTORE WORKERS RIGHTS AND AMERICAN DEMOCRACY FOR THE EVERYDAY AMERICAN.

ASHEHAM PRESS OP-ED ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Today is the anniversary of the Emergency Banking Act (the official title of which was the Emergency Banking Relief Act), an act of the United States Congress spearheaded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. It was passed on March 9, 1933. The act allowed a plan that would close down insolvent banks and reorganize and reopen those banks strong enough to survive. (Source: Wikipedia)

History will record March 9, 2011 as the day ultra right-wing Republicans, backed by the wealthy corporate elite in the state of Wisconsin, illegally passed a bill to strip Wisconsin public workers of their collective bargaining rights. It is an ugly irony indeed, that the assault on workers rights coincides with the Emergency Banking Act which was the beginning of the New Deal. But, it is in fact part of ongoing attacks over decades on FDRs New Deal and liberalism in America by powerful corporate interests.

I will also predict that tomorrow, March 10, 2011, will be the day of THE BEGINNING of the raised fist of the everyday working American, the union worker, the retired man and woman, the self-employed, the underemployed, the student, the teacher, and the person of conscience against the invisible hand of the wealthy, the demagogue, the corporate elite who have corrupted the Republican party and turned them against their own fellow citizens.

To better understand the politics and power behind what is happening I strongly recommend Kim Phillips-Fein book, Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan.

Click here to purchase the book from Amazon under Asheham’s Authorized Associate account.

Ms. Fein made a timely post last January 2010: “Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade against the New Deal” is a book about the power of business in America. It’s about the deep roots of the conservative movement in the history of the twentieth century, telling the story of how a small group of business leaders who were fiercely, passionately opposed to even the most minor reforms of the 1930s tried to organize to turn the clock back to the late nineteenth century. And it is about how they were able to grow their ranks over time, so that today business interests are able to exercise immense power regardless of which political party is in the White House.

I began writing the book late in 2001. Much of the writing on conservatism has focused on the decline of the New Deal electoral coalition, especially the “culture wars” and the disaffection of white working-class voters from a liberal economic agenda. These are important parts of the story, but I thought that the debate left out something important: the immense opposition of very wealthy people to even minimal economic regulations, progressive taxation, and union power. After all, these are the people who have benefited tremendously from economic deregulation–they are the ones at the top who have been able to capture such a large proportion the wealth created in the past decade, as inequality overall has risen to levels not seen in a century. Didn’t they also have something to do with shaping the politics that has come to help them so much?

In my research at conservative archives around the country, I found that anti-New Deal businessmen had played a critical part in supporting think tanks devoted to free-market ideas in the 1940s and 1950s, when they were out of fashion politically. These think tanks–such as the American Enterprise Institute, which was founded in the early 1940s–also helped to create networks of politically conservative businessmen. (And they were in fact mostly men–the world that I write about was populated by white men who were deeply convinced of their right to exercise social power.) I also found that these business activists experimented with strategies for fighting unions; even Ronald Reagan, for example, learned about conservative economic ideas while working at General Electric during the 1950s–where he traveled the country talking to workers at GE plants–when the company was known throughout industry for its anti-union politics. I took the story into the 1970s, when the economic recession of that decade drove many corporate executives to try to improve their public image and political leverage, and up to Reagan’s election in 1980 (the president of the New York Stock Exchange actually turned the its floor over to Reagan for an impromptu rally of stockbrokers early that year, and the Exchange agreed to do “issue research” for the campaign).

All throughout the period that I studied, these business leaders were trying to hobble the welfare state and fight unions, but they also talked about the free market in very idealistic terms. Often, we think of business acting in a narrowly self-interested way when it comes to politics–seeking subsidies that benefit their own companies in the short term, for example. This is one side to what they do, of course, but my research suggests that there’s another side as well–one that is much more ideological and committed to politics for the long term. The story I tell is one of how a small group of people helped to start a movement that was ultimately able to exercise a much broader popular appeal.

Purchase Invisible Hands now, click here

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