How Can Obama Really Become the Next FDR?
Obama needs to break with neoliberalism and embrace the public provision of public goods like Roosevelt and Eisenhower once did -- from energy and infrastructure to education and healthcare.
authorized the biggest infrastructure program in American history, when he signed the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956.
The interstate highway act created an elaborate system of private tax incentives and public-private partnerships (PPPs) to encourage private corporations to build national highways.
To begin with, all U.S. highways were leased to domestic and foreign corporations for a period of decades.
Second, all U.S. highways were set up with toll booths, so that American drivers would be forced to repay the corporate owners of the national highways every few dozen miles.
Finally, a system of high-speed lanes with higher tolls was created,
so that the rich could whiz down the road while middle-class and poor Americans were stuck in traffic jams ...
Free highways without toll booths, owned by the public, paid for out of taxes? My God. So the John Birch Society was right after all. Dwight Eisenhower was as much of a socialist as Franklin Delano Roosevelt!
Once upon a time in the United States, public goods -- from retirement security and energy research to public roads -- were provided by the government and paid for by taxes.
As late as the Nixon administration, the provision of public goods by government was considered perfectly compatible with a robust market economy by so-called Modern Republicans like Eisenhower and Nixon as well as New Deal Democrats like Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson.
In the intervening 40 years, however, free-market fundamentalists of the Chicago School have managed to change the debate, redefining "socialism" to mean not only public ownership of the means of production, but also public provision of public goods.
Rather than fight back, most Democrats in the last generation adapted to this hostile conservative political climate by jettisoning New Deal "big government" liberalism for "market-friendly" neoliberalism. Neoliberals shared the right's enthusiasm for deregulating industries that New Deal Democrats had regulated in the public interest. Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy supported the deregulation of trucking and airlines, while Bill Clinton presided over the dismantling of the New Deal era's banking regulations and declared:
"The era of big government is over." Neoliberals and conservatives agreed that public goods should be provided by private, for-profit or nonprofit entities, rather than government agencies.
If private corporations or universities had no motivation to provide public goods, well, then, they would be bribed with tax credits or other government subsidies.