I imagine that most people, at some point in their lives, have wished that they had a crystal ball to see into the future. There are many moments where a little prescience would be useful, but it seems that it would come in especially handy when faced with a tough choice. It wouldn’t surprise me if my grandfather, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, longed for a sneak peek into the months and years ahead as he crafted the New Deal to pull America out of the Great Depression. Nor would it surprise me if the representatives and senators on Capitol Hill at that time lay awake at night wondering how it would all turn out. Would this plan create jobs? Would this new infrastructure lead to growth? Only history, not a crystal ball, would show that the New Deal would lead to the greatest expansion of opportunity and growth in the history of the world.
At the time it was impossible to know that, and legislators had to decide how to vote in an atmosphere that was filled with resistance to Roosevelt’s proposal. Naysayers were vocal and visible. Boldfaced names like Charles Lindbergh and William Randolph Hearst came out against the New Deal, and were joined by the heads of corporate giants such as General Motors, Sun Oil Company, and DuPont. They criticized my grandfather for overreaching and overspending. Even by the time of the Second New Deal, the opposition remained ardent. The Republican Party platform of 1936 said that the New Deal was “guilty of frightful waste and extravagance.”