By Manifesto Joe
Mitt Scumney lost Tuesday night's encounter with President Obama on points, and Obama showed more fire than he did in their lackluster first debate. Scumney, though, seemed prepared for a more spirited show from Obama and didn't do badly, on the whole. But one "point" he emphasized stuck in my mind because of how dead wrong he is on it.
"Government doesn't create jobs," Scumney said repeatedly, with passion and emphasis.
Scumney didn't live through World War II, nor did I. But if that war effort wasn't powerful, compelling proof that government can and does create jobs, there couldn't be anything more to demonstrate that. Suggesting otherwise has become part of the mindless nonhistory of contemporary America.
A mantra of Republicans in my younger days was that "The New Deal didn't get us out of the Depression; World War II did."
Yes, exactly. And here's why.
The New Deal was a bid to mobilize the U.S. against the Great Depression, but it was often blocked, with a reactionary Supreme Court striking down two of its centerpiece programs, the NRA in 1935 and the first AAA in 1936. Southern Democrats often sided with the Republican minority against the more far-reaching measures, and a double-dip in the business downturn followed FDR's moves toward austerity during 1937-38.
It wasn't until Dec. 7, 1941, when U.S. military forces suffered a direct and devastating attack, that the national government finally got a free hand. Defense industries flourished as direct recipients of government contracts. The Detroit auto industry was literally commandeered for national defense. No new civilian automobiles were built for four years, and the assembly lines became the source of tanks, Jeeps, and other military vehicles. Commodities such as meat and sugar were rationed.
And soon, the U.S. had full employment, with a jobless rate of about 3% in comparison to nearly 25% during the 1932-33 depths of the Depression.
It's a valid point that government isn't a long-term solution to joblessness. The Soviet Union and its imitators were proof of that. But World War II was vivid proof that it can work in the short term as a way of jolting an economy back into motion. The Obama stimulus plan didn't profoundly affect the American workforce, mainly because a stubborn right wing would never have let it go far enough.
Obama can't afford to contest that point too much, because the job-creation myth has become one of economics' sacred cows. He responded to Romney with his own soliloquy about the so-called free enterprise system. Since he's already being labeled a "socialist" by ignorant right-wingers who don't know what that word means, he's got to play it cool.
And the consensus was that he won Debate No. 2. Too bad he's still having to play the game according to "rules" that history belies.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.