Who Says Republicans Have No New Ideas?

Quiz: Which of the 2012 presidential aspirants delivered the following words at the Conservative Political Action Convention, now underway in Washington?

We have seen tax-and-tax spend-and-spend reach a fantastic total greater than in all the previous 170 years of our Republic.

Behind this plush curtain of tax and spend, three sinister spooks or ghosts are mixing poison for the American people. They are the shades of Mussolini, with his bureaucratic fascism; of Karl Marx, and his socialism; and of Lord Keynes, with his perpetual government spending, deficits, and inflation. And we added a new ideology of our own. That is government give-away programs….

If you want to see pure socialism mixed with give-away programs, take a look at socialized medicine.

If you guessed Jim DeMint, you could be forgiven. He talks a lot like this. But you’d be wrong. Newt Gingrich didn’t utter these precise words, either, although he uses much the same language and offers the same themes.

You’d also be wrong if you guessed Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Haley Barbour, John Thune, Mitt Romney, or Mitch Daniels. (Sarah Palin isn’t attending.)

But again, your mistake would be understandable because these words sound a lot like theirs. Any of them could have delivered this message – and all of them have, over and over again. It’s the Republican message of 2011.

The perfectly correct answer is Herbert Hoover.

Herbert Hoover didn’t deliver these words at this week’s Conservative Political Action Convention, though. He delivered them at the Republican National Convention in Chicago on July 8, 1952.

That was almost sixty years ago.

Republicans haven’t come up with a single new idea since. They haven’t even come up with a new theme.

Herbert Hoover, you may remember, didn’t have a sterling record when it came to the economy. As president, he presided over the Great Crash of 1929 and ushered in the Great Depression. He had no idea for what to do to help the nation out of the Depression except to balance the federal budget. By the time he was voted out of office in 1932, one out of four Americans was unemployed.

By 1952, Hoover had been proven irrelevant and hidebound.

After Dwight D. Eisenhower won the 1952 Republican nomination and went on to become president, he wisely disregarded everything Hoover had advised.

Robert ReichUnder Ike, the marginal income tax on America’s highest earners was 91 percent. Eisenhower also commenced the biggest infrastructure program in the nation’s history – the National Interstate and Defense Highway Act, which replaced America’s meandering two-lane roads with 40,000 miles of straight four and six-lane highways. He signed into law the National Defense Education Act, which trained a whole generation of math and science teachers, and upgraded American classrooms for the future. The Federal Housing Authority subsidized home ownership. The Defense Department spawned future technologies in aerospace and telecommunications.

Did the U.S. suffer fascism, socialism, deficits and inflation, as Hoover predicted? No. The U.S. economy soared. The median wage rose faster than ever before. And the incomes of America’s working class and poor rose at the fastest pace of all.

Robert Reich
Robert Reich’s Blog.

Published by the LA Progressive on February 14, 2011
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About Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine.

Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.