March 6, 2009
Barack Obama's bold, ambitious budget plan proves that he is the true heir of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. Consider Obama's Rooseveltian energy plan. In 1939, President Roosevelt decided to mobilize Americans to create a new source of energy: atomic power. Although he was urged to focus on government-funded R&D, FDR chose a different route. He wisely encouraged private capital to invest in atomic energy research by a variety of tax incentives. To make atomic power investment more palatable to private capital, FDR boldly chose to make all other forms of energy in the U.S. uneconomical, by slapping high taxes on kerosene and coal. With the money from the new federal Kerosene Cap and Trade system, President Roosevelt and Congress funded a small-scale federal research program, in the hope of attracting much greater private investment ...
Wait. What's that you say? FDR didn't do that? He poured federal money into the all-public Manhattan Project and created the first atomic bomb in a couple of years? He didn't tax kerosene to make it uneconomical and to encourage private investment in atomic power?
Oh. OK. Never mind.
What? FDR didn't force the elderly to subsidize private annuity brokers? He imposed a single, simple, efficient tax to pay for a single, simple, efficient public system of retirement benefits?
All right, then, forget FDR. He was a socialist, anyway. Let Dwight Eisenhower serve as a model for the Obama administration. President Eisenhower 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 ...
All right, what now, wise guy? So that's wrong, too? Eisenhower's national highway system wasn't based on tolls, leases to foreign companies, income-based pricing, and tax credits for private corporations? It used gasoline taxes to fund free public highways?
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!
© Janet Crain
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