The more things change…

| March 3, 2009

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. . . .Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
— George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1 (1905)

To the left is the new logo chosen by the Obama Administration for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In other words, the intent (according to President Obama, as per ABC News) is this: “We’re also making it easier for Americans to see what projects are being funded with their money as part of our recovery. So in the weeks to come, the signs denoting these projects are going to bear the new emblem of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

To the right is the “Blue Eagle” logo of the National Recovery Administration, set up by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt and a compliant Congress in 1933 in response to the deepening economic crisis. The NRA (not to be confused with the National Rifle Association) was run by U.S. Army General (ret.) Hugh “Iron Pants” Johnson, and it was a classic example of domestic fascism “for the good of the country” under a Democratic administration. To quote from Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg (my notes are in square brackets):

The Blue Eagle was the patriotic symbol of compliance that all companies were expected to hang from their doors, along with the motto “We do our part,” a phrase used by the [Roosevelt] administration the way the Germans used “Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz” [“The community over self-interest”]. Now largely airbrushed from popular awareness, the stylized Indian eagle cluthing a band of lightning bolts in one claw and an industrial cogwheel in the other was often compared to the swastika or the German Reich eagle in both American and German newspapers. [Note: this was in 1933, when Hitler and Mussolini were often viewed favorably, including by the US media and by US Democrats.] [Hugh] Johnson demanded that compliance with the Blue Eagle program be monitored by an army of quasi-official informants, from union membes to Boy Scouts. His totalitarian approach was unmistakable: “When every American housewife understands that the Blue Eagle on everything that she permits to come into her home is a symbol of its restoration to security, may God have mercy on the man or group of men who attempt to trifle with this bird.” . . .

Johnson’s favorite means of promoting compliance with the Blue Eagle were military parades and Nuremberg-style rallies. On September 12, 1933, Johnson harangued an audience of ten thousand at Madison Square Garden, vowing that 85 percent of American workers were already under the authority of the Blue Eagle. The following day New York was nearly shut down by a Blue Eagle parade in honor of “The President’s NRA Day.” All Blue Eagle-compliant stores were ordered shut at 1:00 pm, and the governor declared a half-day holiday for everyone else as well. Under the direction of a U.S. Army major general, the Blue Eagle parade marched from Washington Square up Fifth Avenue to the New York Public Library, where it passed a reviewing stand upon which stood Johnson, the governors from the tristate area, and Eleanor Roosevelt. . . .

Not surprisingly, victims of the Blue Eagle received little sympathy in the press and even less quarter from the government. Perhaps the most famous case was Jacob Maged, the forty-nine-year-old immigrant dry cleaner who spent three months in jail in 1934 for charging thirty-five cents to press a suit, when the NRA had insisted that all loyal Americans must charge at least forty cents. Because one of the central goals of the early New Deal was to create artificial scarcity to drive prices up, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration ordered that six million pigs be slaughtered. Bountiful crops were left to rot. Many white farmers were paid not to work their land (which meant that many black tenant farmers went hungry). All of these policies were enforced by a militarized government. (pp. 153-155)

Obviously, and the ARRA do not yet equal the National Recovery Administration. But the fascination with logos, settings, props, large public events, and massive public works efforts are all very similar.

The good news is that US Supreme Court found the NRA to be unconstitutional in 1935, as they did several of Roosevelt’s other “New Deal” efforts. This, of course, led to Roosevelt trying to “pack” the Supreme Court with several more Justices in order to get a favorable majority for himself on the Court.

We’ll see what the next four years are like.  ..bruce w..

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Category: Economics, Main, Obama Administration, Stimulus

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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