Jobs = Paychecks

“Only a Hint of Roosevelt in Financial Overhaul” was the title of an article in today’s New York Times.

“Three quarters of a century ago”, the article begins, “President Franklin Roosevelt earned the undying enmity of Wall Street when he used his enormous popularity to push through a series of radical regulatory reforms that completely changed the norms of the financial industry.

“Wall Street hated the reforms, of course, but Roosevelt didn’t care. Wall Street and the financial industry had engaged in practices they shouldn’t have, and had helped lead the country into the Great Depression. Those practices had to be stopped. To the president, that’s all that mattered.

“On Wednesday, President unveiled what he described as ‘a sweeping overhaul of the financial regulatory system, a transformation on a scale not seen since the reforms that followed the Great Depression.’

“In terms of the sheer number of proposals, outlined in an 88-page document the administration released on Tuesday, that is undoubtedly true. But in terms of the scope and breadth of the Obama plan – and more important, in terms of the overall effect on Wall Street’s modus operandi – it’s not even close to what Roosevelt accomplished during the Great Depression …”

Let’s not get carried away. Neither FDR nor any other U.S. president has ever taken Wall Street to the woodshed. Not if he knew what was good for him. In FDR’s case, the National Recovery Act and the Civilian Conservation Corps were sincere but futile attempts to bring relief to distressed citizens during those fateful years. A $ 13 WPA paycheck every week was about the best anyone could hope for in those days, and not everyone was that fortunate. Widespread unemployment was the cause of the Great Depression, not Wall Street “practices”.

FDR and just about everyone else in politics knew about the storm clouds brewing over in Europe at that time, and it was felt that rebuilding commercial shipbuilding capacity in the U.S. was in the Nation’s strategic interest. It was the passage of the Two Ocean Navy Act and the Long Range Shipbuilding Program that guaranteed an immediate ending to unemployment and the Great Depression, not “radical regulatory reforms”of the financial industry.

Let’s be honest. We’re in an economic free fall and World War III is nowhere in sight, so you can forget about building 5,000 warships. What can’t be dismissed is the fact that only another emergency shipbuilding program will enable us to pull our chestnuts out of the fire, and only U.S. shipyards have the exclusive right to build our patented container ships. The timing is perfect.

Jobs mean paychecks. Paychecks mean buying power. Buying power means demand for foreign-made goods. Foreign-made goods require container ships. Container ships require a resurgence of our shipbuilding industry. Our shipbuilding industry means jobs. Jobs mean paychecks …