“Humanity Comes First”

By Shlomo Maital      

President-elect Biden and FDR   

    The last time the US economy was in deep trouble was in the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  As President-elect Biden becomes just President, on Jan. 20, and plans to launch a flurry of executive orders to repair some of Trump’s wreckage,  he proposes a near-$2 trillion rescue package.  This will sharply boost America’s deficit – not that this bothered Trumpian Republicans, when they slashed taxes for the very rich and ensured America entered the pandemic with an already-unnecessarily huge deficit of $1 trillion, up by two-thirds from the deficit in 2016.   In 2020 the deficit was 15% of GDP, or $3 trillion.

    Perhaps we can learn about emergency deficit spending from US President Franklin D.  Roosevelt.  In his campaign speech in Pittsburgh, in 1936, prior to the presidential election in November,  FDR had to explain his large budget deficits:

    “To balance our budget in 1933 or 1934 or 1935 would have been a crime against the American people. To do so we should either have had to make a capital levy that would have been confiscatory, or we should have had to set our face against human suffering with callous indifference. When Americans suffered, we refused to pass by on the other side. Humanity came first.”  Roosevelt won re-election in a landslide that year, with 61% of the popular vote and nearly all the electoral college ballots – over 500 electoral votes, out of 538!   Very few people even remember whom his opponent was (Alf Landon of Kansas —  Senate Majority Leader (for now) Mitch McConnell’s home state). 

        Humanity comes first, in times of great suffering.  It is incumbent on world political leaders to embrace that mantra, and direct emergency assistance directly to those who need it most and ensure that it is sufficient to mitigate their suffering.  When good times return, the fiscal cleanup can begin in earnest.   And yes, there will be a leaky bucket – when you have to pump purchasing power into the system very quickly, sometimes, you send checks to those who do not really need them.  So why not add an appeal, for those who do get government aid and don’t need it,  to find someone who does need it and share at least part of it?