The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Columnist discusses ‘New Deal’ lessons learned

Writer compares obama stimulus to 1930s package

Senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations Amity Shlaes spoke to SMU students and members of the community Monday afternoon, focusing on the 1930s as a reflection for our country’s current economic crisis.

“Their depression was a lot worse than our depression,” Shlaes said. “However, our recession, that we are starting, could get there.”

Shlaes, who has a syndicated column and is a former member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, gave the spring William J. O’Neil Lecture in Business Journalism in Crum Auditorium. The lecture series is part of the interdisciplinary program between the Meadows School of the Arts and the Cox School of Business, bringing business journalism professionals to campus.

Shlaes spent most of her lecture commenting on the various actions taken by FDR during his time as president.

“Roosevelt was popular to the extent that he was because he was able to give to the people like no politician before him was,” Shlaes said.

Most of Shlaes’ expertise on the 1930s is mirrored in her 2007 book, “The Forgotten Man.” The title of her book comes from a famous quote FDR ran on during the 1936 election, helping him take 46 of the 48 states. FDR’s forgotten man was the man oppressed by corporations, the unemployed and homeless man.

Although, according to Shlaes, the economy ended up being the forgotten man. FDR used construction as a main way to stimulate the economy, with things such as the Public Works Administration (PWA). These programs allowed for the construction of community buildings in counties and towns across America. In some ways, Shlaes said, the idea worked.

“The towns, when that PWA money comes in, start to feel empowered,” Shlaes said. “You can almost put it Biblically: America looked upon the PWA and saw that it was good.”

However, Shlaes then went on to say that the Dow didn’t fully recover from 1929 until 1954, proving that public works was not the easy fix for the economy.

While Shlaes’ speech gave deep background into the 1930s, her connection to today’s economic crisis was lost with some of the audience.

“The way she brought in the historical facts helped,” sophomore Riley Sexton said, “but personally I wasn’t able to relate to it.”

Lakewood resident Ken Rogers attended the lecture after hearing about it in a newspaper.

“I think it gives a better understanding that the effects of these buildings were temporary,” Rogers said. “And it may foretell what is going on today and how it will affect us in the long run.”

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