Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Greatest Swindle

I was at the Crystal Bridges museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, a couple weeks back, and encountered a piece by Thomas Hart Benton entitled "Plowing It Under". In it, a sharecropper tills a field with the aim of making it fallow to qualify for a stipend under FDR's Agricultural Adjustment Act. Or at least, to make it possible for the landowner to receive such a stipend:
Sharecroppers, of course, received little if any of such subsidies, and in fact were forced further into penury, as Jim Powell wrote in 2003 at Cato:
The Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933) aimed to help farmers by cutting farm production and forcing up food prices. Less production meant less work for thousands of poor black sharecroppers. In addition, blacks were among the 100 million consumers forced to pay higher food prices because of the AAA.
Powell also cites other New Deal legislation as having racist effects if not outright intent:
  • The Wagner Act, which allowed closed shops that were de facto discriminatory in many instances.
  • The Tennessee Valley Authority, which flooded lands worked by sharecroppers but gave them no compensation.
  • The Works Project Administration, which channeled money predominantly into states with comparatively few blacks; blacks could be counted on to vote for FDR anyway. Consequently, their votes were unimportant.
Democratic indifference to the consequences of their policies on blacks (viz. Eric Garner, and a long line of others besides) is as common now as it was then, yet blacks continue to side overwhelmingly with Team Blue. It reminds me how much of politics is invested in the party system, in culture, and in historical us-vs-them pissing contests.

No comments:

Post a Comment