This is a column I never expected to write. That’s because I’m going to applaud Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
This won’t be unconstrained applause, to be sure. Roosevelt, after all, pursued awful policies that lengthened and deepened the economic misery of the 1930s. And, as you can see from this video, the “economic bill of rights” that he wanted after WWII was downright malicious.
Truman, meanwhile, was a less consequential figure, but it’s worth noting that he wanted a restoration of the New Deal after WWII, which almost certainly would have hindered and perhaps even sabotaged the recovery.
But just as very few policymakers are completely good, it’s also true that very few policymakers are totally bad. And a review of fiscal history reveals that FDR and Truman both deserve credit for restraining domestic spending during wartime.
In a new column I wrote for The Hill, I specifically responded to the cranky notion, pursued by Bernie Sanders, the openly socialist U.S. senator from Vermont, that there should be tax hikes on the rich to finance military operations overseas.
The idea has a certain perverse appeal to libertarians. We don’t like nation-building and we don’t like punitive tax policy, so perhaps mixing them together would encourage Republicans to think twice (or thrice) before trying to remake the world.
But “perverse appeal” isn’t the same as “good policy.”