President Obama slays GOP myth of ‘evil’ big government

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 2/27/2013, 6:40 a.m.

President Obama slays GOP myth of ‘evil’ big government

The GOP’s inviolate article of faith is that big government is inherently evil.

The GOP has been stupendously successful through much of the last century in tagging any Democrat that champions increased regulatory powers; higher taxes on corporations and the rich; greater public spending on health, education and job programs; and bolstering entitlement programs as a reckless, tax-and-spend enemy of private enterprise.

Franklin Roosevelt was no exception to the maligning. Often forgotten in the historic lionizing of FDR was that the GOP — with some help from a small but pesky clique of Democratic congressional conservatives, big industrialists and conservative newspaper moguls — fought FDR tooth and nail on every one of his reform proposals, from Social Security to tighter industry regulation.

Also forgotten is that FDR had to tweak, compromise and water down his proposals, even the successful ones, to get passage. His more far-reaching proposal for a national health care plan never got off the ground.

No president, and that includes FDR, has been a harder target of the GOP attack line on government than President Obama. The vast storehouse of political slurs, snide innuendos, verbal broadsides and name-calling has been heaped on his head. The aim is to permanently tag him as the penultimate example of a Democratic president that would make big government the all-embracing, all-encompassing arbiter of American life at the expense of the private sector.

During his first term, this withering assault by the GOP forced Obama to bend over backward to conciliate, compromise and even shelf many proposals to expand government protections and benefits to poor and working persons.

The November presidential elections partially changed this. Obama got just enough of a popular mandate to be more daring on his financial proposals, from dumping the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to spending billions on public and private job growth. This has brought back the howls of a big government over reach and dire warnings that this will gut big business. The Roosevelt comparison is in order here.

Following his landslide reelection victory in 1936, he ignored the administration baiters and lurched left. He increased spending on job programs, continued to pound the “economic royalists” for subverting the economy and attacked auto and steel giants and the superrich “Sixty Families” for doing everything to stymie the recovery.

FDR upped the ante even higher when he appointed Robert Jackson as the aggressive new director of the antitrust division of the Justice Department with a clear mandate to hit hard at the trusts. FDR railed that they were blocking his program and micromanaging the GOP right-wing attacks and takeover. In a fireside chat, FDR talked bluntly with the American people immediately after the 1938 election and made it clear he would not reverse course and that he’d do everything he could to “create an economic upturn” by keeping the government firmly in the business of creating jobs and economic security for the millions still suffering from the Depression.