Newstalgia Reference Room with a Meet the Press interview with former Truman Administration Economist Leon Keyserling and the state of the economy in 1949.
October 13, 2011

Leon Keyserling - Architect of the National Recovery Act in 1934 - working on the Fair Deal between slings and arrows in 1949.

Since the economy, the state of the economy, the debate over the economy and all things economic are at the forefront of all discussion these days, maybe it's a good idea to take a look at some of the economic voices of the past for some perspective, or at least looking at different methods used in the past to deal with economic problems.

One such voice was Leon Keyserling, a long time Economic Adviser during the Roosevelt Administration, in fact one of the architects of the National Recovery Act of 1934, and in 1949 serving as an Economic Advisor to the Truman Administration, this time with the Fair Deal. Keyserling was one of those advocates of conservative spending and prudent growth in times of prosperity to safeguard against recession and depression.

The U.S. in 1949 was coming out of World War 2 and was in the midst of aiding in recovery throughout Europe via The Marshall Plan.

At the time of this interview, on Meet The Press from March, 1949 - Keyserling had made recommendations to Congress on Economic needs and priorities.

Leon Keyserling: “In the period after the First World War we did not concern ourselves with maintaining the prosperity of the economy. And so we had a crash. And out of that crash, and out of that experience we took one step further forward; we came to recognize the majority of people, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, came to recognize that in the event of a large depression we should, and would take effective affirmative broad steps to deal with it. Now the policy that we have been advocating since World War 2 goes one step further, it’s more moderate it’s a preventive policy. It says we should try to take these steps before the depression comes. And the only reason, the only reason why these proposals seem extreme is because some people have not come to accept the idea that you should do anything in times of prosperity to preserve it.”

Needless to say, his recommendations weren't sitting very well with members of the Meet The Press panel. At one point Lawrence Spivak accused Keyserling of wanting to give unlimited powers to the Presidency in the area of controls and price fixing, saying if such a policy was in place were a Huey Long President, the country would head to dictatorial disaster.

Lively discussion all around. And one that gives you some idea the question of our economy is as old as our government itself. Sadly, I have no Meet The Press or its equivalent from the 1860's, but I would imagine the debate would be just about the same.

Some things will never change.

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