As COVID-19 Spreads, Mary Barra Needs To Denounce Trump As Bad For CapitalismHistorians in the News
tags: New Deal, Franklin Roosevelt, George Bush, Donald Trump, 911, coronavirus
"The whole reason George W. Bush shot up in the polls after 9/11 is that he projected himself as the embodiment of national unity," said Nelson Lichtenstein, a historian at the University of California at Santa Barbara. "Trump just seems incapable of that."
Lichtenstein's views are worth considering because his 1997 biography of United Auto Workers union president Walter Reuther includes a detailed account of how U.S. industry mobilized during World War II. His book is called "The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit."
It wasn't just that leaders like Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill could inspire millions to sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves, Lichtenstein said. It was that they laid out systematic plans for how to do so.
Under Roosevelt, the U.S. government built hundreds of factories and then wrote cost-plus contracts so manufacturers like GM could run them and churn out vast armadas of ships and planes almost overnight. Roosevelt recruited executives like GM President William Knudsen to coordinate the mobilization. He rationed critical supplies like rubber and aluminum to reserve them for essential needs. He provided war workers with health insurance, housing, childcare, and unions.
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