Jonah Goldberg
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The New Deal is 75 years young this month.

A host of commentators have invoked the current mortgage credit crisis as justification for a sweeping intrusion of the government into the economy, not just into the credit markets. American Prospect editor Harold Myerson says, "Bring on the new New Deal."

For all this talk of newness, you might be surprised at how old the idea is. Liberals were calling for a "new New Deal" when the first New Deal was barely out of diapers. That's one reason FDR launched a "second New Deal" from 1935-1937. In 1944, he attempted to jump-start a third New Deal with his "second Bill of Rights."

Let's set aside Harry Truman's "Fair Deal," JFK's "New Frontier," LBJ's "Great Society" and Bill Clinton's "New Covenant." I'm sure Jimmy Carter had something like this, too; I just try to avoid paying any attention to the man.

Even the New Deal wasn't as new as many claimed (as I argue in my book, "Liberal Fascism"). FDR himself sold the New Deal as a continuation of the war socialism of the Wilson administration, in which FDR had served. For example, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the signature public-works project of the New Deal, had its roots in a World War I power project. (As FDR explained when he formally asked Congress to create the thing, "This power development of war days leads logically to national planning.")

Since George W. Bush was elected, liberals have been calling for new New Deals more frequently than my daughter asks "are we there yet?" whenever we're in the car. After 9/11, Sen. Charles Schumer argued that the terrorist attack proved the need for a new New Deal, and that "the president can either lead the charge or be run over by it." After Hurricane Katrina, left-wing journalist William Greider spoke for many when he said that the natural disaster required a "new New Deal." Last January, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said the looming recession was all the excuse government needed. The head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rahm Emmanuel, wrote last January that we need "a New Deal for the New Economy" that provides everything from universal health care to sweeping job training, in response to globalization.

Now it's the financial crisis that requires a you-know-what.

It's like liberals are playing a game of "Jeopardy" where the response to every question is, "What is a new New Deal?"

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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