In the current New Yorker, Louis Menand says there is a puzzle about how Franklin Roosevelt got reëlected:
When Roosevelt ran for reëlection in 1936, the unemployment rate was 16.9 per cent, almost twice what it had been in 1930. Yet he won five hundred and twenty-three electoral votes, and his opponent Alf Landon, eight. When Roosevelt ran for the unprecedented third term, unemployment was 14.6 per cent. He carried thirty-eight states; Wendell Willkie carried ten.
When Menand says unemployment was 16.9 and 14.6 percent when FDR ran for reëlection, he is counting federal relief workers as unemployed. According to the economist who constructed the series Menand is using, people working for the WPA were morally the same as concentration camp workers in Germany in the 1930s. If Menand realized that, the puzzle would go away: FDR and his New Deal were popular because they gave people jobs and sparked a rapid recovery.
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