The Republicans' historian of the New Deal ... Amity Shlaes





There aren’t any sex scenes or vampires, and it won’t help you lose weight.

But House Republicans are tearing through the pages of Amity Shlaes’ “The Forgotten Man” like soccer moms before book club night.

Shlaes’ 2007 take on the Great Depression questions the success of the New Deal and takes issue with the value of government intervention in a major economic crisis — red meat for a party hungry for empirical evidence that the Democrats’ spending plans won’t end the current recession.

“There aren’t many books that take a negative look at the New Deal,” explained Republican policy aide Mike Ference, whose boss, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, invited Shlaes to join a group of 20 or so other House Republicans for lunch earlier this year in his Capitol suite.

“Republicans are gobbling it up — and so are other lawmakers — because it tells you what they did, what worked and what didn’t.”

“It’s been suggested as required reading for all of us, I think,” said Erica Elliott, press secretary for Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) — who himself notes that his chief of staff “stole” his hardback copy, so he had to purchase a paperback.

Garrett said the book “is a good read” that details, among other things, “how FDR engaged in vitriolic demonizing of Wall Street and Big Business to advance his agenda.”

Also, he jokes, “it had good pictures when you get to the middle.”

“The Forgotten Man” is currently out of stock at The Trover Shop, the bookstore closest to the House side of the Capitol. Co-owner Al Schuman said sales haven’t been off the charts but added: “If all my books sold that well, I’d be a rich man.”

It’s not hard to see what Republicans find compelling about the book. Shlaes, a columnist at Bloomberg, a senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former editorial board member at The Wall Street Journal, presents a vision of the Great Depression that challenges the conventional wisdom that casts Herbert Hoover as a goat, FDR as a hero and the New Deal as the country’s salvation....

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