**A Guest Post by TAM Shifra**

During my high school and undergraduate years, in the ‘60’s, it was widely believed that FDR was a national hero for ending the Great Depression. Recently, however, conservative historians and economists, including Amity Shlaes, in her book “The Forgotten Man,” have begun to argue that his policies not only did not end the Great Depression, but they actually prolonged it by several years. Furthermore, a closer look at some of his policies offers a shocking glimpse of how an overreaching, power-hungry POTUS with little regard for the Constitution could transform the U.S. into a quasi-fascist state. (No, I’m still talking about FDR; I didn’t get to Obama yet). Fortunately, one of his most disastrous policies was stopped, thanks to four kosher butchers in Brooklyn, the Schechter brothers.

In 1932, FDR, hoping to secure the Democrat nomination, gave his first major speech, a coast-to-coast radio address, in which he pitted “the little fellow” who is “at the bottom of the economic pyramid” against the “large banks and corporations.” Although many were shocked by Roosevelt’s use of class warfare during the Depression, it was very effective: blaming President Hoover for the Depression and for the twenty million unemployed Americans, and demonizing him as a heartless monster who cared only for the rich, Roosevelt won the election by seven million votes. (What? You thought David Axelrod invented these tactics?) Roosevelt’s advisers, some of whom were openly admiring of Stalin, were thrilled: Finally, they had someone in the WH who would champion their Progressive ideas. Roosevelt did not disappoint them.

FDR and his cohorts believed that the U.S. economy suffered from too much competition, which made prices too low. But if the government could enforce higher prices, incomes would then increase, people would spend more money, and the Depression would end. (Did they not realize that, with unemployment over 20%, higher prices would mean that less people could afford to buy things? But the Progressive mind is a fragile one, and apparently cannot grasp simple economic concepts.) And so, several months after FDR’s inauguration, The National Industrial Recovery Act was passed by the Democrat Congress, and FDR established the National Recovery Administration to implement the NIRA.

The NRA established strict codes for individual industries, and once the codes were established, FDR would sign each one into law. (If this sounds like Mussolini-era fascism, you would be correct. The NRA had, in fact, given FDR dictatorial powers, and the government would have complete control over every phase of U.S. industry.) Twenty-two million workers fell under the NRA, and the codes determined what a tailor could or could not sew, and exactly what ingredients could be used in the manufacture of macaroni. (A New Jersey tailor was actually jailed for violating the code that mandated charging 40 cents to press a suit; he had charged only 35 cents.) In NYC, among the many codes was the “Code of Fair Competition for the Live Poultry Industry of the Metropolitan Area in and About the City of New York.”

Enter the Schechter brothers. Immigrants from Eastern Europe, with their strange garb and broken English, they appeared straight out of a casting call for Fiddler on the Roof. The Schechters owned a poultry slaughterhouse in Brooklyn. (They were aptly named: “shecht” in Yiddish means “to slaughter,” and that’s what they were, ritual slaughterers/ butchers.) Among the many things prohibited by the live poultry code was the ability of a customer to select and examine a specific chicken; according to the NRA code, the butcher would have to stick his hand in the coop, and the first chicken out of the coop would be sold to the customer. The “reasoning” of the NRA code was this: if earlier customers selected the best chickens, then later customers would have to select from inferior-quality chicken, and would perhaps ask for a discount in price. (Remember: the NRA geniuses had to keep prices up!).

The Schechter brothers were targeted by the NRA shock troops, and they were indicted on 60 violations of the poultry code, including “competing too hard,” and keeping prices “too low.” They were also accused of selling a sick chicken. It was the latter accusation that most infuriated the Schechters; the kosher laws are complex, and involve more than just which animals are allowed to be eaten.

The slaughter of animals has to be done as humanely as possible, and diseased animals are forbidden for consumption. For the Schechters, the government prosecution was an attack on their business reputation and religious integrity. They were found guilty, they all served a few months of jail time, and were fined $7,425 (an enormous sum, given that each brother had a weekly salary of $35). But the Schechters and their lawyer appealed their case, and lost the first appeal, but they courageously continued to appeal, and eventually, the Supreme Court agreed to hear their case, which came to be known as The Sick Chicken Case.

The Administration saw this as the perfect test case; the “uneducated” immigrants and their Brooklyn Law School-trained Orthodox Jewish lawyer would be no match for the Ivy League elite government lawyers, and once the SC upheld the case, the constitutionality of the NRA would no longer be in question. However, the Supreme Court Justices were dismayed at FDR’s attack on free enterprise, and they were looking for a test case to stop the New Deal. The Schechter case, with the government’s heavy-handed attempt to micro-manage a decent and law-abiding business was a perfect example.

During the Supreme Court hearings, the Justices ridiculed the NRA’s persecution of the Schechters and their customers, and their irrational attempt to control the price of chickens. In a unanimous decision, the SC ruled in favor of the Schechters, and held that the NRA was an unconstitutional attempt to regulate intrastate commerce. The NRA closed it doors, sending thousands of bureaucrats home, and one of FDR’s most beloved New Deal programs ended. The headline of the London Express read: “America Stunned! Roosevelt’s Work Killed in 20 Minutes.” Let us hope and pray that the horror of ObamaCare befalls a similar fate.

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39 Comments | Leave a comment
  1. flaggman says:

    Fantastic post Shifra. One lesson you teach us is that liberal “masterminds” need to be mocked! They get away with telling people they are the smart ones. What they are, are absolute fools. And what I’ve found here locally in Toronto, anyway, is that most of these big-government liberals are people who love to spend money, and get high on the idea of spending hundreds of millions at a time. They’re like junkies. No principles, just spend-spend-spend, on whatever it is that occurs to them at the moment.

  2. If I had enough money to do it I’d consider printing up abridged copies of books like The Forgotten Man and leaving them around like religious pamphlets at every bus stop, laundromat and supermarket in the country. The idea that big government is your friend is thought to be as true as sugar is sweet by so many people I think the more logical but less easily understood concept of the benefits of free markets and limited government power doesn’t even come to a lot of people’s attention, people who might start to think about it if they were exposed enough to the idea.

  3. naga5 says:

    well done! the truth will eventually set us all free. its the timing that is so bothersome!
    great post!

  4. ancientwrrior says:

    Excellent post Shifra. My dear departed parents fell for Roosevelt’s line of liberal progressive B.S. hook line and sinker throughout their lives. It took me many years to break their conditioning of the liberal mindset crap. It requires one to really think for themselves, and not just blindly accept the dark sides alluring trap of just wanting to help you because they care and know better. That mindset is extremely hard to break and leads to a life of servitude and despair, because you always hold someone else responsible for you and not yourself.

  5. AniMel says:

    Excellent post, Shifra. Very well-written.

    I got into this discussion with a liberal I used to work with. I brought up the fact that Obama’s policies had been tried once before and they had failed miserably (while I didn’t know all the details of the case, I did know of the sick chicken case and how the SCOTUS decision ended the NRA as it was known then). She looked me dead in the face and claimed that FDR had ended the Great Depression.

    She simply refused to accept the fact that FDR prolonged the Depression and that it was the extreme need for industry during WWII that pulled us out of that slump. The War saved his bacon in a huge way.

  6. rosebud2186 says:

    Thank you Shifra, this was fun to read…..& also for additional Yiddish vocab. a plus! : )

  7. Harleyhog36 says:

    Well done, Shifra. I think we are seeing FDR “redone” with this regime. We have got to throw them out in November!

  8. Timbo says:

    Thanks Shifra…really well written and informative…The myth of FDR still continues to this day…

  9. imacat says:

    Great post, Shifra! Everyone should read “The Forgotten Man”, especially if you graduated from HS in the 80s or later. I learned far more 20th century history from this one book than I ever did in HS or college.

  10. dingohead says:

    Great post Shifra. I’ve been wanting to read this book for some time now. It’s on my list. Thanks for writing the article. Well done!

  11. Pat_S says:

    Great post. The story is both inspiring and frightening. Competing too hard and keeping prices too low, what a crime! Incredible. Ultimately it depended on nine judges appointed for life to the Supreme Court. In this case it was a 9-0 decision in favor of states rights.

    Liberals periodically make big authoritarian moves like the NRA when they think they can get away with it. In the meantime, they relentlessly pick away by passing smaller laws and through agency regulations. The American people and the cause of liberty get wrapped up in the slow weaving of a sticky web. It becomes more and more difficult to fight.

    There is a parallel to the overreach of the executive branch via the power given the HHS Secretary in the Affordable Healthcare Act. Will there be a parallel victory? I wouldn’t count on 9-0.

  12. Alain41 says:

    Great Post! To follow-on, unfortunately, FDR got his revenge. During the war, FDR got to establish controls for consumption of food & products as resources were needed to win the war. One of the controls was for how much wheat you could produce (argument was along the lines of food prices had to be controlled, not too high or too low). An Ohio farmer produced more wheat than he was allowed. He did this for his familie’s consumption (did not sell it in-state or across state lines). However, FDR admin. took him to court saying his wheat production was illegal anyway. In Wickard-Filburn (I call it Wicked Filbert), FDR threatened to pack the Supreme Court with more justices if they did not vote for his interpretation of Interstate Commerce Clause giving Federal gov’t power to regulate this ‘commerce’. Supreme Court justices who ruled against him re NRA, caved and gave FDR his victory (it was war time against horrible enemies. don’t let an emergency go to waste). Wicked Filbert is the decision used to justify all Federal control of commerce via the Constitution’s ICC clause today including ObamaCare and also, in part, Kelo Decision. So besides killing ObamaCare, we need to overturn Wicked Filbert.

    • LucyLadley says:

      Alain41 great reminder of this portion of history. I did not know the wheat story!

    • makeshifty says:

      I looked up this history a while back. I think you might be mixing two things up: The change in definition of the ICC by the SC, and FDR threatening to pack the courts. You can find some of what I researched by googling “the general welfare clause john bugler”. The article “The ‘General Welfare’ Clause” by John W. Bugler will be the top hit. What he says is the problem started earlier, with a case called Steward Machine Co. vs. Davis in 1937. (Wickard-Filburn was in 1942.) The issue was whether the unemployment compensation provisions of the Social Security Act (passed in 1935) were constitutional, since the Act established a national taxing structure that induced states to implement unemployment compensation programs: one of FDR’s “carrot and stick” acts. Bugler says FDR had won re-election in 1936, and had a Democratically-controlled congress. He threatened to pack the courts after this victory. The SC responded by changing the definition of the General Welfare clause of the Constitution in the aforementioned case.

      Bugler said, “This decision said in effect, Congress would no longer be held to enumerated powers but instead could tax and spend for anything; so long as it was for ‘general welfare.'”

  13. radargeek says:

    It always bewildered me when I tell folks in their 70’s and 80’s that Roosevelt screwed-up America during the Depression. But, they would go to their deathbed saying he was the greatest man since sliced bread while at the same time, they live on their meager social security checks and barely surviving their utopia retirement. Roosevelt surrounded himself with communist sympathisers and apologists.

  14. Trish S says:

    Great post, Shifra! I am going to read this book!

  15. LJZumpano says:

    Excellent Shifra!

  16. MainelyRight says:

    Well told, Shifra. I remember this case from high school history (I went to high school when they still taught history) but I hadn’t thought about it in years. I love the way you weave this into our hopes and dreams for ObamaCare. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Shifra says:

    Thank you so much, TAMS, for your comments. Much appreciated! (*but* if you keep giving me positive feedback, I may write another post 🙂 )

  18. Rob_W says:

    Thank you, Shifra. Well done!

    My grandfather told me stories about how destitute people in the South were pre-FDR. He praised FDR for ending the depression, giving us Social Security, and for bringing electricity to millions with the Tennessee Valley Authority. How does one argue with that? None of FDR’s fascism mattered when delivered with such goodies. It’s a lost cause trying to educate children of the FDR generation, but thankfully we now have new media and blogs such as this one, crucial to preserving our history and freedom.

    Looking forward to your next post 🙂

  19. vince47 says:

    Thanks Shifra for the great post on FDR and SCOTUS actions. Such a tragedy that the SC did the right thing at first by ruling against the New Deal, but then allowed abuse of the commerce clause in future rulings. The country has suffered much over many SC rulings from the period covering 1930-1960 as well as the 40+ years since 1960 when the House of Representatives was under Democratic control.

  20. LucyLadley says:

    Thank you so much for your article. I loved the immigrant story. They came to this country, opened a business, & ran a business the way a business should be run. Politicians singled them out to make a statement. What must have been going on in the Schechter’s minds while they were under this attack? They were great hard working Americans. I am thankful you brought this important part of American History to our attention.

  21. longhorn mama says:

    Thank you so much, Shifra. I will share this everywhere.

  22. ffigtree says:

    Brava Shifra! :o)

  23. sharon says:

    Shifra!!!!!!Thank you for your well written article. I was very interested and had absolutely no idea of this.

    Great job!

  24. ShArKy666 says:

    ALL these useful idiots that argued this lie since the 1940’s..it’s disgusting!!..all they hadda do was read this quote “We are spending more money than we have ever spent before, and it does not work. After eight years we have just as much unemployment as when we started, and an enormous debt to boot. – U.S. Secretary Henry Morgenthau. . . May 1939. the real question to me is how did this major piece of info get covered up & lied about …why didn’t conservatives paint road signs with this quote on it, and put them all over the country?

  25. ME_only says:

    Has anyone noticed that the NRA during Roosevelt’s time is not the same as the NRA of today?

  26. ReardenSteel says:

    Great job Shifra! People today shrug off Obama’s totalitarian attempts with the ever tiresome, “It can never happen here”. When it already has happened here!! The move toward top-down totalitarianism had just as many proponents here as in Europe. Maybe even more. Much harder to get done in a country used to self-government and self-reliance, than in Euopean countries used to the all-powerful leader (monarch).

  27. sandyl says:

    Great post Shifra!! Notice how never again did the libs let constitutionalist judges stand in the way of their wet dreams. They have been “packing” courts throughout the country with commie/fascist judges. Ditto what Pat S said—Obamacare will not be a 9-0 decision. We can only hope and pray that it is 5-4 in the right direction. This is an uphill battle, but we must change our educational system now. We need to tell our children the truth about our founders, and about those who wish to destroy our great country–both foreign and domestic!

  28. Yeah for the good guys! Yeah for cheap chicken! Cheep chicken?
    Great story! Great post Shifra!

  29. houstongracie says:

    BRAVA Shirfa!!! I always enjoy your knowledge and insight. I had NEVER heard of the Shechter brothers and this case. Very interesting and I know I have another book to add to my reading list. Please keep writing and educating us Shifra!!!

    I pray to G-d that we end this national nightmare that is Obamba!

    LOL Prince of Heft “Cheep” chicken!!! BTW, no “peeping” in the hen house either!!!

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