Having had the opportunity to go to the Tennessee Valley region recently, my husband and I experienced first-hand what we had learned from Lyndon LaRouche’s own personal life observations of the extraordinary accomplishments of the WWII generation. No matter how many books you read or videos you view, the virtual miracle of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) can only be fully appreciated by seeing the structures, built nearly a century ago, for yourself.
Think about the dams, the bridges, the power units that you see in your day-to-day travels. When were they built and by whom? Most of what we call infrastructure today is obsolete, and in many cases, outright dangerous. Why do we put up with these collapsing physical structures when, in the depths of the great Depression, massive projects were built around the country, ultimately employing millions of unemployed and often unskilled labor, who became skilled and self-reliant in the process? They rose up and were ennobled by participating in something far, far bigger than themselves which contributed to the common good.
The most common response is, “We can’t afford it, where’s the money going to come from? We don’t want big government, that’s Socialism,” The report below is meant to stimulate your thinking about how, with leadership from a President, the United States’ population living in the most impoverished and backward area of the United States was able to transform themselves and their region within a decade! Further, the Congress, which then knew how to manage capital budgets, developed a unique financing scheme for the project which resulted in the TVA being profitable. The first time it sold its bonds to private investors was in 1959. TVA managers knew how to manage a productive enterprise, within a productive economy. We could do this kind of development today, and better. Instead, the current unelected occupant of the White House proposes that we go backwards—wiping out the fossil fuels which power our economy, chiseling on nuclear power and the development of fusion, the breakthrough power platform for the future, creating a permanent underclass with no great mission orientation other than receiving a subsistence government paycheck--all in subservience to an international oligarchy who claim to be representing Planet Earth against the humans who populate it.
Throw the Money Changers Out of the Temple
Within five weeks of being elected President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt embarked upon a tour of the Muscle Shoals area of the Tennessee River with Senator George Norris of Nebraska. Despite the December cold of 1932, they rode in an open car to be sure the media of the day would take note. The harnessing of the Tennessee River's power had been a vision of Sen. Norris since the 1920's. FDR's comments, upon seeing first-hand the physical waterpower of the river was that it "at least twice as big as I ever had any conception of it being." He noted that they were seeing a terrible waste of energy before their very eyes. This was more than symbolic; for both, seeing the potential of the raw waterpower energized their commitment to use the Tennessee River as the cornerstone for developing one of the most immiserated regions of the United States. Ultimately, the TVA involved the seven states of Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia.
President Roosevelt’s March 4,1933 Inaugural Address announced that the United States was being returned, once again, to its historic mission. Pursuant to the Constitution’s command, in the Preamble, to "promote the General Welfare", FDR was to launch a series of great projects that would forever benefit the population. At the same time, he declared war on the financial predators of Wall Street who had generated the Great Depression: “Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision, the people perish. The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit. Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort."
What were the conditions prior to the TVA?
The surrounding valleys of the Tennessee River, constitute a land mass of about 640,000 square miles. Poverty was so endemic that one resident of the area in the 1920's commented, “We didn't know the Depression was happening, we was always depressed.” Yearly flooding resulted in massive loss of human life and farm animals. This led to massive erosion of the topsoil of the land and deforestation. Typical crops such as tobacco and cotton depleted much of the phosphates. Strip mining, such as for copper, also laid the land barren. By the 1920's much of the once fertile bottom land was gouged with gullies so deep, that growing crops became impossible. There were generations of families trying to survive, only to have their livelihoods swept away by the next flood.
By the early 1900's, urban centers in Northern States were largely electrified. 70% of industry was electrified. An average Northern income allowed households to purchase canned foods, washing machines, refrigerators, synthetic fibers, telephones, and radios. In the South, many of the major cities such as Chattanooga and Knoxville of Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama had electricity wires hung. Most of the countryside, however, had no electricity. Nationally, only two out of every one hundred farms had electricity. Water had to be brought in from a stream or well that would be used for all the household activities. There was no refrigeration storage. If the farm produced milk or butter or other such products to sell, they could not easily be marketed safely. An extraordinary amount of time was spent in the manual labor of the farm work, Life was extremely hard. Sanitation was primitive. Reading, keeping up with world affairs, being an informed citizen- these were difficult at best. Income in the region, $168 per year average, was less than half the national average income. Diseases such as malaria, smallpox, typhoid, and tuberculosis were endemic to the region. The infant mortality rate was the highest in the country. Life expectancy was far below the national level.
Passing the TVA Authority Legislation
Wisely, FDR knew he had to act quickly to take down the “money changers in the temple.” On the eve of his Inauguration, President Roosevelt wrote to an acquaintance, "There will be no one in (the Cabinet) who knows his way to 23 Wall St (the House of Morgan- part of the British Empire's infiltration of US finance). No one who is linked in any way with the power or with the international bankers." Think about that! The President of the United States had declared war on America's historic enemy, the financial empire of Wall Street and the City of London. He immediately moved with legislation and banking reorganization while public hearings were held and publicized. The Pecora hearings, which began in 1932, gave the American people a ring side seat to watch as the Wall Street predators, such as J.P. Morgan, were made to account for their financial crimes against the American people. Some of these criminals went to jail. This won the popular support for Roosevelt’s financial reorganization legislation, most importantly the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.
Wasting no time, in just 37 days after his Inauguration, FDR introduced legislation to establish the TVA. When Senator Norris was discussing with the President how to promote such a controversial sweep of legislation, FDR laughed saying, "I'll tell them it's neither fish nor fowl but whatever it is, it will taste awfully good to the people of the Tennessee Valley!"
In his Message to Congress, "A Suggestion for Legislation to Create the Tennessee Valley Authority", April 10, 1933, FDR forcefully writes, "The TVA involves the future lives and welfare of millions. It touches and gives life to all forms of concerns." There were many critics led by the New York Times who associated the legislation to the Soviet system, to Socialism. George Schultz, one of the most evil public men of the last 100 years, wrote his doctoral thesis attacking the TVA. The legislation established a federal corporation reporting to the Congress with its Board nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. It stipulated that the corporation had to become self-supporting and self-liquidating. The TVA became so, turning a profit, while selling electricity at the lowest rates possible and developing major spinoffs in fertilizers, chemicals, and agricultural experimentation. You can find a history of this financing here.
On May 18, 1933, with a stroke of the pen, FDR signed into law the TVA Authority. Less than 5 months later, on October 1,1933, the first day of the fiscal year, shovels were in the ground with the construction of the first of the dams, Norris Dam on the Clinch River which leads into the Tennessee River. Between 1933 and 1944, 16 dams were built. This required 113 million cubic yards of concrete, rock, and earth. Thirty-five Boulder Dams or ten Coulee Dams could have been built with the equivalent of that material. Eventually, the TVA created a navigable water transportation artery stretching from West Virginia to the Ohio River, connecting the Eastern United States to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. FDR expressed his intention that we would develop at least 6 such 'Valley Development' projects. Leaders from all over the globe traveled to see the TVA and envisioned such projects to be built in their countries.
End Human Slavery, Enslave the Kilowatt Hour
The original act of 1933 authorized the sale by the TVA of up to $50 million of bonds for the construction of dams, steam plants, or other power facilities. Under the same act, TVA sold $8.3 million in bonds to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. The TVA was also given the authority to use revenue from the sale of power, fertilizer, or any other product in the operation of its dams and in conducting its power and fertilizer activities. The chairman of the TVA, David Lilienthal, wrote in his book, "Democracy on the March", that by the time he was writing the book in 1944, the use of electricity in the valley was far greater than in areas around the country with a higher average income. (One of the reasons he was tapped to be the TVA Chairman was that despite his young age, he fought the private utilities as a lawyer, which gave him a grasp of how public utilities should work.) He said, "The kilowatt hour of electricity is a modern slave, working tirelessly for men...The answer is to be found largely in a new way of thinking about electricity, best reflected in the principle of a low rate with a resulting wide use of power. That principle of "more not less" was established in the very policies of the Act creating the TVA. Congress directed the TVA to see to it that this vast store of electric power should be widely used; the moral purpose behind the whole TVA Act, to benefit the greatest number of people, was thus written into the express mandate of law...The schedule of rates established in September of 1933 was low, extraordinarily low, judged by then prevailing ideas...What proved to be a good business principle for Henry Ford in the pricing of his automobiles, would be good business in electricity supply."
A Note About Franklin Roosevelt and the Greatest Generation
Despite being born into wealth and privilege, FDR’s personal suffering with polio, and his studies of the American System of political economy, shaped his character. He developed an extraordinary empathy for the suffering of people of the Appalachian Mountain region. As author Jean Edward Smith opens his book, FDR, by saying, "He lifted himself from his wheelchair to lift this Nation from its knees." While he has been labeled a Keynesian, a Socialist, a Communist- none of this is true. His great-great-grandfather "Isaac the Patriot" was a close collaborator of Alexander Hamilton in the American Revolution and later in the establishment of the founding of our nation's banking principles. A large portrait of Isaac Roosevelt by Gilbert Stuart hung in his family's central living room while FDR grew up. He wrote up his Senior thesis on Alexander Hamilton in 1903 at Harvard. In that, he wrote, "In time, it was said that while Washington wielded the sword of the Revolution, Hamilton held the pen...Washington, the first President under the Constitution, made Hamilton Secretary of the Treasury- the greatest of the Cabinet Offices. As he, Hamilton, had stabilized the problems of State, so now he ordered the finances of the country…" Think about FDR's July 2,1932 speech accepting the Presidential nomination at the Democratic Party National Convention where he said, "There are two ways of viewing the government's duty in matters affecting economic and social life. The first sees to it that a favored few are helped...That theory belonged to Toryism, and I had hoped that most of the Tories left this country in 1776!"
So much more could be said. Famous are the stories that go with the building of each dam, each town that housed the workers and their families, and of course, Oak Ridge, the 'Atomic City'. Suffice it to say, that it was the logistics in depth which flowed from the TVA and similar projects which allowed the winning of WWII, despite the apparent military training and discipline advantage of the German forces. Lyndon LaRouche, aware of Germany’s military traditions, was involved in the training of new military recruits for the war, He often remarked that he would roll his eyes every time he saw a new batch of recruits 'from the swamps' and think to himself we had already lost the war. He told Lee Tibler of "The Front Porch" talk show on KXOW radio, in Hot Springs, Arkansas on March 30, 2004: "We won WWII, not with our military capabilities- I was involved in training people at that time: We were taking people out of the swamps, and in 16 weeks trying to get them to be soldiers. These were not the best fighters in the world! They were no match, man for man, with the German soldier. But we had logistics. We had logistics like nobody else had. This was Roosevelt's achievement. We had sheer tonnage per manpower of logistical capability, which overwhelmed anything, any opposition. And we won it with that. The soldier went out, as an instrument of the logistical capability he represented. He was able to do an impossible job, beyond the capability of the better-trained opponent forces, because of that.”