Buried on page 51 of President Obama's new budget proposal is a short section titled "Reform TVA" — where "reform" is likely to mean "privatize." It's the quiet beginning of a late chapter in the story of the New Deal, made necessary in part by Obama himself.
The Tennessee Valley Authority provides electricity to some 80,000 square miles of the Southeast. It operates nuclear, coal, and natural gas electricity generation systems; it runs a series of dams, some of which produce hydroelectricity. The only two things that differentiate it from any other massive electricity company are that it is owned by the government, and that it has a deeply significant history.
The 1933 project had a number of ambitious goals: managing flooding on the Tennessee River, restore regional farmland and forests, and, most significantly, produce electricity for a largely rural area. For President Roosevelt, who signed it into law, it offered value far beyond what it did for the region. It created an enormous number of construction jobs and projects for the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. It provided a case study in the power of large-scale government investment. In FDR's words, the project created "a corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise."