I would like to commend the headline writer of “Obama’s leadership echoes FDR” describing President Barack Obama’s leadership as echoing Franklin Delano Roosevelt. A more true and accurate statement is hard to find. I find it strange, however, that Alex Turner commended Obama on that statement in his article in Thursday’s Skiff.
Roosevelt never saw the end of the Great Depression in his lifetime. For the entire 12 years of his time in the top executive role, Roosevelt did indeed undercut Congress to get bills passed, yet it wasn’t until 1946 that GDP started to actually rise. Roosevelt’s own Treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, said in 1939, “We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work … I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started … And an enormous debt to boot! We are just sitting here and fiddling, and I am just wearing myself out and getting sick. Because why? I can’t see any daylight.”
In 1921, eight years before Black Tuesday kicked off the Great Depression, then-President Warren Harding found himself in the greatest economic downturn since the Revolutionary War as the stock market’s value dropped more than 45 percent. Unlike both Herbert Hoover and his successor Roosevelt, Harding took no governmental action outside of cutting federal expenses and the federal tax rate – no public works acts, no stimulus bills and no gross overspending and inflation of currency. But did this seeming inaction produce results? The term “The Roaring Twenties” was not coined in a depression economy. As the market was allowed to self-correct and investors gained their confidence back naturally, the economy shifted into a period of high growth. This is quite the opposite treatment that both the 1929 and now 2008 economic crisis received from our federal government.
Public works projects, much akin to those that Turner praises, did not (and do not) truly create jobs – they weren’t necessary in the first place and merely function as a waste of taxpayers’ (i.e. your and my) money.
Milton Friedman, famed economist from the University of Chicago, once took a trip to India and saw men digging ditches with shovels while equipment that could have done the job more efficiently sat idle on the work site. The Indian representative, proud that he had “created jobs,” asked Friedman what he thought. His response: “Why not give them spoons?” Judging an economy by merely giving people something to do is not only inaccurate, but misleading.
Turner calls for an end to the bureaucratic nonsense, and I couldn’t agree more. This may serve as a caution to Turner: History has shown that Roosevelt’s economic policies were unsuccessful and that the federal government cannot “solve” the recession. I hope that President Obama comes to this realization soon.
Andrew Wilson is an accounting graduate student from St. Louis, Missouri.