Friday, January 02, 2009

Did you hear the one about FDR and the Great Depression?

Did you hear the latest nonsense from dimbulbs on the right? Yes, I know, it is hard to keep track. But specifically I mean the bit about how FDR’s New Deal programs and government spending actually prolonged The Great Depression?
It sounds contrary to everything that we learned in history. Well, that’s because it is. It’s complete bullshit.
David Sirota does us all the favor of quashing it in this piece for Salon.
Of course, that won’t matter for most rightwingers. Things like the truth, logic and rational argument are all easily discarded whenever it conflicts with their ideology. The “FDR prolonged the Depression” nonsense fits in well with their preconceived notions, so they naturally embrace it irregardless of how completely stupid it is.

Here is a good example of how this kind of silliness gets perpetuated in rightwing circles.
JimmyK takes an article by historian Alan Brinkley and carefully extracts a section that is critical of the New Deal to support the meme about prolonging the Great Depression. But left out is the all the stuff at the beginning of the article praising 90 percent of the New Deal programs....

Does the New Deal provide a useful model for fixing our own troubled economy? In many respects, yes. The frenzy of activity and innovation that marked Franklin Roosevelt's initial months in office--a welcome contrast to the seeming paralysis of the discredited Hoover regime--helped first and foremost to lessen the panic that had gripped the nation. And, during the prewar years of his presidency, Roosevelt's actions produced an unprecedented array of tangible achievements as well. He moved quickly and effectively to address a wave of bank failures that threatened to shut down the financial system. He created the Securities and Exchange Commission, which helped make the beleaguered stock market more transparent and thus more trustworthy. He responded to out-of-control unemployment by launching the Civil Works Administration, the Public Works Administration, and the Works Progress Administration, which created jobs for millions of the unemployed. He passed the Social Security Act, which over time provided support to the jobless, the indigent, and the elderly--and the Wagner Act, which eventually raised wages by giving unions the right to bargain collectively with employers. He signed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which created the minimum wage and the 40-hour workweek.

And even in his criticism, Brinkley notes that one of the biggest mistakes of the period - the Federal Reserve Boards insistence on keeping interest rates high - was not a product of New Deal policy.

And now we have the rest of the story...

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