Great Depression

Statist Policy and the Great Depression

It’s difficult to promote good economic policy when some policy makers have a deeply flawed grasp of history.

This is why I’ve tried to educate people, for instance, that government intervention bears the blame for the 2008 financial crisis, not capitalism or deregulation.

Going back in time, I’ve also explained the truth about “sweatshops” and “robber barons.”

But one of the biggest challenges is correcting the mythology that capitalism caused the Great Depression and that government pulled the economy out of its tailspin.

To help correct the record, I’ve shared a superb video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity that discusses the failed statist policies of both Hoover and Roosevelt.

Now, to augment that analysis, we have a video from Learn Liberty. Narrated by Professor Stephen Davies, it punctures several of the myths about government policy in the 1930s.

Professors Davies is right on the mark in every case.

Morning in America, or Mourning in America?

Like a broken record, Obama claims to need four more years to fix the economy because he inherited from George W. Bush the worst economy since the Great Depression. He tells us when he took office he found it was worse than he thought, but that rings hollow. After all, if he thought it was the worst since the Great Depression, how much worse could it have been? Regardless, we need to revisit the claim that this is the worst economy since the Great Depression. Is it really? I think Ronald Reagan would argue differently were he with us today.

According to historical data of the Federal Reserve Bank, when Obama took office, the Fed’s prime interest rate was only 3.25%. By contrast, just one month before Reagan took office from President Jimmy Carter, the prime rate hit an all-time high of 21.5%, dropping to “only” 20.5% the day he took office. The inflation rate Obama inherited was zero, whereas Reagan inherited an inflation rate of 13.5%. The economy under Jimmy Carter was so bad that a new term, “Misery Index”, was created (an economic measure derived by adding the inflation rate to the unemployment rate). The price of gold, a bellwether reflecting economic stability, hit an all-time high in the last year of Carter’s presidency, reaching $2328/ounce in 2011-inflation adjusted dollars. We could go on and on, but the point is that Ronald Reagan would have gladly traded the economy he inherited for the one Obama inherited. Granted, the economy Obama inherited was bad, but not the worst, and he asked us for it.

A candid moment from a member of the FOMC

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke just announced Operation Twist, a new combat operation that will supposedly fix our market woes. Supposedly. (Hey, pass the vodka, will you? I need a drink before I listen to this guy.)

I am not a financial markets expert, and I have not heard that much on the actual details of Operation Twist, but, courtesy of CNN, here’s a brief explanation:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The Federal Reserve announced “Operation Twist” Wednesday, a widely expected stimulus move reviving a policy from the 1960s.

The policy involves selling $400 billion in short-term Treasuries in exchange for the same amount of longer-term bonds, starting in October and ending in June 2012.

 

While the move does not mean the Fed will pump additional money into the economy, it is designed to lower yields on long-term bonds, while keeping short-term rates little changed.

The intent is to thereby push down interest rates on everything from mortgages to business loans, giving consumers and companies an additional incentive to borrow and spend money.

So basically, they’re selling bonds and buying bonds. Nothing exactly Earth shattering here. And definitely not anything that will get us out of this rut.

Interestingly, some members of the FOMC agree with my assessment, and one of them had a speech about it. Mr. Richard W. Fisher, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, had this to say about recent monetary policy, using a Nordic weather station as a metaphor:

Coming to Expect the Unexpected

Shortly after the 2008 presidential election, historian Michael Bechloss gushed with praise for President-Elect Barack Obama, declaring him to be “probably the smartest guy ever to become President”, and raving that his IQ is “off the charts”. When interviewer Don Imus inquired as to what Obama’s IQ is, Bechloss admitted that he did not know, but that did not keep him from gushing effusive praise. We are left to take a historian’s word for it, because Obama has steadfastly refused to release his college transcripts, and his policies while in office certainly do not lend credence to the claims of his brilliance. In fact, if we had to judge the president by the effectiveness of his policies, Obama would be the functional equivalent not of the class valedictorian, but of that weird kid that sat in the corner and ate paste while talking to himself.

On matters of the economy, the president and his advisors seem to be particularly clueless. Consider some statements from the administration of late:

In a recent video clip making the rounds, Obama responds to a question about the near $1 trillion “stimulus” package and its effect on the economy by laughing and then declaring “ ‘Shovel-ready’ was not as shovel-ready as we expected.” This is, you will recall, the same stimulus package that Obama demanded must be passed immediately if we were to stem the possibility of another Great Depression. We were promised (by Christina Romer, the first chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors) that if we passed it, unemployment would stay below 8%. Well, we DID pass it, and we have been rewarded with unemployment levels between 9-10+% for well over two years. Now, we have high unemployment AND staggering quantities of additional debt crippling the economy.

The Summer of Wreckovery continues

No doubt all of us would take some good economic news right now, but that won’t come from the jobs report for June, which was released this morning showing the unemployment rate rising slightly to 9.2% and adding only 18,000 jobs:

U.S. employment growth ground to a halt in June, with employers hiring the fewest number of workers in nine months, dampening hopes the economy was on the cusp of regaining momentum after stumbling in recent months.

Nonfarm payrolls rose only 18,000, the weakest reading since September, the Labor Department said on Friday, well below economists’ expectations for a 90,000 rise.

Many economists raised their forecasts on Thursday after a stronger-than-expected reading on U.S. private hiring from payrolls processor ADP, and they expected gains of anywhere between 125,000 and 175,000.

The unemployment rate climbed to 9.2 percent, the highest since December, from 9.1 percent in May.

Numbers from the two previous months were revised down by 44,000 jobs; April dropped from 232,000 to 217,000 and May from 54,000 to 25,000. In case you’re wondering, the economy needs to create around 120,000 jobs each just to keep up with population growth.

Another bad sign is the U-6 rate, what many economists call the “real unemployment rate,” jumped from 15.8% to 16.2%.

Just like government intervention in the economy in the 1930s prolonged the Great Depression, intervention and uncertainty with President Barack Obama’s economic policies are slowing the pace of recovery today.

Cutting Taxes = Increasing Revenue

Around 150 BC, Emperor Ching Ti came to power in China and immediately faced a major problem: his treasury was empty.

Taxes were very high, but no real revenue was coming in. That’s because the system of taxes at that time was an early form of income tax that centered on the government taking a large percentage of a farmer’s crops.

So Ching Ti did something bold and innovative: he cut taxes.

Overnight, taxes went from over 50% down to about 3%. Farmers, who had fled to the hills to escape draconian tax rates, now came home and began farming again. To make a long story short, Ching Ti’s greatest problem while governing was trying to keep all the grain in his barns from spoiling.

It seems that ancient Chinese history is good for more than just cutesy script on a fortune cookie.

Ron Paul on Morning Joe Discussing the Government Bailouts

See Video

Ron Paul in answer to the idea that “the house is already on fire and we need to put water on it”:  “You’re correct, the house is on fire- you think we’re putting water on it. I think we’re putting kerosene on it.”

For the Love of Keynes

As Henry Paulson recently stated, an economic crisis of this magnitude only comes around once or twice a century. I’m not exactly sure what the basis for such an argument might be other than looking at a sample size of… about one century. Whether there is merit in this assumption or not, we certainly are facing an economic crisis. In times like these, our government leaders look to policy experts and lessons of history - and possibly listen to them more than usual. This doesn’t mean they stop looking to lobbyists and the next election.

Time Magazine Cover: Obama as FDR

Obama will be featured on the cover of Time Magazine again (for what, the millionth time?), but this one may actually grab people’s attention and help their struggling sales. In the Nov. 24th issue they are featuring Obama as FDR. Obama should attempt to learn from FDR, but only to the extent of learning what not to do.

Bush = Hoover 2.0, Part 2 - “Hoover’s Socialism”

But not because of the reasons you may believe
Part I - “The False Claims” - Can be found HERE

Labor Market Intervention

Within a month of the peak of the stock market in September 1929, President Hoover began a campaign of coordination between industry and government that is still seen today. He was under the belief that falling wages would exacerbate the coming recession and that they must be held steady in order to preserve purchasing power.


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