“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana’s famous (and often misstated) quote came to mind when I read this headline from Tom Dennis’ latest editorial for the Grand Forks Herald:
Herbert Hoover budget? I can only assume, because Dennis makes no mention of Hoover in the body of his editorial, that he’s alluding to the assumption that cuts in government spending are somehow detrimental to the economy. It is a perception, based on political myth-making rather than historical fact, that Hoover was a conservative laissez faire budget-cutter whose aggressive government downsizing launched the country from a mild recession into the Great Depression.
I don’t know if this perception of Hoover stems from the fact that he was a stalwart in the Coolidge administration which preceded his term in office (Coolidge was, in fact, a tax-cutting fiscal conservative who presided over the economic boom called the Roaring 20′s), but it’s demonstrably not true.
This chart, courtesy of the Cato Journal, shows total federal outlays as a percentage of gross national product for the years 1920 – 1940. Keep in mind that Hoover was in office between 1929 and 1933:
As you can see, between 1929 and 1933 the nation saw a dramatic increase in federal spending. The Hoover approach to budgeting, and economic stimulus, wasn’t all that different from that embraced by President Obama and Democrats. Hoover attempted to shock the national economy out of a recession through aggressive federal spending and protectionist trade policies.
What he did was make things worse. Just as Obama’s federal “stimulus” efforts have prolonged our current “Great Recession.”
It’s one thing for a commentator like Dennis to be suspicious of the Ryan budget. It’s another thing entirely to attack that budget on bogus historical assumptions.Tags: herbert hoover, North Dakota News, paul ryan, tom dennis