Opinion » Ted Rall

Barack Hussein Hoover

It's 1933 again. But FDR lost.


NEW YORK--When the economic collapse began, many Americans took comfort in the historical parallels with the Great Depression. As it had in 1929, the current crisis began under the clueless reign of a Republican. But all was not lost. The Democrats were coming! Barack "Yes We Can" Obama, our new FDR, would clean up Bush's mess.

In the fall of 2008, Bush looted the stripped-bare U.S. Treasury one final time. Billions of dollars in "bailouts," for banks, insurance companies and automobile manufacturers were doled out. Millions of homeowners who faced foreclosure got no help.

The way to stimulate a consumer-based economy is to put money directly into consumers' pockets. Instead, Bush deployed the standard GOP trickle-down approach. Boosting the banks restores liquidity, allowing individuals and businesses to resume borrowing. But the banks weren't stupid. They no longer wanted to lend to people who couldn't repay them. They held on to the cash. Credit markets seized up.

During the 1932 campaign, Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised that help was on the way. In radio addresses and in speeches across the country, FDR argued against Hoover's trickle-down approach. He spoke on behalf of the "forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid."

Attacking the 2008-09 Great Recession wasn't rocket science. The causes of the economic collapse were strikingly similar: a real estate bubble feeding a stock market bubble, excessive borrowing and lending. So were the results: By the time Obama became president, the real unemployment rate--calculated the way it was in 1933--was 20 percent, the same as when FDR took office.

Keynesian-influenced economists pushed the incoming Obama administration to repeat FDR's successful approach. Putting job creation first, FDR's New Deal programs directly put millions of people to work on government projects employing 8 million Americans during its existence. There's plenty of work to do now: The country needs a national high-speed rail system to compete with Europe and Asia, not to mention new mass transit systems and school buildings.

Nine months into his presidency, it is clear that Obama is more Hoover than FDR. There has been virtually no investment in public infrastructure. There will be no public jobs programs. According to The New York Times, "Obama's economic advisers are sifting options for a new package of tax cuts and other job creation measures to be unveiled in next year's State of the Union address." No one in Congress has proposed a jobs-creation bill. Instead, they want to extend unemployment benefits to 79 weeks.

More than one out of five Americans is jobless. There are six jobseekers for every job. Inflation is out of control. Yet he thinks we can wait until January 2010? Does he really believe that tax cuts create jobs?

When Bush flew home to Texas, we thought we were getting an FDR to replace a Hoover. Instead, we got another Hoover.

Ted Rall is the author of the graphic memoir The Year of Loving Dangerously.