This shouldn’t be surprising, actually. In his acceptance speech at the DNC last week, in an attempt to describe how he would fix the situation, Barack Obama said this: “It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.”
That’s right. The kind of “bold, persistent experimentation” that kept the economy sick for almost a decade after Roosevelt took office, and ended only when World War II intervened. Such “experiments” included jailing a tailor for charging too low a price to press a shirt, and arbitrarily raising the price of gold by twenty-one cents because “three times seven is a lucky number.”
It is now commonly accepted among economic historians that it was the war that ended the Depression, not Roosevelt’s policies per se, but the reason often given remains a misinterpretation of the cause. The Depression didn’t end because of the massive increase in government spending on the war, as the Keynesians would have it, but rather because a) the unemployed men were taken off the streets and shipped overseas and b) Roosevelt ended his toxic tinkering with his economic toy because he was too distracted by the war. When he died in April of 1945, his own “bold, persistent experimentation” came to a definite end, and though Harry Truman wanted to continue it, the new Republican Congress put a final end to it (sound familiar?) and the economy finally fully recovered in the late forties after fifteen years of deprivation and the prevention of wealth creation.
So given that history and the president’s own history of throwing wrenches in the works of real job and wealth creation with his general war on business, his arbitrary shutdown of Gulf oil exploration, his refusal to allow the pipeline to be built, etc., let’s apply Occam’s Razor. Which is more likely: that there is something fundamentally different about this particular recession that created the asymmetry between the loss and recovery, and would prevent “any president” from fixing it, or that (like Franklin Roosevelt) this president simply doesn’t know what he’s doing? “Experimentation,” after all, is something one does when trying to figure out how things work, not what one does when trying to fix things that one already knows how they work. A plan to do “experimentation” is in fact an admission of ignorance about the process being experimented upon.
Almost four years ago, we elected a man to fix this economy, despite his complete lack of experience or credentials for doing such a thing, and abundant evidence even at the time that wealth redistribution was a much higher concern for him than wealth creation. He’s had over three and a half years of on-the-job training, and based on his speech last night, which was a montage of dozens of other speeches over the past forty months, he has learned nothing at all. As Clint said last week, time to let him go.