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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Republicans Resurrecting Hoover Zombie to Deal with the Financial Crisis

Republicans Resurrecting Hoover Zombie to Deal with the Financial Crisis
Image © Austin Cline
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If history always repeats itself — the first time as tragedy and the second as farce — then conservative Republicans in America today are shooting for the heights of farce in their efforts to resurrect the doomed and decayed body of economic policies of Republican icon Herbert Hoover. No one today can seriously believe that Hoover's policies were wise or productive; on the contrary, they are generally regarded as only having exacerbated the problems, pushing America's economy even further down the drain.

When faced with the financial crisis that would become the Great Depression, Hoover naturally relied upon his ideological assumptions about the nature of national economies. He opposed relief programs designed to aid the growing ranks of the poor and supported cutting back on government spending. Even Roosevelt listened, briefly, to advisors who warned against the use of government spending to stimulate the economy or provide relief to the poor.

These moves failed both presidents. For Hoover, the lesson was too late and may never have made much of an impact given how strong his ideological blinders were. As for Roosevelt, he had a chance to reverse course and create the New Deal.

The article about Herbert Hoover in the Encyclopedia of Capitalism says:

Hoover’s failure to implement relief measures was a reflection of his personal opposition to government intervention in the economy. For example, he opposed the proposals for direct federal relief to unemployed workers; he was against such government handouts because they were in direct conflict with his belief in “rugged individualism.” He also rejected the request of unemployed veterans for immediate payment of their World War I bonuses (not due until 1945). Known as the Bonus March of 1932, the Veterans’ request of their bonuses caused trouble for Hoover and exacerbated his relationship with veterans, who had been staunch supporters of him just three years earlier. [...]

Although Hoover’s vision of the economy had served him well, the years of Depression had rendered obsolete his commitment to non-government action. The American people were ready for a change in government and in economic philosophy and they elected Roosevelt in an overwhelming victory. The Democrats also achieved a substantial majority in both houses of Congress. Thus began the era of the New Deal, a period of great transformation for the American political tradition.

Boy, this sounds awfully familiar — probably more familiar than conservative Republicans today would want to admit. The difference is between macroeconomics and microeconomics. To put it simply, what a household or business needs to do during lean economic times is not the same as what a government needs to do during lean economic times. Governments are not run like households or businesses, nor should they be, no matter how much ignorant conservatives keep repeating the idea. The responsibilities and needs of each are different and they need to be run differently.

So while it's true that a family or business needs to cut back on spending when there is economic trouble, governments may have to do the exact opposite. This may sound counterintuitive, but that's only if your knowledge and experience go no further than microeconomic issues. This is probably the case for most people and isn't necessarily a problem; it only becomes a problem when one also happens to be a politician or pundit and presumes to give advice on how the government should be run. That goes beyond mere error and moves into malpractice.

Despite all this, Republicans keep trying to foist the decayed body of Hoover's economic policies onto the nation like a zombie that's already feasted on all the Republican brains it can find and now needs more sustenance to survive. Republicans shouldn't have resurrected it in the first place, and they only have themselves to blame that the Hoover Zombie has consumed what little mental matter they had left. The rest of us need to denounce what they are doing and prevent others from succumbing to the temptation of letting it nibble on their lobes, even for a little bit.

Note: The General wants you to know that he can in no way be held responsible for the material contained in this post. I, Austin Cline, have to take sole responsibility for this sermon. The General only let me start posting here to give you a chance to find me (that, and because of those photos I have safely locked away in a safety deposit box), but after two years you still haven't succeeded, have you? Hah!

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