ABC Finds FDR Partly to Blame for 10-Year Great Depression

On Saturday’s Good Morning America, ABC ran an unusual report that placed some of the blame for the Great Depression’s length on government intervention by Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as Herbert Hoover, and concluded by questioning whether the current plans could do harm. After an unidentified economist contended that "the government from Hoover to Roosevelt made it worse by intervening too much and too arbitrarily," correspondent Bill Blakemore concluded: "And now, is the Bush government intervening too much arbitrarily with its $700 billion bailout? That’s a million dollar question, so to speak, for those trying to guess when this crisis will end."

Blakemore’s attention to this often ignored take on government intervention came at the end of a report that looked back at the Great Depression. After giving Roosevelt credit for injecting America with a "can do" spirit, Blakemore noted that the Great Depression ended its 10-year run as a result of World War II. He then asked the question of why the Stock Market Crash of 1929 resulted in the Great Depression:

BLAKEMORE: So what made the crash of ‘29 lengthen into a depression?

WOMAN: Because the government from Hoover to Roosevelt made it worse by intervening too much and too arbitrarily.

BLAKEMORE: And now, is the Bush government intervening too much arbitrarily with its $700 billion bailout? That’s a million dollar question, so to speak, for those trying to guess when this crisis will end.

Anchors Bill Weir and Kate Snow then tried to provide context by cautioning viewers that the current economic situation is not near the scale of the Great Depression:

WEIR: If you do look back, 90 percent drop in the stock market, 25 percent unemployment, the Dust Bowl, huge drought.

SNOW: We’re nothing like that.

WEIR: We're nowhere near a Great Depression. Some context is good.

Below is a complete transcript of the story from the Saturday, October 11, Good Morning American on ABC:

BILL WEIR: Well, as we wind down this week, you know, we’ve heard the words "Great Depression" thrown around quite a bit.

KATE SNOW: Scary, yes, scary words. So we thought we’d take a look back. What led to the actual crash in 1929 and the terrible times that followed that? And what lessons can we maybe learn from it? ABC’s Bill Blakemore has that for us.

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT: -that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

BILL BLAKEMORE: 1933: four years after the Crash of '29. The Depression was still going, but new President FDR calmed the country asking everyone to think about their own fear, their own psychologies, and get a grip. Irving Kahn, 102, remembers. He became a trader on Wall Street just before that crash came.

IRVING KAHN, FORMER WALL STREET TRADER: And I didn't like the business after one week. I’d get off the floor on the exchange. It was like being in a casino. Yelling, make a lot, lose a lot, not a real business.

BLAKEMORE: And then, as the story goes, FDR arrived, and Americans started pulling together, reflected in those 1930s Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movies where the "can do" spirit takes over with a vengeance.

[MOVIE CLIP WITH MICKEY ROONEY]

BLAKEMORE: But it wasn't just enthusiasm that ended the Depression after 10 years – World War II did. The hard question, say scholars, is why did the crash of '29 become a depression in the first place?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Markets do crash. We've had credit crises, many crises, many, many times without depressions.

BLAKEMORE: For example, the market crash of 1987.

WOMAN: ‘87 was more like one of those events. If you woke up a year later, you wouldn’t even remember it.

BLAKEMORE: So what made the crash of ‘29 lengthen into a depression?

WOMAN: Because the government from Hoover to Roosevelt made it worse by intervening too much and too arbitrarily.

BLAKEMORE: And now, is the Bush government intervening too much arbitrarily with its $700 billion bailout? That’s a million dollar question, so to speak, for those trying to guess when this crisis will end. For Good Morning America, Bill Blakemore, ABC News.

WEIR: If you do look back, 90 percent drop in the stock market, 25 percent unemployment, the Dust Bowl, huge drought.

SNOW: We’re nothing like that.

WEIR: We're nowhere near a Great Depression. Some context is good. We'll be back.