Maddow Guest Incoherent on Great Depression

Congressman Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, "went to a really different school" than Republicans to study economics.

He just never went to class, judging by DeFazio's disjointed remarks about the Great Depression during his most recent appearance on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."

During a segment in which Maddow talked about congressional Republicans proposing an alternative budget to Obama's fiscal blueprint for fiscal 2010, with the GOP pushing for spending cuts, Maddow asked this of DeFazio --

MADDOW: Isn't it true though that the idea of freezing spending, not doing any sort of stimulus, of sort of hamstringing government, wasn't there sort of a pilot project for that during the Great Depression?

DEFAZIO: Yeah, well, we had first, I mean, Hoover before and deepening the fall into the Depression. And then actually a couple of times Roosevelt stopped spending and the economy sank back down again. So, we, it's pretty well, but they've got a whole new reconstructive theory about Roosevelt too, that the spending wasn't what got us out of the Depression, it was the parts, you know, they're just, have these weird ideas, I don't know, I studied economics and I went to a really different school than they did.

Ah, thanks for clarifying that, congressman. Aptly enough, DeFazio said this on April Fools Day, though I doubt many of his constituents were amused. At least DeFazio's stream of consciousness brought unintended mirth to the sane side of the aisle.

This might be the only instance in the history of dutifully leftward MSNBC that anyone, host or guest, has acknowledged that liberal icon Franklin Roosevelt reduced government spending during the Depression. 

Given DeFazio's inability to speak with clarity on the subject, it would be expecting too much for him to point out when FDR cut spending -- in his first year in office, in response to the perceived profligacy of his GOP predecessor, Herbert Hoover, and again three times in the five years to follow.

Follow this link for an Office of Management and Budget chart showing government spending for the history of the country (see Table 1.1 and refer to column for total outlays). 

As shown on the chart, federal spending increased from $2.9 billion in 1928 to $4.6 billion in 1932, a hardly stingy 57 percent during Hoover's single term. FDR cut spending in 1933, his first year as president, and again in 1935, 1937 and 1938 (double DeFazio's claim of "a couple of times").

This also marks the first time in more than a year of cringing through Maddow on radio and television that I've heard her refer to the Depression and not state a demonstrable falsehood about Hoover -- and while refraining from use of an insipid prop. ThinkProgress indeed!

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts