Chris Matthews: 'Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bailed Out Capitalism in the 30s'

The President that expanded the role, scope, and size of the federal government more than all that came before him or since is unquestionably Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Yet on Tuesday, moments after calling Congresswoman Michele Bachmann a "balloon head," MSNBC's Chris Matthews actually said FDR "bailed out capitalism in the '30s" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Let’s take a look at this, by the way. This president gets no credit -- it’s almost like Rodney Dangerfield -- I get no respect. I mean, seriously. Suppose a Republican had done this. The Dow Jones, when he came into office in ‘09 in the spring, was down -- at one point down around 7,000. It really dipped down there as he was coming in, in March. It’s up now to 12,000. It’s just on the cusp. It’s been right up there. A little drop today. But it’s basically moving -- went up 100 yesterday. It’s -- Gene, why doesn’t he get credit -- if any Republican Burger (ph) or Babbitt had come in, you know, a Bob Dole or John McCain, typical middle- of-the-road Republican, a Jerry Ford, and gotten the market up 50 percent, their Babbitry would be through the roof! Look what we did for River City! Look what we did for Main Street. This guy must have done something right.

Must have done something right? Because the stock market has rallied since a few months after he was inaugurated?

To be sure, all of us with stock and mutual fund investments are very happy about this. However, when Barack Obama was inaugurated, unemployment was 7.3 percent. Now it's 9.4 percent.

It seems safe to say that the Hope and Change most of his supporters were looking for in November 2008 was gainful employment NOT gains in their stock portfolios.

To put a finer point on this, Gallup released a poll Monday finding America's satisfaction with government and the economy is down since January 2008 declining the most it has in ten years:

  • People's view of their overall quality of life is down five points
  • Their belief that folks have an opportunity to get ahead by working hard has declined by an amazing 13 points
  • Their faith in our system of government and how well it works has dropped by eleven points.

I guess Matthews conveniently missed this poll:

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, and --

MATTHEWS: These clowns won’t give him any credit for this!

(CROSSTALK)

ROBINSON: -- administration that there’s a lot of stuff that he doesn’t get credit for. Nonetheless, people inside the administration are feeling better than they’ve felt in many months now. They had a great December. They feel like the speech in Tucson --

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROBINSON: -- went over so well. They’re not just back in the game, they feel they’re back in control.

MATTHEWS: How can George W. Bush show his face after what he did to the economy, screwing everybody’s 401(k)? Every regular person who’s put a buck away was screwed by George -- he’s out selling books, acting like he’s Mr. Happy. Mark, I know you don’t want to be partisan here.

What George W. Bush did to the economy?

Isn't it marvelous how liberal media members all seem to ignore the fact that Democrats took control of both chambers of Congress in January 2007 before the economy collapsed, and that Sen. Barack Obama voted for every budget that was passed before becoming President?

Reminder to Mr. Matthews: the Dow Jones Industrial average was at 12,539 when Obama and the Democrats took over Congress in 2007; the unemployment rate was at 4.4 percent. But I digress:

MARK HALPERIN, TIME: (INAUDIBLE) Mr. Happy.

MATTHEWS: But the strangeness --

(CROSSTALK)

HALPERIN: He is Mr. Happy. Look, Democratic presidents always have trouble getting credit when the economy does well, for whatever reasons. Bill Clinton had the same problem.

Bill Clinton had trouble getting credit for the economy doing well? Fortunately, Halperin would later correct himself:

HALPERIN: What Obama has to do to get credit --

MATTHEWS: Isn’t it funny that they tend to bail out the -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt bailed out capitalism in the ‘30s. He saved it from God knows what. And Bill Clinton gave them the best decade of their lives. And we’re with a 50 percent hike in the Dow.

FDR bailed out capitalism? The President that basically introduced socialism to this country bailed out capitalism?

What's really amazing about this comment was that throughout this installment of "Hardball," Matthews continually excoriated Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) for comments she made this weekend about the history of slavery. In fact, he repeatedly referred to her as a "balloon head," and in a later segment beat up on Tea Party Express's Sal Russo for being at all associated with her.

Yet here was Matthews in the same installment showing a tremendous lack of historical knowledge concerning Roosevelt and the Depression.

For anyone to say the New Deal was pro-capitalism is absurd. Even the liberal-leaning Wikipedia has a firmer grasp on Roosevelt's economic policies:

During the New Deal period, the federal government evolved into an arbitrator in the competition among elements and classes of society, acting as a force to help some groups and limit the power of others. [...]

By the end of the 1930s, business found itself competing for influence with an increasingly powerful labor movement, with an organized agricultural economy, and occasionally with aroused consumers. This was accomplished by creating a series of government institutions that greatly and permanently expanded the role of the federal government. Thus, perhaps the strongest legacy of the New Deal was to make the federal government a protector of interest groups and a supervisor of competition among them. [...]

Farmers were not allowed to sell for less than the official price. The transportation industry was tightly regulated so that every firm had a guaranteed market and management and labor had high profits and high wages, all at the cost of high prices and much inefficiency[citation needed]. Quotas in the oil industry were fixed by the Railroad Commission of Texas with Tom Connally's federal Hot Oil Act of 1935 which guaranteed that illegal "hot oil" would not be sold.[52] To the New Dealers, the free market meant "cut-throat competition" and they considered that evil. It was not until the 1970s and 1980s that most of the New Deal regulations were relaxed.

Anything in that sound pro-capitalism to you? Lest we forget the various social programs created by FDR, in particular Social Security and welfare.

Maybe most importantly, none of it succeeded in growing the economy. Once again, even Wikipedia admits that:

The number of unemployed in 1929 was estimated at less than 4%, but by 1933 the unemployment rate had jumped up to approximately 25%. The New Deal was designed for complete economic recovery during the depression. However, the New Deal did not achieve full economic recovery. It actually had a limited economic impact. The New Deal failed to lower the unemployment rate below 14%.

Indeed. As most economists and historians agree, it was World War II and not Roosevelt's policies that ended the Depression. Even liberal economist Paul Krugman admitted that in November 2008.

As such, Matthews should have been calling himself balloon head rather than Bachmann.

For the record, Time's Halperin did later correct his view of how the press covered the Clinton economy:

HALPERIN: Bill Clinton, every day, even during the peak of impeachment, got credit for the American people for going out and doing things to make the economy better.

This despite Clinton having very little to do with the '90s economic boom.

Once again, even Krugman knows that.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.