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Affluent Christian Investor | March 30, 2020

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Recessions Are Predictable, And So Is Government’s Failure To End Them

In March 2012 Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan commented about the debt crisis resulting from the Great Recession of 2008, saying,

“This coming debt crisis is the most predictable crisis we’ve ever had in this country.”[1]

Congressman Ryan is echoing economist Murray Rothbard when he stated decades prior,

“The guilt for the Great Depression must, at long last, be lifted from the shoulders of the free-market economy, and placed where it properly belongs: at the doors of politicians, bureaucrats, and the mass of “enlightened” economists.  And in any other depression, past or future, the story will be the same.”[2]

In fact, Enlightenment philosopher John Locke voiced this very concern and re-examination of governmental power in 1690 when he stated,

“Men found it necessary to examine more carefully the original and rights of government; and to find out ways to restrain the exorbitances and prevent the abuses of that power which they having entrusted in another’s hands only for their own good, they found was made use of to hurt them.”[3]

Not even a year after Congressman Ryan’s comment, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its report in January 2013 stating the United States’ “current fiscal policy is unsustainable.”[4] In fact, the GAO reported,

“The comprehensive long-term fiscal projections…show that – absent policy changes – the federal government continues to face an unsustainable path, [and] Over the long term, the structural imbalance between spending and revenue will lead to continued growth of debt held by the public as a share of GDP; this means the current structure of the federal budget is unsustainable.”[5]

During the Depression of the 1930s, the stock market reached above 100 points by mid-1933, it lingered around 100 points for two years.[6] Volume of sales on Wall Street had peaked in 1929 at 1,125,000,000 riding on Calvin Coolidge’s leadership, but while dropping to 810,000,000 in 1930, remained strong that year. But sales volume tumbled in 1931 and 1932 respectively at 577,000,000 and 425,000,000. President Roosevelt’s policies, as he assumed the presidency, shattered the already fragile economy. Sales volume on Wall Street peaked a bit at 655,000,000 in 1933, but plunged to 324,000,000 in 1934, and remained under 400,000,000 with a couple of exceptions for the next 19 years.[7] The Gross National Product, GNP, also dropped significantly from the 1920s to the 1930s with a 13.6 percent drop from 1929 to 1930 in the GNP per capita figure – considering the stock market crash of 1929 this was certainly a recoverable drop. But the interventionary policies that followed caused a severe drop in per capita GNP. Under Roosevelt in 1933, the per capita GNP had dropped by 48 percent, losing nearly half of its value. It would take until 1941 for it to reach back up to the 1920s levels, but, of course it was bolstered by war production; which while necessary for the war effort, was not wealth creation going into the pocket of Americans.[8]

“In other words, the portion of the total economy controlled by Washington increased by a staggering 360% in the course of just seven years [1933 to 1940] – without providing discernable benefit to the economy.”[9]

The destructiveness of Roosevelt’s vision and policies reverberate massively even today. Although, compounded by executives and legislators from our own contemporaries, many of the mechanisms and habits of today are the direct linage from Roosevelt. Even Roosevelt’s hand-picked Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau,[10] would opine on the utter failure of FDR’s fiscal policies – which Morgenthau played a critical role in crafting. Morgenthau said:

We have tried spending money.  We are spending more than we have ever before and it does not work.  And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong, as far as I am concerned, somebody else can have my job.  I want to see this country prosperous.  I want to see people get a job.  I want to see people get enough to eat.  We have never made good on our promises.  We have never taken care of them…I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started.

Robert L. Doughton, congressman from North Carolina, replied, “And an enormous debt to boot!” [11]

Enormous debt to boot, indeed! Certainly our debt today would make Morgenthau blush, if not pass out.  This is not the way of Founding Fathers’ America, nor is it God’s way; “The borrower is the slave of the lender.”[12]

Almost four years earlier, in July of 1935, Morgenthau had already acknowledged the failure of the New Deal. Morgenthau noted, “If we keep on spending money at the rate we are and in such a helter-skelter, hit and miss method, we cannot help but be riding for a fall unless we continue to decrease our deficit.”[13] FDR was knowingly running ill-conceived experiments on the American economy. “It is common sense,” Roosevelt said, “to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”[14]

FDR never admitted the rampant failures of his programs; and unfortunately, the citizens of the United States were continually pummeled by his endless economically disastrous experiments.  Roosevelt could care less about the economic brutality of his programs.  When approached by one of his economic advisors about the problems that would arise from his social security scheme Roosevelt replied, “I guess you’re right on the economics… [but] with those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program… [it’s] politics all the way through.”[15]

[1] Paul Ryan, March 12, 2012, “America Deserves a Better Path,” House Budget Committee Chairman, [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwDai5NtXa0&feature=player_embedded#!].

[2] Murray N. Rothbard, 2008 (originally published in 1963), America’s Great Depression, (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute), p. 337.   (Emphasis added.)

[3] John Locke, 1982, ed. Richard Cox (originally published in 1690), Second Treatise of Government, “Book VIII:  Of the Beginning of Political Societies, Sec. 111,” (Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, Inc.), p. 69.

[4] United States Government Accountability Office, January 17, 2013, “2012 Financial Report of the United States Government,” p. 18 and p. 21.

[5] United States Government Accountability Office, January 17, 2013, “2012 Financial Report of the United States Government,” pp. 31-32 and p. 225.  Also see Charts 2 and 3 on p. 160.

[6] Data reference from [http://stockcharts.com/charts/historical/djia19201940.html].

[7] Data taken from U.S Department of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1957, 1961, (Washington D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office), p. 659.

[8] Data taken from U.S Department of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1957, 1961, (Washington D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office), p. 139.

[9] Michael Medved, October 24, 2007, “How Government Expansion Worsens Hard Times,” townhall.com, [http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelmedved/2007/10/24/how_government_expansion_worsens_hard_times/page/full/].

[10] Burton W. Folsom, Jr., 2008, New Deal or Raw Deal?  How FDR’s Economic Legacy has Damaged America, (New York, NY: Threshold Editions), pp. 1-2.  Morgenthau was much more than a close advisor to FDR, he was a longtime very close friend.  Morgenthau “was the president’s longtime neighbor, close confidant, and – would be for over a decade – his loyal secretary of the treasury….Eleanor Roosevelt once said Morgenthau was one of only two men who could tell her husband “categorically” that he was wrong and get away with it…. Morgenthau cherished a photo of himself and the president….with Roosevelt’s inscription: “to Henry…from one of two of a kind.””

[11] Morgenthau Dairy, May 9, 1939, Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library, [http://www.burtfolsom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/Morgenthau.pdf].  Also see Walter Williams, July 14, 2010, “A Failed Obama Hero,” townhall.com, [http://townhall.com/columnists/WalterEWilliams/2010/07/14/a_failed_obama_hero/page/full/], and referenced in Burton W. Folsom, Jr., 2008, New Deal or Raw Deal?  How FDR’s Economic Legacy has Damaged America, (New York, NY: Threshold Editions), p. 2 and p. 144.

[12] Guideposts, The Guideposts Parallel Bible (Carmel, NY: Guideposts), Revised Standard, Proverbs 22:7, p. 1657.

[13] Burton W. Folsom, Jr., 2008, New Deal or Raw Deal?  How FDR’s Economic Legacy has Damaged America, (New York, NY: Threshold Editions), p. 180.  The quote is from John M. Blum, 1965, From the Morgenthau Diaries: Years of Urgency, 1938-1941, (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.), p. 242.

[14] Burton W. Folsom, Jr., 2008, New Deal or Raw Deal?  How FDR’s Economic Legacy has Damaged America, (New York, NY: Threshold Editions), p. 103.

[15] Burton W. Folsom, Jr., 2008, New Deal or Raw Deal?  How FDR’s Economic Legacy has Damaged America, (New York, NY: Threshold Editions), p. 117.

 

 

 

Originally published on Townhall Finance.

 

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