Rachel Maddow Rewrites History, Reinforces Liberal Myth

Clownish Rachel Maddow Rewrites History of Great Depression,
Reinforces Liberal Creation Myth

By Jack Coleman

Must have been that full moon. Or "fool full moon" as Rachel Maddow stumbled in referring to it.

Ifthe Newseum is accepting suggestions for exhibits, a possibility comesto mind -- the Pantheon of Unfortunate Punditry. First submission --Maddow's hilarious revisionism of Herbert Hoover on her MSNBC showFriday. I've watched the segment several times, each time in awe atMaddow's supreme confidence, unrivalled since Ted Baxter in his heyday.I plan to preserve it for posterity, to share with my children as acautionary tale -- This is what happens when a person makes an utterfool of herself in public.

Maddow told of Vice President DickCheney visiting Capitol Hill earlier in the week and warningcongressional Republicans that if the GOP blocks the auto bailout, "...We will be known as the party of Herbert Hoover forever," according tothe Los Angeles Times.

Here's where Maddow kicked into gear, emboldened by the keen awarenessthat nearly all her viewers and hardly anyone at MSNBC know enoughhistory to refute her assertions -- (this column continues beneath the video.)


That's a bad thing! Hoover is a political epithet in badeconomic times because his response to the Depression (pause) was tofirst do nothing and then do stuff that made it worse. The countryneeded massive federal spending to stimulate demand and keep peopleworking.

Hoover cut spending.The government had an economic responsibility to borrow some money and get credit moving. Hoover picked that awesome time to balance the budget. Everything was going the wrongdirection economically, so the government needed to make some big, bold moves in the opposite direction.

Hoover picked that time to proclaim his own impotence, telling Congress in 1930, 'Economicdepression cannot be cured by legislative action or executivepronouncement.' (Maddow holds photo of Hoover to her face and mimicshim) I'm Herbert Hoover, I can't do anything helpful. How about I hurtthe economy some more instead because of my dumb, moralistic,ideologically-driven, ignorant, short-term, self-serving, bad ideas?I'll take this Depression and make it not just good, but great! That'sthe ticket -- the Great Depression!

Whatmade Maddow's puppetry all the more insipid is that she's been on atear of late condemning -- you guessed it -- revisionist history,specifically where she sees it emanating from the Bush administrationon Iraq. Maddow has apparently decided to fight firefighters with fire,responding to her fantasies of revisionism where none exist andproviding examples of the real thing.

For example, her claim thatHoover "cut" spending. By this, Maddow must mean Hoover did notincrease federal spending at a rate preferred by liberals, who haveresorted to this rhetorical sleight of hand for decades.

But as conservatives and Republicans are well aware, Hoover did the opposite -- he increased spending, and not by a little.

Inhis book "The Herbert Hoover Story," written by Reader's Digest senioreditor Eugene Lyons and published in 1959, Lyons wrote this aboutHoover's alleged tightwad tendencies --

He sought to provide jobs through public works; morewas spent for this purpose in his administration than in the precedingthirty-six years, including the building of the Panama Canal. (emphasis in the original)

Surely Maddow has heard of at least one of these projects, which bears the name of the man instrumental in initiating it -- the Hoover Dam-- the largest public-works behemoth of the era. Other public projectsbegun by Hoover include the San Francisco Bay Bridge and the LosAngeles Aqueduct.

How's this for irony? Hoover's response tothe stock market crash in 1929 was to call for massive federal spendingon public works, which is exactly what Maddow wants Obama to do(though Maddow prefers to fetishize it as "infrastructure," a word shecan't utter without squirming in her seat).

In an Oct. 5 article for National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg wrote --

William Leuchtenburg, possibly the greatest authority on the FDR era, wrote some years ago, "Almost every historian now recognizes that the image of Hoover as a 'do-nothing' president is inaccurate."

Afterthe stock market crash in 1929, Hoover browbeat business leaders tokeep wages and prices high. He invested heavily in public worksprojects. He pushed for an international moratorium on debts. Hecreated the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which later became ahome for many of FDR's Brain Trusters. Hoover increased farm subsidies enormously.

Some of Hoover's interventions were good but ineffectual. A few were very, very bad and very effective.

In 1932, Hoover in effect repealed Calvin Coolidge's tax cuts, increasing the rates for the poorest taxpayers by more than 100 percent and hiking the top rate from 25 percent to 63 percent. Worse, contrary to his own better instincts, Hoover signed the disastrous Smoot-Hawley trade bill that raised protectionist walls at precisely the moment the world needed trade the most.

ThatMaddow knows little of Hoover is not surprising, despite the fact sheearned a doctorate -- in political science at that -- from Oxford. Formany liberals, American history starts on March 4, 1933 withRoosevelt's inauguration and FDR uttering the words, "We have nothingto fear ..."

But you'd think their knowledge of history wouldextend a tad earlier, to include the 1932 campaign and Roosevelt'scriticism of Hoover -- as a spendthrift hellbent on enlarging thebreadth and cost of goverment. Doing so, however, could proveproblematic for liberals' foremost creation myth -- that Hoover causedthe Great Depression, "Did Nothing" in response, and Roosevelt rode tothe rescue. As mythology goes, this one is Homeric in its longevity andas accurate in its depiction of actual events.

Here's what Roosevelt said in accepting the Democratic presidential nomination --

I know something of taxes. For three long years I have been going upand down this country preaching that government -- federal and localand state -- costs too much. As an immediate program of action we mustabolish useless offices. We must eliminate unnecessary functions ofgovernment -- functions, in fact, that are not definitely essential tothe continuance of government. We must merge, we must consolidatesubdivisions of government, and, like the private citizen, give upluxuries which we can no longer afford.

Roosevelt'sconcern was understandable, given the nation's economic crisis andfederal spending under Hoover. As pointed out by former Business Weekbureau chief Andrew W. Wilson in a Nov. 4 op-ed in the Wall StreetJournal, "Five Myths About the Great Depression" --

Afterdeclining or holding steady through most of the 1920, federal spendingsoared between 1929 and 1932 -- increasing by more than 50 percent, thebiggest increase in federal spending ever recorded during peacetime.

Imentioned Maddow's commentary to a friend over the weekend, who told mehe'd also seen it. That's the perception of Hoover, he sighed, and myfriend was right. Just as it was global "perception" for millennia thatthe world was flat. Agreed, perception often trumps reality inpolitics, but perception cannot trump truth.

This remains astrue today it was in 1774 when a Boston lawyer named John Adams pointedout the stubborn nature of facts while defending British soldiers froman earlier pernicious perception.

Updated by N. Sheppard at 2:50 PM: Toconfirm what Andrew W. Wilson wrote on November 4, and to demonstratejust how wrong Maddow is about spending under Hoover, all one need dois examine the Historical Tables of the U.S. Budget available at OMB. 

Whatmost folks -- especially liberals! -- don't understand today is thatprior to the Great Depression, the U.S. government didn't like to spenda lot of money except in times of war. As such, spending declinedprecipitously in the years following World War I, and then basicallyremained flat from 1924 through 1928.

Then, contrary to Maddow'sassertion, in 1929 spending rose $166 million, or 5.6 percent. This maynot seem much, but it was the biggest increase in spending since theend of World War I.

The following year, spending increased $193million, or 6 percent. In 1931, it increased $257 million, or 7.7percent. In 1932, it increased $1.08 billion, or 30 percent. 

Add it all up, and annual spending increased by almost $1.7 billion dollars or 57 percent while Hoover was President.

Is this what Maddow believes to be a spending cut?

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