Sunday, July 10, 2011

Newsbusters' Newst Deal: A Depressing Lie About the Great Depression

On this week's edition of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," reactionary columnist Ann Coulter told the Nation's Chris Hayes that his mother, because she is a government employee, didn't have a real job and is, in fact, just "a drain on society." Standard fare from Coulter, a vapid cretin who has made her fortune peddling ugly, brainless insults to an ugly, brainless audience. Among that audience is counted Newsbusters' associate editor Noel Sheppard, an exceedingly stupid and perpetually dishonest man who, yesterday, felt compelled, by these personal qualities, to offer Coulter an "attaboy." An ill-intentioned moron praising a bird of like feather is hardly news but in the midst of it, Sheppard let fly a Coulterish howler regarding the Great Depression and the New Deal and I decided I'd jot down some remarks on it.

On "Real Time," author Amanda Foreman had asserted that "government does not create jobs." Eventually, a surprised Bill Maher asked: "During the Depression, government didn't create jobs?" Recounting this part of the exchange, Sheppard jumps in:
"Once again Maher showed his stupidity. The unemployment rate in 1929 was 3.2 percent. After federal spending tripled from $3 billion to $9 billion, unemployment was 17.2 percent ten years later.

"Liberals just can't get it through their heads that all the money and New Deal programs thrown at the Depression did little to solve it."
The Great Depression only began toward the end of 1929. That 3.2% estimated unemployment rate is from the pre-Depression economy. Pre-New Deal, as well. The New Deal didn't begin until 1933, by which point unemployment was a staggering 24.9%. That's the proper baseline for evaluating the effect of that era's spending  on unemployment. There's a good reason Sheppard didn't use it--unemployment was dramatically reduced during the New Deal, and, in fact, never went that high again. By 1937, it had been cut down to 14.3%. A mini-recession hit in 1938 and bumped it up a bit,[*] but the massive government spending that came with World War II finally beat back unemployment, ended the Depression and, in fact, made the U.S. the most powerful economy in the world; the years that followed--years of largescale government intervention in the economy--saw the greatest economic boom the U.S. has ever experienced.

These are facts that dumb liberals and stupid ol' Bill Maher have gotten through their heads. It's likely that Sheppard has gotten them through his head at some point in his life as well and just preferred lying to sharing them with his readers.

--j.

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[*] Unemployment, during that recession, briefly rose to 19% and in recent years, it has become a common practice, among conservative commentators, to compare unemployment as it stood at the beginning of the New Deal to unemployment as it stood at the trough of that recession and to argue that the New Deal wasn't able to accomplish much. A big lie but nowhere near the scale of the one offered by Sheppard.

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