Maybe FDR had a time machine

MAYBE FDR HAD A TIME MACHINE…. I’m not just mentioning this to make fun of a dimwitted conservative Republican lawmaker. Sure, it’s part of my motivation, but there’s more to it than just mockery. (via Matt Yglesias)

The day before, as [Republican Rep. Steve Austria of Ohio] was explaining his opposition to the huge federal stimulus package backed by President Barack Obama, he told The Dispatch editorial board: “When Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression…. He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history.”

Austria said he gave that message via telephone to constituents at a recent town-hall meeting.

Roosevelt took office in March 1933. Many historians date the Depression from the stock-market crash later dubbed Black Tuesday, which happened in 1929.

Right. Roosevelt couldn’t “put our country into a Great Depression” with the New Deal because 1933 comes after 1929. Republicans may be inclined to create their own reality, but they shouldn’t create their own calendars.

Now, let’s not pick on Rep. Austria too much; the poor guy apparently isn’t very bright. Instead, let’s consider two pertinent angles to this.

First, Austria’s argument is a reminder of why negotiations between the White House and congressional Republicans aren’t going to go well — ever. On the one hand, we have a president who seems to care a little too much about engaging the minority party in good-faith policy discussions. On the other, we have a party comparing itself to the Taliban and publicly arguing that FDR created the Great Depression. Between sanity and craziness, there is no common ground.

And second, Austria later backtracked, saying, “I did not mean to imply in any way that President Roosevelt was responsible for putting us into the Depression, but rather was trying to make the point that Roosevelt’s attempt to use significant spending to get us out of the Depression did not have the desired effect.”

Austria is, of course, wrong about this, too. The New Deal was wildly successful, and only faltered when Roosevelt started listening (temporarily) to the same arguments conservatives are spouting now.

Jason Linkins reminded me of this graphic that Rachel Maddow used on the air the other night, which helps drive the point home nicely: