In case you missed the recent round of politi-theater, Congress recently neglected to extend unemployment benefits to nearly 1 million fellow Americans because they’re concerned (as they should be) about deficit spending (although we’ll ignore the fact that bush-era wars/war-on-terror/war-on-drugs spending by the GOP accounts for a large chunk of this). Turns out we’ve been down this road before. In 1937, after unprecedented Federal spending helped cut unemployment in half, Republicans pressured FDR to balance the budget. Unemployment doubled.
“The Depression, as bad as it was, would have been much worse without the government spending,” says Alan Brinkley, a historian of the Depression at Columbia University. “And the 1937 effort to balance the budget — I think almost every economist would agree — was a catastrophe.”
Ok, setting aside the negative humanitarian (and economic) impact of axing benefits for 1million people, I get the tough on big-government thing, and in some ways I agree with it. But when you have economists telling you to keep dumping money into public projects, and historians saying, look this has happened before, it might do you well to listen for change, as opposed to cranking out another soundbite for your conservative base.