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No, Andrew, Ronald Reagan was no Herbert Hoover*

Daniel Mitchell, one of my favorite Fellows at one of my favorite think tanks (which I heartily encourage you to support) takes Andrew Sullivan to the woodshed today for suggesting that Herbert Hoover wanted to reduce the burden of government spending:

I went to the Historical Tables of the Budget and looked up the annual spending data. As you can see from the chart, it turns out that Hoover increased government spending by 47 percent in just four years (if you adjust for falling prices, as Russ Roberts did at Cafe Hayek, it turns out that Hoover increased government spending by more than 50 percent). . . .

Sullivan’s mistake is understandable. The historical analysis and understanding of the Great Depression is woefully inadequate, and millions of people genuinely believe that Hoover was an early version of Ronald Reagan.

The historical record shows that Herbert Hoover was a big spender and the stock market crash that occurred under his watch (not, as Joe Biden has suggested, under FDR’s) led to a prolonged downturn.

When in the White House, Ronald Reagan, even facing off against a big-spending Speaker of the House, did his utmost to hold the line of federal spending.  And the economy boomed.  Perhaps, the incumbent president would do well to emulate the Gipper instead of following in Herbert Hoover’s footsteps.

Via Instapundit.

*but FDR, while having an entirely different persona, had policies in sync with those his predecessor offered.

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18 Comments

  1. one of my favorite think tanks (which I heartily encourage you to support

    Meh… that one sends you too much stuff in the mail ;-)

    [Mitchell] Hoover increased government spending by 47 percent in just four years…

    And ran higher deficits. And increased taxes (less than spending, hence the higher deficits).

    The historical record shows that Herbert Hoover was a big spender…

    I only figured it out myself, in the last couple years. I am thrilled to see more folks getting it. The history of the Great Depression, and the implications for today, make so much more sense when you realize that:

    - Hoover did, in fact, try “stimulus” and Big Government.
    - It didn’t work. It’s why his economy didn’t recover from the Recession of 1930.
    - Roosevelt had far more continuity with Hoover (in terms of policy) than we were taught in school. Roosevelt’s policies were, in many cases, extensions or intensifications of Hoover’s.
    - It didn’t work for Roosevelt either. (The economy didn’t really start to recover until 1941-42.)
    - It isn’t going to work for Obama.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 22, 2011 @ 7:24 pm - June 22, 2011

  2. [...] on your all-caps and insult me personally; otherwise I may feel I’m doing something wrong.H/T Gay Patriot, who notes that Hoover was no Reagan. Isn’t that the truth?google_ad_client = [...]

    Pingback by Herbert Hoover Was A Big Spender Just Like Barack Obama, and Tax Cuts Did Not Cause the Fiscal Crisis! | The Lonely Conservative — June 22, 2011 @ 8:36 pm - June 22, 2011

  3. [...] water on the table next to Gore, and has more of his blatherings.Via The Daily CallerUpdate: The Other McCain linked – thanks!google_ad_client = "pub-1395656889568144"; /* 300×250, created 8/11/08 */ [...]

    Pingback by Al Gore Pushing Population Control to Protect the Environment | The Lonely Conservative — June 22, 2011 @ 8:57 pm - June 22, 2011

  4. One source of the (willful) confusion here is Hoover himself. He wrote a couple of books on his presidency that, far from being self congratulatory, focused on the mistakes he made and lessons learned. By the mid 30s he felt he had erred badly with his policies and was horrified that FDR was not just refusing to learn from them, he was repeating them on a far greater scale. When he ran again he ran as a limited government conservative and lost.

    Hoover was an interesting guy and a good man. An engineer, adventurer and great humanitarian, he just wasn’t the right president at the right time. He was a crackerjack master of logistics as he had proven during his relief work and proficient in at least one Chinese dialect. He offered his services to FDR during WW2, and in the China theater his eclectic talents might have been most useful but FDR forbade him from doing so.

    Comment by The Brickmuppet — June 22, 2011 @ 9:44 pm - June 22, 2011

  5. Sometimes Andrew Sullivan says really bizarre things. He used to be pretty reasonable. I wonder what happened to him.

    Comment by Lori Heine — June 23, 2011 @ 2:46 am - June 23, 2011

  6. Another little-remembered fact: In 1932, Hoover boosted** the top income tax rate from 25% to a then-all-time high of 63%, and increased corporate and estate taxes as well, all effective that year.

    In other words: Not even close to Reaganesque. Just like leftists wanted, Hoover “taxed the rich”. Did it help? Or did it *depress*, so to speak, the country’s job creators more than ever?

    (**Congress passed it, Hoover chose to sign it)

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 23, 2011 @ 9:14 am - June 23, 2011

  7. Correction: As shown in the table I linked, Wilson’s WW1-era income tax rates were higher. I regret the error.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 23, 2011 @ 9:20 am - June 23, 2011

  8. “As a short-run strategy to reduce inflation and lower nominal interest rates, the U.S. borrowed both domestically and abroad to cover the Federal budget deficits, raising the national debt from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion.[18] This led to the U.S. moving from the world’s largest international creditor to the world’s largest debtor nation.[19] Reagan described the new debt as the “greatest disappointment” of his presidency” Wiki obviously

    But what the hell let’s rewrite history for the sake of hero worship.

    Comment by Tim — June 23, 2011 @ 9:36 am - June 23, 2011

  9. Republican Presidents had cut the income tax steadily down to 25% in the 1920s, which contributed to the recovery from the Depression of 1920 and the “Roaring 20s”. The Federal Reserve also expanded the money supply and lowered interest rates to create a stock market bubble… sound familiar? The 1929 crash and 1930 recession were necessary to liquidate the bubble (liquidate its malinvestments). The issue with Hoover’s and Roosevelt’s (and Obama’s) Super Government policies is the economy’s lack of recovery from that point.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 23, 2011 @ 9:36 am - June 23, 2011

  10. Tim, you are not very good at logic, are you? To review, Dan said this:

    Ronald Reagan, even facing off against a big-spending Speaker of the House, did his utmost to hold the line of federal spending.

    That little sentence accords with (or packs in) a number of facts – that:
    - Congress sets the budget.
    - Reagan had a Democratic Congress which forced him to abandon some of his early domestic spending cuts, increasing the deficit quite a bit.
    - Reagan also had to restore U.S. defense capabilities, and fix marginal tax rates (but the latter grew the economy, ultimately growing tax revenues).
    - Thus, as everyone knows, Reagan did not achieve a lower deficit.
    - Nonetheless, Reagan has the least-bad (i.e., the best) record of controlling non-defense, domestic spending of any President since Eisenhower.

    All that is known and readily acknowledged by anyone with a brain, surely including Dan. Now my question Tim, is how can you get from Dan’s sentence to your wild accusation:

    rewrit[ing] history

    ?

    Follow-up question: Do you think at all, Tim, before your fingers tap?

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 23, 2011 @ 9:48 am - June 23, 2011

  11. @ILC cherry picking data point to fit a narrative is useless. Slowing the growth of government spending is not shrinking government, doubling the deficit is not balancing the budget. Reagan’s compromise was to raise more taxes by expanding the tax code while lowering certain rates. That’s the opposite of what current Republicans want which is to slash all revenue and say that we didn’t need it in the first place.

    Comment by Tim — June 23, 2011 @ 12:25 pm - June 23, 2011

  12. @ILC cherry picking data point

    Where? Tim, what in hell are you talking about? What post are you reading, that none of the rest of us can read? What comments are you reading, that none of the rest of us can read?

    Slowing the growth of government spending is not shrinking government

    Agreed. Note that I, for one, called Reagan the “least bad” on domestic spending. Can you read?

    doubling the deficit is not balancing the budget

    But whoever said it was. What quote are you responding to? What planet do you live on?

    You can’t read what is in front of you, the things that people here have actually said… and, by some miracle, you CAN read imaginary comments that no one else can.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 23, 2011 @ 12:36 pm - June 23, 2011

  13. (continued) i.e. that no one has posted. Is it possible to have a rational discussion with you?

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 23, 2011 @ 12:41 pm - June 23, 2011

  14. That’s the opposite of what current Republicans want which is to slash all revenue and say that we didn’t need it in the first place.

    [Citation Needed]

    Comment by TGC — June 23, 2011 @ 1:43 pm - June 23, 2011

  15. Plus, I demand that you show where increasing taxes has ever increased revenue, jackass.

    Comment by TGC — June 23, 2011 @ 1:45 pm - June 23, 2011

  16. As a short-run strategy to reduce inflation and lower nominal interest rates, the U.S. borrowed both domestically and abroad to cover the Federal budget deficits, raising the national debt from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion

    So in eight years in office, Reagan moved the national debt a total of $1.85 trillion dollars.

    When Reagan took office, both unemployment and inflation were completely out of control. When he left, inflation was tamed and unemployment had drastically fallen.

    Meanwhile, according to CBO projections in 2010, over 2009 – 2011, Obama will have borrowed $3.7 trillion – twice what Reagan did in less than half the time — to push unemployment and inflation even higher.

    So that’s why we don’t care, Timmeh. Your shrieking about a $1.85 trillion deficit over eight years looks hilarious to start with, given the $1.35 trillion bill you let Obama run up in one, and given the obvious results of Reagan versus Obama, you can’t even argue that Obama got anywhere near the value for it that Reagan did.

    You can’t defend what you supported Obama doing, Timmeh, so you attack Reagan. You are throwing a diversionary tantrum because you can’t explain why your voting on the basis of skin color and branding anyone who disagreed with your Barack Obama a racist was such a brilliant idea, given the results.

    Childish idiot Barack Obama is making you look like a fool, Timmeh, and you refuse to acknowledge that. That’s why you and Levi and Richard R are sitting here screaming and foaming at the mouth about Reagan, about Palin, about Ryan, about anyone and anything else to take the focus off the Obama YOU endorsed, YOU supported, YOU blindly voted for, and who YOU clearly screwed up with.

    Buttsex and black skin, Timmeh. Those are the only things you care about and those are the only qualifications Barack Obama had.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — June 23, 2011 @ 3:41 pm - June 23, 2011

  17. Obama YOU endorsed, YOU supported, YOU blindly voted for, and who YOU clearly screwed up with.

    The millions of unemployed are on their hands. They voted for it, they own it. However, instead of taking responsibility for their miserable failure, they blame Republicans and want the “rich” to pay for it.

    Comment by TGC — June 23, 2011 @ 11:17 pm - June 23, 2011

  18. Hi Dan,
    I looked at the table. It is true that Hoover increased expenditures in 1932, but notice what he does from 1929 to 1931–3127 to 3577. That is an increase of 14.4%. That changes the story a little–it is consistent with the fact that in the last year of his term, Hoover became much more interventionist in the economy in terms of aggregate demand priming, after being more “hands-off” in the earlier part of his administration.. But the statistics cited do not support the idea that Hoover was some kind of “socialist” at least in the first three years. At least like Hoover, Reagan actually did increase taxes in 1982 and 1983 (FICA), i.e., in the later part of his first term… so that is something they have in common.

    Comment by Cas — June 25, 2011 @ 3:29 am - June 25, 2011

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