How Is Fear Shaping the U.S. Economy?

This is a rush transcript from "America's News HQ," December 1, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BILL HEMMER, HOST: Here tonight also to talk about all of the breaking business news, with me now, Amity Shlaes, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the book "The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression."

How are you? And good evening.


HEMMER: Recession started in December of '07, you believe that?

Video: Watch Bill Hemmer's interview

SHLAES: You can believe it by any measure. I think it's like when you have the flu and you say, "Do I have a fever now?" Is it now that I have fever?

HEMMER: Right.

SHLAES: How is the fever?

HEMMER: Well, they say, normally, a recession lasts about 14 months, right? And if that is true, we are 12 months into it. That would be a good thing.

SHLAES: We might be will into it but certainly, the preoccupation with "Do I have a fever" is a waste of time. You know, the credit card topic that we were talking about is very important because one thing those companies are saying is, we're not sure we're going to get our money back. And that's not just a question of liquidity. That's also a question of property rights. They are saying, "What if we lend too much — well, we won't get it back in the new laws that are coming." And that's part of a recession, too — fear of losing property.

HEMMER: Well, there is fear out there. Also, there is a certain amount of freak out, I think, in the air.


HEMMER: Your counsel on that is what, Amity?

SHLAES: My counsel is, this situation is bad, but it is no Great Depression. It's a rainstorm to a Katrina as to depression.

HEMMER: But the thing with — the depression rather, that lasted for 43 months. You can imagine that, four years?

SHLAES: The Great Depression lasted from 1929 to 1940. So, it lasted more than 10 years.

HEMMER: When you consider the depths of the Great Depression, it lasted for a period of 43 months.

SHLAES: Yes, Bill.

HEMMER: But the decade of the 1930s, well, it took pretty much the entire decade into World War II before we start to come out of it.

SHLAES: Absolutely, and uncertainty about things like credit cards and property rights were part of that.

HEMMER: Amity, thanks for coming in.

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