Liberals Should Learn From FDR's Economic Failure

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," February 20, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: President Obama loves to compare himself to former presidents, and he makes references to FDR a lot. Now in an effort to cure the Great Depression FDR presided over the most massive expansion of government in our nation's history. But was it a good thing? Let's take a closer look.


HANNITY (voice over): Barack Obama's not shy about admiring FDR. He quotes directly from his speeches.

OBAMA: We need action, and action now.

ROOSEVELT: We must act, we must act quickly.

HANNITY: And refers to his great deeds.

OBAMA: He saw a nation conquer fear itself with a new deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.

HANNITY: He even admires FDR's folksy fire side chats. But the new deal isn't all it's cracked up to be. Now FDR used the Great Depression as a pretext to expand government in every direction. Many of the programs spawned by FDR's efforts to cure the economy did lasting damage.

The National Recovery Administration put red tape all over the private sector by setting prices for businesses. The Public Works Administration, another Roosevelt experiment, tried to create jobs for Americans to construct public buildings, the same kind of shovel-ready jobs that President Obama is pledging to turn out. It spent over $6 billion without significantly reducing unemployment.

In agriculture one law paid farmers to produce less, all while people were starving. The government threw more money at the economy under FDR than at any other point in American history up to that point except waging war. Nonetheless, the depression plagued the U.S. from Roosevelt's inauguration in 1933 straight through the end of the 1930s.

With the first pork bill behind us and the president continuing to shout crisis at every turn and catastrophe at every turn, he seemed poised to use our economic woes to expand the arm of government. One could only hope that he's paying close attention to history, and hopefully learning from it.


HANNITY: And joining us now is former presidential candidate and author of "Do the Right Thing,' Mike Huckabee is with us.

Governor, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.

Video: Watch Sean's interview with Mike Huckabee


HANNITY: Here's treasury secretary of FDR, Morganthau, even said seven years into the new deal, we spent all this money, more money than ever before, and didn't work.

Are we doing the same thing? We're heading down the same road?

HUCKABEE: It appears that we're not only heading down the same road. We've expanded the lanes. This was a two-lane highway under FDR.

HANNITY: Oh boy, you're scary.

HUCKABEE: It's a six-lane expressway.


HUCKABEE: Because the amount of money that we are committing without any idea of whether it's going to work is not only staggering for the president, but the bigger concern is this debt that we're piling on our children.

I'll tell you the fundamental difference between the generation of FDR and my parents and this generation. They really believed that they should make sacrifices so their kids would have a better life. They sacrificed themselves for their kids.

We're sacrificing our kids for ourselves. We're trying to avoid the pain of horrible decisions, major mistakes, and putting it on our kids, and hope they can live with it.

HANNITY: I think John McCain just nailed it. He said it's generational theft.

HUCKABEE: It is generational theft.

HANNITY: You know, George Soros is out there and he said this is worse than the Great Depression.

Hey, George, it's not worse than the Great Depression. Just go back to the Jimmy Carter years.

Here's my problem. We were discussing this in the last segment. The fear tactics. The fear mongering. The catastrophe. All right, he used it to get elected. I understand politics. They used it to pass the stimulus bill, spending bill. I understand politics.

But is there not a danger in continually talking down the economy and even planning a bigger government takeover now, you know, stimulus II?

HUCKABEE: The purpose of leadership is to provide a sense of optimism, hope, and give people the courage to keep going. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made this magnificent statement. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. The Obama's speech could essentially be summed this way — the only thing we have is fear.

HANNITY: It's true. What do you make of — and we're moving towards a debate. They tried to squash it a little bit today, at least Obama did. But Chris Dodd, a series of other people have talked now about the nationalization of banks.

What would your thoughts be on that?

HUCKABEE: It'd be a huge disaster. I've heard Obama speak of needing to kind of go the way of the Swedish model, taking over the bad banks and cleaning them up and then turning them back over to the private sector.

Sean, I have no confidence that if we ever nationalized these banks, we'll ever turn them over to the private sector again.


HUCKABEE: They will become national banks.

Here's the other thing I think we need to do. We've often been critical of Hugo Chavez for nationalizing the oil fields of Venezuela. What can we say if we do the same things to private sector enterprises and businesses? It is not the role of government to pick the winners and losers in the free marketplace.

HANNITY: Has the average American — and I knew this man on the street said, I ask people what is the role of government? Has the average American maybe lost touch with our founders and our framers? And I have a series of comments by Jefferson and Adams and Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln.

They don't talk about, you know, hey, this is not the land of equal results, this is the land of equal opportunity.

Do you think most Americans have been conditioned to think that the government is going to be the answer to every problem they have, and they play on people's fears to get there?

HUCKABEE: Well, we better rethink it. Margaret Thatcher said that the problem with socialism is that sooner or later we run on everybody else's money.

HANNITY: Ran out of money.



HUCKABEE: And we're going to do that. And I grew up a child of the South where FDR was heralded as one of the great heroes. People thought of him as getting us out of the depression. I've often said that the three great heroes of the Deep South were Jesus, Elvis, and FDR. Not necessarily in that order.


HUCKABEE: But the reality is, as we look back, many of the policies did put in motion massive government spending, and it wasn't so much the spending that got us out of the depression. Many economists believe that we would have gotten out of the depression seven years earlier had the government approached more of a free market opportunity and let the market correct itself.

HANNITY: It was World War II that got us out of it. So in other words, just to recap, because we're running out of time. It's almost like Obama's making the same mistakes as FDR, and there's a misreading of history about FDR.

HUCKABEE: But the bigger mistake that he's making, FDR did encourage the American people, and his style of leadership was to say we're going to do it. Obama campaigned that way, he campaigned on a yes, we can, but he's governing on a no, we're not.

HANNITY: I suggest they're going to use fear to take even more power from the American people.

Governor, good to see you. Thank you.

HUCKABEE: Nice to see you, Sean.

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