Monday, April 12, 2010

What ended the Great Depression?

I can tell you what didn't: The policies of Franklin Roosevelt. His New Deal disaster ensured that the Depression would just keep on going.

In an informative and refreshing article from the Wall Street Journal, history professor Burton Folsom has provided some valuable information on what exactly ended the Great Depression, and never mind the New Deal, Folsom even discounts the impact of World War II. I find this interesting, because I had been told my whole life that it was World War II that finally got us out of the Depression, but that never made any sense to me, because wasn't most of the economic activity from the war being funded with taxpayer money, just like the New Deal programs were funded by the taxpayer as well?

Folsom's article finally gives a clear cut answer: It wasn't World War II that got us out of the Depression; it was the decision of Congress not to return to the New Deal policies once the War had ended:
Congress—both chambers with Democratic majorities—responded by just saying "no." No to the whole New Deal revival: no federal program for health care, no full-employment act, only limited federal housing, and no increase in minimum wage or Social Security benefits.

Instead, Congress reduced taxes. Income tax rates were cut across the board. FDR's top marginal rate, 94% on all income over $200,000, was cut to 86.45%. The lowest rate was cut to 19% from 23%, and with a change in the amount of income exempt from taxation an estimated 12 million Americans were eliminated from the tax rolls entirely....
For the whole story, read the rest of the article. You won't be sorry.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be." -Thomas Jefferson

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