Thursday, April 30, 2009

I learned something today

I've been an inveterate Warren Harding basher for as long as I've been politically aware. The man who let Teapot Dome happen under his nose wasn't worth my admiration, I thought.

I'm a little confused after having read this article, however, which paints a picture of Harding utterly unlike those I've seen before. The article analyzes Harding's handling of the Depression of 1920. I know -- I hadn't heard of it, either.

Turns out there was a massive economic downturn after WWI, as the country ratcheted down from wartime production levels and the Fed raised rates from abnormally low wartime levels. According to this account, the contraction was worse even than the one we're currently experiencing. Harding's response? Do nothing. I'd ordinarily think that response the result of his ignorance and indolence, but the man's own words don't allow that impression.
“I would be blind to the responsibilities that mark this fateful hour if I did not caution the wage-earners of America that mounting wages and decreased production can lead only to industrial and economic ruin.”
Pure, clear reason.

And later, condemning inflation,
“Gross expansion of currency and credit have depreciated the dollar just as expansion and inflation have discredited the coins of the world. We inflated in haste, we must deflate in deliberation. We debased the dollar in reckless finance, we must restore in honesty.”
If only our current leaders had a tenth of the honesty and forthright courage evidenced in these words.

And this, which is by far the most impressive quote included in this article, regarding the nature of the rough recovery,
All the penalties will not be light, nor evenly distributed. There is no way of making them so. There is no instant step from disorder to order. We must face a condition of grim reality, charge off our losses and start afresh. It is the oldest lesson of civilization. … No altered system will work a miracle. Any wild experiment will only add to the confusion. Our best assurance lies in efficient administration of our proven system.
No man who talked like that could be the sham of a president that I've been led to believe Harding was. The Teapot Dome scandal was terrible, but it seems that there's more to Warren G. Harding than his woefully inadequate oversight of the management of the Wyoming oil fields.

If these quotes at all reflect the mind and perspective of Warren Harding, I would MUCH rather he were my president now than Barack "We're all in this together -- well, except for the rich, who have to pay for everyone else" Obama.

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