Throughout the two year Presidential campaign, we heard President Obama rail continuously against his rivals, whom he accused of using the "politics of fear" and whom he termed "fearmongers." He began to beat that drum as far back as August of 2007. In a speech in Washington, he noted, "Freedom must mean freedom from fear, not the freedom of anarchy."
Throughout the campaign, he was fond of quoting FDR's famous line, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Even the future First Lady, Michelle Obama got in on the fear act:
Now that he has attained the Oval Office, we see a complete reversal of this theme. Now, as he faces the need to motivate the public, only 25% of whom voted for him in the first place, as he tries to sell his "Stimulus Plan" to a highly skeptical public and Congress, he suddenly finds that fearmongering serves his purposes.
In recent weeks he has begun to play heavily on the fears of the public in regard to the ongoing recession, repeatedly raising the specter of the Great Depression both explicitly and by allusion.
In a recent speech at George Mason University, Obama intoned, "We start 2009 in the midst of a crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime — a crisis that has only deepened over the last few weeks. If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years." With his reference to lasting several years, he is clearly invoking the years-long duration of the Depression.
More recently, in a speech delivered at Elkhart, Indiana, a one industry town which is the center of recreational vehicle manufacturing, he is quoted in The Washington Post as saying that the country is in, "an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression," and "our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse."
In his televised press conference on February 10th, he again summoned the bogeyman of the Great Depression, saying, "…we also inherited the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression…" and, "So what I'm trying to underscore is what the people in Elkhart already understand: that this is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill recession. We are going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression…"
There are many more instances of Obama's fearmongering in recent weeks, but there is a larger point here as well. All of these comparisons of the country's present financial crisis to the Depression are specious; we are a long ways from the depths to which the American economy sank during the 30s, and even on into the 40s, and it is dishonest of the President to prey on the fears of the public by drawing these comparisons.
In a well-written and -researched essay published yesterday in The Wall Street Journal, Bradley Schiller, a Professor of Economics at the University of Nevada at Reno notes, "President Barack Obama has turned fearmongering into an art form. He has repeatedly raised the specter of another Great Depression."
Schiller goes on to point out a number of areas in which the conditions the country experienced during the Depression were much more severe than those we are currently experiencing. He further notes that a better, more accurate comparison would be with the recession of 1980-'81, from which the economy rebounded into a period of strong growth. Schiller notes:
"Consider the job losses that Mr. Obama always cites. In the last year, the U.S. economy shed 3.4 million jobs. That's a grim statistic for sure, but represents just 2.2% of the labor force. From November 1981 to October 1982, 2.4 million jobs were lost — fewer in number than today, but the labor force was smaller. So 1981-82 job losses totaled 2.2% of the labor force, the same as now.
"Job losses in the Great Depression were of an entirely different magnitude. In 1930, the economy shed 4.8% of the labor force. In 1931, 6.5%. And then in 1932, another 7.1%. Jobs were being lost at double or triple the rate of 2008-09 or 1981-82."
By exaggerating the effects of the current recession, and by linking it to the Depression, playing on the fears of the public, President Obama is almost guaranteeing that his doom-and-gloom predictions and pronouncements will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ours is a consumer-driven economy; the more consumers are afraid – of the potential of losing their jobs, their savings and even their homes — the more likely they are to withdraw, cutting back their spending, and thus exacerbating the recession.
Obama is not only fearmongering, he's actually plunging us further into recession with his rhetoric.
And he's doing so dishonestly.