Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 23, 2009 / 27 Adar 5769

‘The most difficult first 100 days’? Not quite

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "When the stock market crashed," Joe Biden told Katie Couric in a CBS interview last fall, "Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened.'" Katie didn't embarrass her guest by pointing out that there were no TV broadcasts when Wall Street crashed in 1929 and that the president at the time was Herbert Hoover -- though she would surely have pounced had Sarah Palin committed such a howler.

Last week the vice president brought up FDR again, telling a Democratic audience that President Obama "has inherited the most difficult first 100 days of any president, I would argue, including Franklin Roosevelt."

Perhaps that generated some quizzical looks, for Biden continued: "Let me explain what I mean by that. It was clear the problem Roosevelt inherited. This is a more complicated economic [problem]. We've never, ever been here before -- here or in the world. Never, ever been here before."

If nothing else, Biden's comment was at odds with the administration's new line on the economy: Whereas last month the president was saying we were in a "crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression," now he declares that things are "not as bad as we think they are" and his adviser tells "Meet the Press" that the nation's economic "fundamentals are sound." Apparently Biden didn't get the memo to stop bad-mouthing the economy.

Talking points aside, does Biden's claim have merit? Is Obama faced with grimmer, more formidable conditions than any incoming president has ever known? Were FDR's first 100 days notably less challenging than Obama's?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported earlier this month that unemployment has reached 8.1 percent for the first time since 1983. When Roosevelt took the oath of office on March 4, 1933, more than 25 percent of American workers were unemployed. "Those fortunate enough to have work," historian Anthony Badger writes in "FDR: The First Hundred Days, "had seen their income fall by a third in three years. Farmers had been crushed by catastrophic price falls, drought, and debt. A thousand homeowners a day were losing their homes. No region, no industry, no class escaped the Depression."

Since the beginning of 2008, 42 US banks have failed. But as FDR came to power, banks were failing by the thousands, wiping out the life's savings of countless American families. Tens of thousands of other businesses had also gone under, turning once-bustling city centers into near-ghost towns. Between 1929 and Roosevelt's inauguration, national income had been cut in half; industrial output had plummeted just as much.

The recession we are in now is painful. American households have lost 18 percent of their wealth, and millions fear for their jobs. No one knows for sure what the next few years will bring. But at least this much is clear: Conditions today are nowhere near as desperate as they were in 1933, a reality for which all Americans, including their vice-president, should be grateful.

Even apart from FDR, Obama is hardly the first president to take office amid bleak or threatening circumstances. When Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency in 1981, he inherited a "misery index" of 19.5 percent -- the impact of 12 percent inflation combined with 7.5 percent unemployment rate. Mortgage rates were at 15 percent and climbing; the prime rate had reached 20 percent. Today inflation is at one-half of 1 percent, while mortgage rates are at historic lows. Biden may insist that "we've never, ever been here before." The data tell a different story.

And what of the non-economic challenges new presidents have had to confront? When Harry Truman succeeded FDR in 1945, the United States was fighting a world war on multiple fronts. The Battle of Berlin raged in Europe; B-29 bombers were pounding Tokyo. Nearly 200,000 American lives had been lost, and new casualties were averaging 900 per day. Truman had no background in foreign policy, and was shocked to discover how little national-security intelligence Roosevelt had shared with him -- including the imminent development of the atomic bomb. No wonder he told reporters he felt as if "the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me."

But even Truman had it easy next to Abraham Lincoln, whose election had prompted most of the South to secede from the Union and form the Confederacy. For his inauguration, the 16th president had to enter Washington in disguise, so serious were the threats to his life. Five weeks into Lincoln's presidency, Confederate batteries attacked Fort Sumter, triggering the Civil War -- the worst and bloodiest calamity in American history.

No, these are not the worst of times. Americans have come through graver crises. Biden should be focused on helping the nation get through this one, instead of trying to paint it as the most daunting we've ever faced.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2006, Boston Globe

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles