Steve Austria’s History

by Brien Jackson

I can’t believe I missed this:

U.S. Rep. Steve Austria [R-OH] said he supports a scaled-down federal economic-stimulus proposal, but the Beavercreek Republican told The Dispatch editorial board that the huge influx of money into the economy could have a negative effect.


“When (President Franklin) Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression,” Austria said. “He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That’s just history.”

Most historians date the beginning of the Great Depression at or shortly after the stock-market crash of 1929; Roosevelt took office in 1933.

A lot of people are running with this today as proof Austria doesn’t know basic American history, but I think you’ve got to be somewhat naive to think that someone who hadn’t paid enough attention in school to know a basic timeline of one of the defining events in the modern United States is also shrewd enough to find his way into the United States House of Representatives.

Rather, it should seem fairly obvious that what Austria meant to say was the Amity Shlaes line that the New Deal made the Depression worse, and his real problem is that he knows this is ridiculous. And because he knows it’s ridiculous and doesn’t actually believe it himself, he mangles the line beyond recognition and says something so stupid the Republican friendly Columbus Dispatch can’t let it go. This is pretty standard stuff for the conservative movement’s communications operation; for the most part you have a bunch of crazy people who actually believe the nonsense they’re spouting, but at the top and the margins you have people who know better, and are just using the know-nothing populist sentiment as a means to further their own ends. And every so often that disconnect leads hem to screw up and say something that no one with a high school diploma can take seriously. It’s one thing to argue something that seems incredibly counterfactual, that’s the sort of contrarianism the media eats up. It’s quite another thing to say something we all know isn’t true from Jr. High history. But the problem isn’t that Steve Austria is an idiot, it’s that he’s part of a craven, power hungry political movement that is willing to say absolutely anything to deceive people into furthering their cause.