Monday, May 11, 2009

Did the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act cause the Great Depression?

In a word... no. Yes, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, proposed by Republicans Sen. Reed Smoot of Utah and Rep. Willis Hawley of Oregon,passed by Congress with the active support of President Herbert Hoover, killed U.S. imports and exports. But the total U.S. exports were under 5% in 1930 and total U.S. imports were over 4% in 1930, meaning the total loss to the U.S. GDP was under 1%. Meanwhile U.S. GDP plummeted by over 30% by 1933. It's been a common trope amongst "free trade" enthusiasts to blame the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act for deepening a serious recession into the Great Depression, but it just isn't true -- at least, not in the United States. (Germany is another story, but we'll talk about that later). It certainly didn't help, but in the greater scheme of things the collapse of the banks and thus of the money supply was the main driving force here.

Why bring this up today? Well, Congresswoman Michelle Bachman (R-Batshit Crazy) blamed FDR's Hoot-Smalley Tariffs for deepening the Great Depression. But of course that is nonsense because there was no such tariff passed during FDR's Presidency. Ms. Bachman (R-Totally Insane) was simply pulling shit out of her ass and flinging it like a howling monkey at the zoo because she'd heard something about some mean old tariff that made the Great Depression worse, but since she is a (certifiably nuts) Republican, surely it couldn't have been Republicans who did it. So she a) mangled Smoot and Hawley's names, b) turned them into Democrats rather than Republicans, c) moved their tariff to 1934 rather than 1930, and d) was wrong about the economics anyhow (like, duh, they don't teach that kinda stuff in Bible school, though to be fair after hearing free-trade advocates pull shit out of their ass about Smoot-Hawley for the past 70 years, she could perhaps be forgiven for her confusion about the economics part).

In short, just more Republican stupidity. Move along, nothing to see here...

-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin


  1. I love Bachman if for no other reason than to just laugh and wonder how someone so idiotic could remain an elected representative, and not be confined to a mental health institution.

  2. It's one of the obvious symptoms that the Republicans have quit giving a damn about appealing to anyone with a full set of chromosomes that none of them have thrown a bag over this woman's head yet. If William Buckley were still alive even he would be leaving the party at this point.

  3. It's kind of funny that this came up-being a late bloomer and having to attend college at this stage in life, I tend to debate quite heavily some of the things taught in classes. I've had two different instructors indicate that the reason for the deepening of the depression is the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. Never mind that people didn't trust banks and made a run on them with little intervention-it was the tariff that did us in.

    I wonder how some of my instructors, like Bachman, remain in society too apathetic to do anything about it? Sure seems that way, doesn't it?


Ground rules: Comments that consist solely of insults, fact-free talking points, are off-topic, or simply spam the same argument over and over will be deleted. The penguin is the only one allowed to be an ass here. All viewpoints, however, are welcomed, even if I disagree vehemently with you.

WARNING: You are entitled to create your own arguments, but you are NOT entitled to create your own facts. If you spew scientific denialism, or insist that the sky is purple, or otherwise insist that your made-up universe of pink unicorns and cotton candy trees is "real", well -- expect the banhammer.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.