Summers should know better (in fact, I'm sure he does). The Great Depression was not made "Great" by government inaction. Indeed, FDR's New Deal may have been wonderful in some mytho-poetic sense, and maybe some of its reforms can be defended in some broader context, but as an effort to end the Great Depression, the New Deal was a failure. As my colleague Mark Steyn writes, "Lots of other places - from Britain to Australia - took a hit in 1929 but, alas, they lacked an FDR to keep it going till the end of the Thirties. That's why in other countries they refer to it as "the Depression," but only in the U.S. is it 'Great.'"
Today we're hearing a similar argument about John McCain or, more often, his evil henchman, former Sen. Phil Gramm as Herbert Hoover's mini-me.
"Phil Gramm, one of the architects of the deregulation in Washington that led directly to this mess on Wall Street, is also the architect of John McCain's economic plan," Obama said recently. A couple problems: Gramm is no longer with the McCain campaign. More important: This is nonsense on stilts. The deregulation that the Obama camp most often cites is the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which passed the Senate in 1999 by a 90-8 margin and was signed enthusiastically by Bill Clinton. Thirty-eight Democrats voted for it, including Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Dick Durbin, Tom Daschle and Barack Obama's running mate, Joe Biden. The "Leach" in the legislation's title was a founder of Republicans for Obama.
Moreover, nothing in that law has much to do with today's financial meltdown. Indeed, it has helped some financial institutions weather the storm precisely because they are more diversified.
Also, who are the real Hoovers here? Obama is sympathetic to protectionism, as is his party. He says he will raise taxes on the top income earners, and if he's remotely honest about his spending ambitions, he will have to raise taxes on everybody else as well.
Meanwhile, who sought to intervene when Fannie Mae metastasized? John McCain. Who wanted to keep the party going? The party of Roosevelt. There's blame all around, but nothing today supports the liberal ghost stories of yesterday.