NPR logo

Crisis Of Confidence?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/100142865/100142822" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Crisis Of Confidence?

Crisis Of Confidence?

Crisis Of Confidence?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/100142865/100142822" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Has a lack of confidence killed the American economy? Our resident humorist takes a look at what past presidents have done to solve crises.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Our humorist Brian Unger is hearing a lot about how our confidence is largely to blame for our ailing economy, and he is not amused. Here's today's Unger Report.

(Soundbite of song "Brother Can You Spare a Dime")

BRIAN UNGER: Eight days after his inauguration, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the nation in his first Fireside Chat. The topic, why the banks had failed, and why it was necessary to close them for a so called bank holiday to avert a run on currency. But FDR ended his chat by offering this advice for a very sick economy, a remedy that was...

President FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: More important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people themselves. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan.

UNGER: Confidence and courage on top of New Deal policies that helped end the Depression or prolonged it depending on which economist you believe.

(Soundbite of song "Staying Alive")

Fast forward, way forward to the energy crisis and hyper inflation of the late '70s and early '80s, and a then President Carter addressed the nation and told us...

President JIMMY CARTER: That all the legislations in the world can't fix what's wrong with America. The threat is nearly invisible. It is a crisis of confidence.

UNGER: More than 40 years after the Depression, America, we were told, again had a confidence problem. On top of 13 percent inflation and seven percent unemployment, it was the zero percent of confidence that threatened our democracy most. Fast forward again to last year and the first glimpses of a coming catastrophic recession. Steve Forbes, the finance magazine magnate, and once aspiring president said...

Mr. STEVE FORBES (Editor-in-Chief, Forbes Magazine): The world is a washed in liquidity. What we have today is a crisis of confidence, not a lack of liquidity.

UNGER: Turns out banks weren't as liquid as he thought. But again, we still had that nagging crippling lack of confidence. A reporter even asked Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz about our confidence problem in Davos, Switzerland this weekend. Oh, my God. It's like everybody knows about it.

Mr. RICHARD QUEST (Reporter, CNN International): Has your confidence been shaken, or have you merely been disgusted?

UNGER: Are we disgusted now, too, by our lack of confidence or confidently disgusted? I mean, what's wrong with us? It's like we, the most powerful nation on earth, have chronic performance issues in the bedroom and need a shrink and Fox News to help us sort it out.

Mr. KIRAN CHETRY (Anchor, CNN): Clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere joining us now. Jeff?

Dr. JEFF GARDERE (Clinical Psychologist): Well, we have a crisis of confidence in America. We know that...

UNGER: Or we're just told that repeatedly over and over for 80 years, like it's groundhog day for working Americans every time the economy goes into the crapper. Well, listen to someone other than a politician, economist, reporter, or mental health expert - say an auto worker who lost their job after years of dedicated confident service. And they'll likely say we have a crisis in leadership in America, a crisis among leaders in the private and public sectors who screwed up royally out of apathy, incompetence, and greed, of which that we can all be confident. And that is today's Unger report. I'm confident. I'm Brian Unger.

BRAND: Humorist Brian Unger. He's with us every Monday.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.