History doesn’t repeat itself, the saying goes, but it does rhyme. To me, the recent House defeat of the financial bailout bill echoes the defeat of the national sale tax in 1932. The Depression dried up federal revenues, so the Hoover administration proposed a national sales tax to raise money. Business and the leadership of both parties favored the bill, but the public was overwhelmingly opposed. Liberal Republican Fiorella LaGuardia led a bipartisan revolt against the bill. House Speaker John N. Garner actually left the speaker’s chair to go into the well and plead with his fellow Democrats to pass the bill. Garner normally had tight control on his party, but not this time. The bill was defeated 153-223.
In both cases, an unpopular Republican administration put forward a proposal to deal with an economic crisis, supported by the Democratic leadership in the House and the vast majority of the business community. Nonetheless, a bipartisan populist revolt sent it down to defeat.
Update: Oops. Seems I confused the former Speaker of the House with the star of the Rockford Files. I’ve corrected the error.