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Ohio State professor: History a guide for fiscal cliff

Shahed Al-Asadi / Lantern reporter

The fiscal cliff issue caused panic for some American citizens and their representatives in government, but an expert at Ohio State said the country has faced this issue before.
The fiscal cliff is a term used to define an impending tax increase accompanied by spending cuts and a reduction in the U.S. budget deficit in 2013. On Jan. 2, President Barack Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act, a compromise between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, narrowly avoiding plunging over the fiscal cliff.
David Stebenne, professor of history and law at OSU, spoke to faculty members, colleagues and students in the Faculty Club’s Grand Lounge on Wednesday evening. He said America faced a similar situation in the 1930s.
“(The) fiscal cliff episode is an example of when the past does have something to teach us. The point is to deal with the problem but not in some sudden drastic way that makes another problem,” Stebenne said.
Among those who came to the event was OSU President E. Gordon Gee, who stopped by to greet the professor.
Mark Shanda, divisional dean of arts and humanities at OSU, introduced Stebenne as “the go-to authority for elections and politics, especially when Ohio plays its ever-repeating role as the crucible for American democracy.”
Shanda said that in Stebenne’s address, titled “Economically Necessary vs. Politically Possible: The Crisis of the 1930s and Its Consequences,” he would “reshape our understanding of the 1930s as part of a continuous and coherent period in American history.”
Before the event, Stebenne explained he wanted to raise awareness of the fiscal issue that had risen in the last year.
“It prompted me to think about earlier similar experiences,” Stebenne said.
He chose to research and lecture about the fiscal situation because be believes it is a relevant issue in today’s society. Stebenne is also researching and writing about the political history of the United States from the 1930s to 1960.
During his speech, Stebenne highlighted how the Great Depression affected the American economic and political system and how that formed the fiscal cliff of 1937. He then described the paralysis of the legislative bodies, particularly Congress, during the late-1930s and early-1940s and concluded with the consequences of these unfortunate series of events.
“The amount of confusion bred by this situation in the late-30s and early-40s even among some highly intelligent, highly intricate people is hard to capture fully,” Stebenne said.
Kyle Ludlow, a third-year in history who has taken Stebenne’s courses before, explained how the speech helped him recognize how themes emerge over the course of history.
“We have been here before, but conditions are different,” Ludlow said.

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