Carter Sheds Light on Post-presidency, Recession


Former President Jimmy Carter at the Carter Center Press Conference, February 19, 2009 (AP Photo/John Bazemore).

Candace and I had a great experience yesterday at the Carter Center, and today we're here to give you some highlights. After discussing his renovation plans for the Carter Center, Jimmy Carter took questions from the media and a crowd of young school children who were there to see him. Two responses were so enlightening I had to share them with you.

One question concerned his thoughts on his post-presidency, and his surprising response struck me as particularly relevant to yesterday's post. He conveyed that he thinks he's made a bigger impact on the world in his years since his presidency than he would in a second term in the Oval Office. Adding that these post-presidency years have been "the most gratifying" of his life, Carter is testament to how much a supposed has-been can accomplish.

The most interesting comment of Carter's, however, had to do with comparing today's economic woes to the Great Depression. As someone who's been around long enough to remember the Depression first hand, he was emotionally invested in the topic. One could sense this immediately when his previously jovial tone turned somber.

Speaking in no uncertain terms, he said that there was no comparison between the recession we're grappling with today in 2009 and that of the 1930s Depression. He spouted both statistics and personal anecdotes that quickly dispelled such a comparison. According to Carter, not only are the current unemployment rates a fraction of what they were in the nadir of the Depression (about 7 percent compared to 30 percent), but the situation as a whole isn't as dire. He recounted that as a boy growing up in Georgia, the hobos who frequently stopped at his family's home for a drink of water were college educated or former foremen, often traveling with their wives and children.

These sobering facts serve as comforting reminders that things could be a lot worse. Carter also expressed a confident hope that President Obama's stimulus bill will start turning things around within about six months.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles: How Recessions Work The Great Depression How Barack Obama Works