FDR's plan couldn't go as far now; Obama's program will dwarf it

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At President Franklin Roosevelt's inaugural in 1933 amid the depths of the Great Depression, he rallied demoralized Americans by proclaiming, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Within 100 days, Roosevelt's New Deal was up and running.

Barack Obama is studying the lessons of Roosevelt to meet the challenge of restoring public confidence in the nation's battered economy - and in his program to rebuild it.

When he steps into the Oval Office Tuesday, Obama will be inheriting one major economic emergency program that's already more expensive than all of Roosevelt's. And he is creating another that's larger still.

Roosevelt's recovery cost about $30 billion, which translates to about $500 billion today.

Obama aides are acutely aware of the similarities between FDR's time and now, including the need to make a powerful case for unprecedented action.

FDR tried to shut off the federal spigot in 1936, sparking what became known as the Roosevelt Depression, which many historians think extended the long downturn into World War II.

"FDR didn't do all that he needed to do until World War II," said Zelizer. "He needed to spend more, and Obama has to be careful he doesn't do the same thing [as Roosevelt]."

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