Thursday, April 30, 2020
The Great Depression? WTF Are You Thinking?
Some people have started comparing what we're going through now to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Can you imagine?
Yes, things are going to get tough as we work to move past this crisis. But, the Great Depression? These people don't know what the hell they're talking about!
The Great Depression lasted for ten long years! And its repercussions lasted even longer.
The stock market lost 90 percent of it value. Ninety percent! And though the Great Depression began in 1929, the stock market did not regain its value until 1954.
Half the banks in the country failed -- and there was no immediate backup, no recourse for those who placed their trust in the banks. Unemployment increased more than ten fold. The economy shrank by 50 percent. Average family income was halved. And here's the worst part -- there was no safety net for people.
Do you understand this? There was no minimum wage, no unemployment insurance, no food stamps, no social security, no medicare, no medicaid. When people lost their jobs or they had no money, they literally went begging. They had to rely on friends, neighbors or the kindness of strangers, often via institutional charities if they could find such help. Millions of them had nowhere to turn.
They're aren't many people around today who actually remember the Great Depression, But I do recall my parents talking about it. They lived through it and they never forgot what it was like.
My mother had a friend who was so destitute during the depression that she had to line her shoes with newspaper because the soles were almost completely worn out and she didn't want anyone to know. So, the carefully placed newspaper lining kept her feet warm and gave her at least some degree of pride. My mother's family owned a grocery store during the depression and almost everyone who shopped at the store was "on the book." In other words, they shopped via the earliest form of credit -- a vow to pay at some future date. Some were never able to pay my grandparents back.
And though my father was one of the lucky ones to have a job, he worked for a city that was bankrupt. So, he was paid in what they called "script." Script consisted of notes from the city that effectively promised to pay the demarcated amount when the city was financially solvent again. My parents were married during the depression and my father bought my mother's engagement ring with script. The jeweler who sold them the ring was not amused!
Compared to the Great Depression, what we're facing now will likely be a bump in the road. Oh, it's painful. Very painful. And one would hardly dismiss the heartache and human suffering it's causing.
But please don't compare it to the Great Depression.
When you do that you not only turn your back on one of the most important chapters in American history but you also dishonor the fortitude of those who lived through the depression and the vision of those who charted a path out of that dark time.