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Tim Geithner; Herbert Hoover – Depression revisited

Unlike fellow Conflucian “headliner” Dakinkat (see her must-read post), I am not an economist, and I do not purport to have expertise in the field. I offer this post based on the claims of Paul Krugman and Barack Obama that the fiscal crisis facing the United States and its citizens today is more comparable to the conditions of the Great Depression than any other crisis faced since then. If that is true, no wonder I find the details of whiz-kid tax evader Tim Geithner’s newly dubbed Financial Stability Act (this is NOT the TARP redux bill just passed by the Senate) personally depressing. So, by the way, does Wall Street.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner announced a vast new rescue plan for the financial sector. Stocks plunged following the unveiling of the program to use $1.5 trillion or more in public and private funds to bail out banks and financial institutions and thaw frozen credit markets. The plan would create a $500 billion fund to buy up toxic bank assets such as bad real estate loans and commit up to $1 trillion to reopen lending markets for consumer, student, small business, auto andcommercial loans.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 383 points in afternoon trading. The tech-heavy Nasdaq plummeted 63 points, and the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index dropped 43 points.


Here are the highlights of the Geithner plan, according to The New York Times:


Now, read these excerpts from an overview of the Hoover administration’s approach to the Great Depression, which set in 6 to 8 years before Franklin Delano Roosevelt was first elected. Continue reading

Tuesday: Who do you think you are?

Square dancers in New Mexico during The Great Depression

Square dancers in New Mexico during The Great Depression

I can’t quite put my finger on the point when I knew that Ira Glass of This American Life was not an Obama fan.  Maybe it’s because unlike Terry Gross, who is sufferering from Kool-Aid edema, Glass has never seemed like the typical latte sipping, obsequious toady that most public radio personalities have become.  Glass, who broadcasts from Chicago, is the kind of radio personality who isn’t afraid of getting into the weeds of human experience.  If Glass wrote a book, it would be an anthology of stories, some funny, some pretentious, some heartbreaking.  I frequently find myself thinking about one his collection of stories days after it broadcasts. Last Sunday’s broadcast was a good example.

The show was called “Who do you think you are?” and was described as “This week we bring you stories of privilege and the lengths that some people will go to maintain it.”  There is a rather long episode in the middle about Studs Terkel recording people who lived during the Great Depression.  Terkel died last week after his parts gave out.  When I hear Terkel talk, I recognize that trace of soft Irish lilt that sounds like my grandfather’s voice, the sound of the beginning of the 20th century before the talkies rubbed the edges off our heritage.    Terkel is like a hypnotist who takes his subject to a moment of time and then releases them to talk, almost without interruption, about what they see, feel and experience.  The subjects talk almost in stream of conscious mode about soup lines, migrant work and fresh milk, and omnipresent poverty.  What we get from the interview is a sense that in times of stress on such a epic scale, we can find a kind of solidarity that will bind us together and see us through.

In one of his last interviews in October, Terkel spoke about Obama.  He supported Obama with conditions:

Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel

I’d ask Obama, do you plan to follow up on the program of the New Deal of FDR?

I’d tell him, ‘don’t fool around on a few issues, such as health care. We’ve got bigger work to do! Read FDR’s second inaugural address!’

The free market has to be regulated. And the New Deal did that and they provided jobs. The government has to. The WPA provided jobs. We have got to get back to that. We need more reg-u-la-tion.

I was just watching Alan Greenspan, he’s an idiot, and by the way so was Ayn Rand!

Community organizers like Obama know what’s going on. If they remember. The important thing is memory. You know in this country, we all have Alzheimer’s. Obama has got to remember his days as an organizer. It all comes back to the neighborhood. Well I hope the election is a landslide for Obama…

So you know what? Obama can’t be a moderate! He’s got to remember where he comes from! Obama, he has got to be pushed!

“I’m very excited by the idea of a black guy in the White House, that’s very exciting,” Studs said as we said goodbye. “I just wish he was more progressive!”

Yes, indeed, we all wish he were more progressive.

But it was Glass’s first episode that clued me in that he was not necessarily the world’s biggest Obama fan.  The story is about a woman’s crusade in Hoboken, NJ.  Hoboken has some of the most draconian parking ordinances in the country.  If you are half a millimeter out of alignment with your car in Hoboken, you can get a ticket.  That is, the ordinary person can get a ticket or more like a ridiculous number of tickets per year.  But if you are a semi-famous actor or a municipal employee, you can park wherever you want, whenever you want without penalty.  It infuriates this woman that some people are held more accountable than others and that they seem to feel they are above the law and that it is OK to cheat.  She makes it her mission to blow the whistle on the violators.  She confronts one of them in a bar and at the end of the exchange, the violator says, “Get a life”.

Get a life.  Sound familiar?  How about “Get over it”.  Ahhhh, that rang some bells, right?  It sort of reminds me of how the Clintonistas saw violation after violation during the primary season go unchecked.  No one was held accountable and suddenly, we see Hillary cheated out of the nomination.  What did the Obamaphiles say?  Get over it.  Yes, yes, very familiar.

And who among us wouldn’t like to get over it?  It’s hard on the system to keep this up.  I woke up late this morning and I’m going to be late for work again but I know I can’t give up yet.  It would be so easy to let it all go, get with the program, succumb to the Obama induced megasomacoma.  But that way lies apathy.  That is what the Obama crowd would like.  That is what they spent $600,000,000 to produce.  They would like their “movement” to be so overwhelming, inflexible and pervasive in every aspect of American culture that the rest of us just give up and “get a life”.

Now the message in Hillary’s speech in Denver takes on a whole new meaning.  She asked us to “keep going” no matter what.  What she was saying is no matter what the odds are against you, do not succumb to apathy.  Do not just “get a life”.  Work hard for the life you want to have.  Push Obama to become the next FDR.  Join in solidarity with your fellow Americans and fight for accountanbility and never give up.

Keep going.

What it will take to get the Democrats’ attention

This is my favorite photograph from a compilation of photos taken during The Great Depression.  The photos were commissioned by the US Government as part of a FSA-OWI project.

Hauling Peaches in Colorado During the Great Depression

Hauling Peaches in Colorado During the Great Depression

There are ominous signs on the horizon.  Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy today.  Other financial institutions are failing and a great majority of middle income households have their savings tied up in 401Ks and investments where the investment professionals themselves don’t know what the hell they’re doing.  They were able to structure “instruments” to get around government regulation. Women have seen a sharp spike in unemployment in the past quarter. And we have two candidates who are both ill-equipped to handle what is about to happen.  One is committed to his party’s ideology but seems to possess the personal mettle to withstand a crisis.  The other has spurned his party’s ideollogy and has no practical experience in dealing with tough situations with any kind of personal fortitude.

It will take a Depression to get the Democrats to focus on what is important.

Here is the link to the FSA-OWI site at the Library of Congress with more pictures of the Depression because those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.