Tag Archive | "Civilian Conservation Corps"

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

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The title of this story reflects a popular song that emerged during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  It was Tin Pan Alley’s way of advertising the plight of the American people during times of intense hardship.


In 1932, composer Jay Gorney and lyricist E.Y. Harburg combined their creative forces to deliver a song that struck at the heart of every man, woman, and child.  Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? became the heartbeat of the nation.  When the Stock Market crashed, many people lost their jobs, initiating a domino effect.  Without money, everything — like the old South — was gone with the wind.  Americans were devastated.  They lost faith in the government as well as the banks that had collapsed and taken depositors’ hard-earned money with them.  A lot of human suffering occurred with no safety net for the future, until President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected.


Succeeding President Herbert Hoover, FDR was burdened with the monumental task of restoring the country to solvency and resurrecting the nation’s faith in its lawmakers and banking institutions.  He began with by creating the NRA (National Recovery Act).  When that was declared unconstitutional, he replaced it with The New Deal.  Understanding that the economy hinged upon the spending power of the people, the President then organized the WPA (Works Projects Administration – originally named Works Progress Administration) to bring jobs back to the rapidly sinking economy. He also instituted the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), a paramilitary organization that took young men off the streets and employed them to restore public works.


To revive faith in the banking system, he introduced the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), which insured depositor monies up to $100,000 dollars.  As a failsafe, he established the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) to monitor and regulate the financial markets and financial activity that had spawned the Great Depression.


In addition, FDR introduced the Social Security system, mandating the age of retirement as 65. By allowing younger people to fill the jobs of the retirees, the nation was assured of continuous source of employment.  Social Security would later become the model retirement system because it had the lowest administrative costs in the world.  After all his diligence, the Great Depression ended with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.


The fly in Social Security’s ointment, however, was this.  The monies collected for Social Security from the paychecks of future retirees, and intended to sustain people through their retirement, was placed into a general fund.  Into this fund, the government dipped its greedy hands again and again.  How many times have you heard present-day politicians say that there is no money in the fund, only IOUs.  Who do you think “borrowed” this money?  FDR must be turning over in his grave.


In retrospect, the differences between the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession begun in 2008 are that, in the ’30s:


1.  There was no government bailout of Wall Street.

2.  The Gold Standard regulated the amount of money that could be printed.

3.  Banks were more stringent in their lending policies.

4.  There was no credit card system to create escalating debt.

5.  Few people had health insurance.

6.  There was no charge for listening to the radio.

7.  Movie houses provided incentives, such as dishware, to increase patronage.

8.  There was no air conditioning in homes.

9.  Telephone service existed only through the local drugstore, at pay phones.


Overall, money was tight and life was simpler.  People used public transportation to travel.  Those of us who remember the Great Depression survived it and became stronger for it.


The old Depression songs, Brother, Can you spare a dime?,  Ain’t We Got Fun, and No More Money in the Bank still ring in my ears.  It was a time when chivalry, faith, hope, and charity still existed, and the pleasures of life were found not in fancy cars or expensive vacations, but in the company of family and friends.  No wonder we call them “the good old times.”


 

 

 

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