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The Great Depression v2.0

By on Sep 17, 2008 in Politics

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I’ve been saying or hinting for a while now that the current fiscal crisis we are in is absolutely akin to the Great Depression. I think most people think (thought?) that I was overreacting. Well, now I’m, sadly, not the only one.

McCain & Hoover: The fundamentals are strong!
“The day before Hoover insisted that the fundamentals were strong was the day that came to be known as Black Thursday, when in heavy trading the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost about 9 percent of its value. And while, in endless stock-footage documentaries showing images of dumbfounded traders over a soundtrack of mournful jazz clarinets, the crash is supposed to begin the Great Depression, it wasn’t quite so. The real cause was the collapse of the banking system, which followed the crash in part because Hoover believed strong fundamentals would protect the economy from disaster.”

The panic sets in …:
At some point, the new president might have to do what FDR did in the wreckage of early 1933–declare a “bank holiday” and announce emergency rules to govern banking and finance until the crisis is broken. For the country’s sake, I think this a better approach than buying up junked banks and failed financial firms, one by one. People have the right to ask: what exactly are the rest of us getting for our money?”

I know that after eight years of a President who respects neither the constitution or history I shouldn’t be surprised. But really, who hasn’t heard the old adage that those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it. (Actually, the quote is “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”)

Mostly, when I employ this adage, I’m talking abou t the economy; about, what I see as, the fundamental lesson we learned during the Great Depression: that the government plays a fundamental role in the economy, both to ensure stability and to ensure true capitalistic competition or consumer protection when capitalistic competition is impossible (utilities for example). Ok, all of that didn’t come directly out of the Great Depression. The latter came out of the Gilded Age but I thought I’d throw it in for good measure.

Anyway, my point is this: the financial crisis were are seeing is a) exactly what happened during the Great Depression (run on banks causing a crash of the economy), b) a direct result of the financial deregulation of the last two decades, especially the repeals of the Glass-Steagall Acts (a trend that, instead of being nipped in the bud by the government – you know, the one bailing out these free market corporations – is being continued by the process.), and c) is only not as a bad as the Great Depression (well, so far – fingers crossed) because we still have some remnants of the New Deal era regulations and safe guards in place.

Seriously, what is wrong with this country? Why do people buy this bullshit? How is it that I, a financial and economic lay person by most accounts, can say ‘I told you so’ and we have the top honchos of Wall Street scurrying around trying to justify their greed?

*Just because I know what people assume: I believe in capitalism. But, like, real capitalism. Capitalism that involves competition by many, consumer protections (because consumers are a part of the market too!), government regulation to ensure that competition exists and is fair or, in industries, that lend themselves to monopolies (utilities), ensure that corporations aren’t taking advantage of consumers, and little to no government subsidies to private enterprises. I, particularly, believe in supporting and nurturing small business in America. Also, I do believe there are some things that do not benefit from being motivated by profit – education, health care, and the military in particular. Most importantly, though, I believe it’s the role of the economy to serve society; not the other way around.

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