by Jack Taylor
Note: This column was written in 2012, as Barack Obama was running for reelection, but still remains relevant.
Everywhere you go these days all are saying how much they are worried about our nation. There are many that feel the country is headed for a depression. As one who lived through that time it is my opinion with conditions as they are today it is almost predictable.
Some of the younger generations are saying a good old depression is needed to straighten up our mess. Nothing could be further form the truth. One talk show host said the depression we are in is worse than the last one. These statements and thoughts only tend to further divide us.
To better illustrate why the first depression was caused and the effect it had, history alone cannot fully define the suffering and the pain that was inflicted.
In the year 1929 the stock market crashed, causing banks to close and taking with them many personal savings. Unemployment was the greatest in our history. Businesses were closing, there were surplus crops developed as there were prices on commodities less than the cost of production.
This was brought on by a congress and a president that were in complete gridlock that rendered them dysfunctional. As congress and the president were preoccupied with issues of little importance that could be defined from a line from The Fall of the Roman Empire: “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.”
The saving grace was the fact most Americans lived on farms that provided them with the necessitates of life. Fifty percent of the population lived on farms. Many who lived in towns had gardens, and often kept a milk cow. Those advantages do not exist today, leaving the people of today with the inability to provide for themselves and the results would not be pleasant.
Just a few of the events I witnessed as a young man growing up during those times: men were walking the streets looking for work, riding freight trains as well as migrating from state to state and only to find conditions the same. There were soup lines in most every town.
On a personal note: my father and mother ran a small sheep ranch that required loans each year in their operation. As there were hired men involved, when in peak four or five men were needed, and the wage was $1 per day and food provided for the camps and bunkhouses. The food came from mom’s huge garden, milk cows, meat form the animals on the farm including eggs from the chickens. Unlike the less fortunate we never went hungry and often my parents shared their bounty with the needy. The biggest problem was their business debt. With little income the debt was difficult to pay. At one time their banker, without informing them, had little hope for their success, as he later revealed to them after 12 years of blood and sweat and tears. It was through the kindness the banker had as he gave them the chance to succeed.
While setting up their budget the banker asked mom how much was needed for the family and to provide the food for the hired help. In her timid way asked if $10 per months would be asking too much. I am sure the banker had a growing respect and complete confidence in them from that day on.
These many hardships the country endured, proved the people’s strength and courage they possessed. It is often said about that generation, “They didn’t know it couldn’t be done so they done it anyway.”
These few examples show us very plainly what happened then is similar to what is taking place today.
A larger question might be how did they addresse the situation?
The next election brought about the change that was needed to bring back the stability that was necessary.
The new president was given the privilege to have a new congress that made it possible to get his agenda approved. Immediately a bank holiday was declared. Banks were required to provide deposit insurance, a floor was put on the price of wheat, programs such as social security and CCC camps were put into place, creating jobs for young men that were roaming the streets with nothing to do, as many young men find themselves today. Basic skills and the ability to work were taught there. There was price support for farm commodities, and WPA a program that offered work for men at 25 cents per hour that created a sense of dignity as well as fed their families. Many of the huge hydroelectric plants were brought about as well as the huge electrical grid that traverses our county. Many of these programs were designed to put the country back on its feet and it was not the original intent for them to become a large form of welfare as we see today. At the time there was no choice and without them the nation could not have been unified and motivated to face the even greater challenges ahead, namely the Second World War. It came at a time when our nation was at its weakest point, fully unprepared militarily to defend ourselves as we faced three nations fully prepared with seasoned combat veterans with full intentions of controlling the world.
At the time, we had a president that had the ability to motivate and unite the country as he instilled in the people the will to win as during his exceptional speech he stated “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
As war began patriotism was in the hearts of all and to do whatever it took to defeat the enemy at any cost. The war took the lives of millions as they gave their last full measure that you and I could be assured the many freedoms we enjoy.
The media at this time became cheerleaders that helped the war effort unlike those who report the news today with their opinionated comments that only adds to the division that is so commonplace. Division at this time can only make conditions worse. Divide and conquer, a tactic used by Adolf Hitler as he overran all the countries surrounding Germany. Also, he was well on his way to taking over the world. During this period in history London was being bombed as the British Air Force was their only defense with only a few planes against the mighty German Air Force. England had a leader that was also a motivator. As he praised the brave men, as he stated quote, “Never in the history of mankind have so few done so much for so many.” This as many statements united the English people at a time their country was facing defeat. If they were defeated, it could have brought on our defeat. England provided the staging area that made it possible for D Day. For that event to happen, all the manpower, supplies and equipment were delivered there. To do so convoys of dozens of supply ships were under threat of the mighty German submarine Navy as they sunk many of our ships. As history has proven, Hitler made two blunder sin his strategy, as he chose to attack Russia and almost defeated that country as he crossed the country killing thousands which brought them to the gates of Stalingrad where by the will of the Russian people and the onset of winter that stopped the ability for supplies to reach the German army. With that blunder came another of equal magnitude, Hitler underestimated the tenacity and the strength of the American people. It is ironic that a war of that magnitude could be won in four years. The strength of our people when harnessed properly can overcome any adversity.
It is my hope that the above statements will help the people of this country to use all our energy and strength to prevent history from repeating itself.
First, let us develop an attitude of optimism that would include unity and patriotism that is so necessary. Rather let us solve our government’s problems and not expect the government to solve ours.
As many programs that were necessary to bring stability to the nation we must realize Americans expect to take care of those with illness or the inability to provide for their families. However, hard working Americans do expect able bodied men to provide for themselves. That can only take place when jobs are available.
Like many of you I agree the welfare program that has become so bloated due mostly of the many loopholes found in the original concept that has turned us towards socialism and the results bring to mind a quote form an author, Adrian Rogers:
“You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. What one person receives without working for another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for that my dear friend is the beginning of the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.”
To the president, congress and the people of the United States, we must put aside political difference. Our destiny is in our hands let us go forward with the optimism and strength needed to make our country all it can be.
As a reminder let us all instill in our hearts and minds the words of John. F. Kennedy. “Ask not what your country can do for you but rather what can you do for your country.”
As congress begins the new year a plaque should be placed above the doors of congress as follows: Through these doors lies the destiny of the nation and they that govern must leave political differences at the threshold to better insure the compromise needed.
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