Is it as bad as the Great Depression?
Times are tough, that's obvious. There is constant talk about it being the worst downturn since the Great Depression. But is it as bad as the 1930s? The answer is a resounding NO!
We don't see breadlines extending for blocks as you did in the early years - 1930-32. We don't see huge numbers of families living in clusters of cardboard shanties called Hoovervilles. We don't see former executives selling apples on street corners. We don't see unemployment figures of 25 per cent. We don't see teachers and many others being paid in scrip rather than cash. We don't see any of the conditions that were the hallmarks of those dreadful years.
But what about the later years? Have you seen any doctors or lawyers manning shovels on WPA projects? Of course not. You would have in 1937; at least I did.
On the other hand, we see some things you didn't see during the Great Depression. We see people trying to hold onto houses far beyond their means, houses they never should have attempted to buy in the first place. We see the federal government handing bankers $350 billion and then have them refuse to say what they have done with it. The same bankers who now are saying, "Give us another $350 billion." The same bankers who are accustomed to huge bonuses and expect them to continue. That, they say, along with all the other perks enable them to concentrate on their work. We can see what a great job they've done of it.
We see the government handing General Motors and Chrysler more billions, then telling them they will have to show marked improvement in their business practices in 90 days or so. Decades of poor decisions are going to be fixed in that amount of time?
So who did a better job of tanking the economy, George W. Bush or Herbert Hoover? Bush wins that contest in a landslide. Hoover, bad as he was up there in his ivory tower, had barely taken office when the mess he inherited collapsed. Bush has had eight years to watch it happen.
No, it isn't even close to being as bad as the Great Depression, but the bankers, the executives and the people in Washington are working at it. So who knows what may lie ahead?