And the Country Went to Hell
By David Glenn Cox
George Orwell wrote in his ground breaking novel “1984”that, “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” Orwell had a good grasp on the politics of Fascism and was only amiss in his time table. It is however, sometimes overlooked, that if he or she knows the past they can also predict the future. That all of these events, the stolen 2000 election, 9-11, the Iraq War and even Barack Obama’s election are milestones along a dark highway. They are ominous forebodings, yet now, the ruse is exposed.
We are living in the dawn of a great awakening. We the people; are taking to the streets in numbers not seen since the Vietnam War and our numbers are growing and will continue to grow in unstoppable numbers. We have seen reactionary forces respond with violence against the peaceful and unarmed, same as it ever was. We have seen the media lie and generate false stories, same as it ever was. In 1932, 400 hungry farmers outside Lawrence Kansas came into town to demand relief supplies. The farmers pleaded with the Red Cross that their children hadn’t had anything to eat in three days.
An attorney in town who was acting as an agent for the Red Cross promised to contact Kansas City to get authorization to release the relief supplies. The farmers warned that they would wait until five o’clock, but after five, they would take the supplies with or without authorization. This event was reported in the Hearst newspapers as, “Farmers Riot” There was no riot, there was unity, but no violence, the people had stood together and made promises which threatened to overthrow the bureaucracy.
War spending had forced government expenditures to exceed three times tax revenues, and the government responded by calling for austerity and cutting the Federal budget which in turn prompted a major economic recession. Was this in 2007, or is this our current economy? No, this was in 1920. The war economy had fostered and expanded industrial manufacturing and spurred a 43 percent growth in worker productivity. By 1929, the top one percent of wage earners controlled 40 percent of the nation’s wealth while the bottom 93 percent saw a 4 percent decline in real disposable income.
By the time the decade ends the bottom eighty percent of wage earners will disappear from the tax roles while at the same time tax rates for the wealthy fall to just 25 percent. The number of people with incomes over $500,000 jumps from 156 in 1920 to 1,489 by 1930.
Citizens United? As Eugene Debs once advised nearly a century before, “Who appoints our federal judges? The people? In all the history of the country, the working class have never named a federal judge. There are 121 of these judges and every solitary one holds his position, his tenure, through the influence and power of corporate capital. The corporations and trusts dictate their appointment. And when they go to the bench, they go, not to serve, the people, but to serve the interests that place them and keep them where they are.”
1922 – The Supreme Court strikes down laws against child labor.
1923 – The Supreme Court strikes down the minimum wage for women in Washington D.C.
1924 – Wall Street stocks begin to climb astronomically without any correlation to the economy as a whole. Wall Street speculators pay financial writers under the table to place positive news stories about specific companies in major newspapers. From May of 1928 until September of 1929 stock prices rise 40 percent.
Throughout the decade of the 1920’s the number of unionized workers falls dramatically, the United Mine Workers lose over 80 percent of their membership and the American Federation of Labor loses more than 40 percent of its members so that by 1929 more than half of all Americans are living below subsistence levels, and so it was in this climate, Herbert Hoover was elected President,
“The outlook of the world today is for the greatest era of commercial expansion in history. The rest of the world will become better customers.” July 27,1928
“Any lack of confidence in the economic future or the basic strength of business in the United States is foolish.” November, 1929
In 1929, business inventories rose to three times the level of the previous year. By August, the economy is in recession as industrial production drops by 20 percent. Wholesale prices fall by 7.5 percent and personal income drops by 5%. October 24th the Stock Market crashes with the famous headline in Variety, “Wall Street Lays an Egg.” Total stock market loses for the month equal $16 billion or more than half a trillion in current dollars.
In February, the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates from 6 to 4 percent. Federal Reserve chairman Andrew Mellon states categorically, “the Fed will stand by as the market works itself out: ‘Liquidate labor, liquidate real estate… values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wreck from less-competent people’.
“Definite signs that business and industry have turned the corner from the temporary period of emergency that followed deflation of the speculative market were seen today by President Hoover. The President said the reports to the Cabinet showed that the tide of employment had changed in the right direction.” News Dispatch (January 21, 1930)
The GNP falls 9.4 percent for the year as unemployment climbs to 8.7 percent. In 1931, the GNP falls another 8.5 percent as unemployment climbs to 15.9 percent. The President proposes no major legislation to address the crisis as Congress follows suit with no proposals of their own to address the growing crisis either. As 1932 begins, GDP drops at an astounding 13.4 percent as unemployment balloons to 23.6 percent. The stock market has lost 80 percent of its value in 24 months.
“It could be so much worse that these days now, distressing as they are, would look like veritable prosperity.” – Herbert Hoover
Forty percent of all the nations banks have failed or are failing, GNP has fallen 31 percent since 1929 as President Hoover forecast to the nation, “the worst effect of the crash upon unemployment will have been passed during the next sixty days.”
Over 13 million American’s have lost their jobs in a population of 150 million. Agricultural commodity prices begin to fall as the bubble in Agriculture is deflated. Farm land once selling for $700 an acre, has no takers at auction for prices under $50 an acre. The collapse of farm prices hastens the collapse of the banks as record foreclosures deplete local bank reserves. In August of 1930, Herbert Hoover addresses the American Bankers Association in Cleveland,
“During the past year you have carried the credit system of the nation safely through a most difficult crisis. In this success you have demonstrated not alone the soundness of the credit system, but also the capacity of the bankers in emergency.”
By October the President has begun to change his tune, “The depression has been deepened by events from abroad which are beyond the control either of our citizens or our government.” Okay, it’s bad but it’s not our fault. No differently than today, as government blames its citizens for the mortgage crisis.
“Mellon pulled the whistle
Hoover rang the bell
Wall Street gave the signal
and the country went to hell.” – Demonstrator’s placard from 1932.
The United States had no national system for unemployment, no national system of social security and no national system of health care. By the winter of 1932, two people an hour would be dying of starvation on the streets of Detroit Michigan. America’s cities were going broke, unable to assist the starving and destitute.
November of 1932 Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected President but will not be sworn in until March.
“Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.” FDR March 4, 1933
“Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.” FDR March 4, 1933
The parallels to our modern era are striking, the 60,000 members of bonus Army march on Washington in 1932. They were the original “Occupy” movement, So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this generation’s peaceful demonstrators are attacked with tear gas and gun barrels.
“The Hoover program –a crust of bread and a bayonet.” – Demonstrator’s placard from 1932.
Their generation had the “America First Movement” who were the original Tea Baggers. The “America First Movement” wrapped themselves in flags and were steeped in stale, rank, patriotic images of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as they railed against FDR’s New Deal calling it, are you ready? Socialism. Just as with the current incarnation of tea baggers, the America First Movement was nationalistic to the point of xenophobic. Xenophobic to the point of paranoia with a paranoia based largely on racism. Most importantly, the America First Movement was funded and backed by media and big business.
60,000 struggling veterans with their families came to Washington on their own from all over America, as the media described them as dirty and disgruntled. Well funded and heavily advertised America First rallies were covered live on national radio broadcasts. Plato wrote, “Democracy… is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequal’s alike.” There is nothing new under the sun, “I exhort you” Plato wrote, “also to take part in the great combat, which is the combat of life, and greater than every other earthly conflict.”
The world is in flux and the opportunity to make a difference in the world abound. Tomorrow is filled with yesterday’s regrets. History teaches that there are two roads which we might travel from here, one requires effort and makes no promises. The other road offers only a dark certainty, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.” – George Orwell
The problems we face lie exposed, and so too, does the path home. The answer is in our unity.
Paulson pulled the whistle
Bush rang the bell
Wall Street gave the signal
and the country went to hell.