It’s official, this Depression is worse than the last one. Home prices are seriously sliding down again having dipped 33% since the peak of 2006 and are still falling. In the 1930s home prices only fell 31% at the worst point of that Depression. The only reason the depth of our plight isn’t more apparent is that in 1932 there was no meaningful safety net.
In 1932 the largest single cause of death for Americans was starvation in summer and freezing to death in the winter. It was mostly but not exclusively the elderly that succumbed this way. The very young died too but usually from diseases made epidemic by malnutrition.
Today one in six Americans receive food stamps and it’s one in four of children. You would be seeing people starving in the streets on an even greater scale than 1932 if not for Uncle “Sugar” as the right wingers put it. Fully half of Americans receive some sort of aid from the government if you include earned income tax credits. The right wing says this is unsustainable, we must eliminate these handouts so that people will pull themselves up by their bootstraps. No food stamps or WIC for babies, no unemployment for the lazy bums, no Medicaid for all the freeloaders (65% of nursing home care is paid by Medicaid) eliminate teachers pensions and cut government workers pay, that will fix everything they say.
The truth is (right-wingers cover your ears) the truth is that Republicans have turned government assistance programs into a corporate subsidy to guarantee a cheap supply of labor. The minimum wage is barely half what it should be to match 1938 standards, but food stamps and free medical care for kids keep people working for those wages. The low wages at the bottom also help drag down wages across the board especially when coupled with 20% unemployment which is comparable with Depression levels.
If Republicans are successful with still more cutbacks these numbers will only get worse as the large portion of the economy only exists on government aid and all of the jobs this spending creates would disappear adding to the mass of starving people.
The easy conclusion to jump to is that at some point the people will rebel against this. Certainly they will but they’ve already tried democracy, what makes you think they’ll make that “mistake” again. The reason some European countries all fell into fascism in the twenties and thirties was that the people had no collective memory of democracy and fell for the first guy who told them what they wanted to hear.
Our collective memory of democracy has been all but erased. Ronald Reagan was able to sell his appeal for the good old days on the notion that “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem”. Democracy requires government but the Tea Baggers think “real” democracy is the “market place” or in other words they believe in the benevolent corporation. Major public building and even schools display the corporate logos of their “kind” benefactors.
Nobody questions why these corporations don’t pay any taxes but yet the little guy pays ever more taxes and receive ever less in wages from these benevolent corporate overlords. The oil industry says 40% of what you pay for gas goes to Wall Street, that’s a pretty stiff tax. That’s why they have trillions and John Boner says “we’re broke”. We’re not broke, just ignorant by design. www.prairie2.com