Surviving the Great Depression...

#TheGreatDepression #HerbertHoover #FranklinDRoosevelt #Poverty #AnnaPerdue

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[1] The Great Depression was a prolonged depression from the 1930s until the early 1940s, with unemployment levels of up to 25%, with an above-average number of bank and business failures.

One of the causes of the crash was the Federal Reserve’s monetary inflation policies (increasing the money supply leading to a decrease in interest rates for loans) during the roaring 1920s that resulted in a speculative boom. This boom ended in a bust once the FED raised its discount rate from 3.5% in January of 1928 to 6% in August 1929 to shrink the money supply. Anti-capitalist economists and historians claim the Stock Market Crash of 1929 (29 October 1929) was the trigger of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Yet, during the period surrounding the stock market crash of 1929, unemployment peaked at 9 percent and then drifted downwards until it reached 6.3% in June 1930. There was only a relatively mild recession in terms of unemployment for the first six months after the crash, as in previous market crashes? What turned this particular recession into a lengthy depression, where the Dow would not regain its pre-crash highs until a quarter of a century later?

Observe that in the 1920 and 1987 Stock Market crashes, there was no Great Depression, but minor recessions, because there was no Great Intervention. The Recession of 1929/1930 became prolonged by the government’s “great intervention” that prevented the market from restoring normalcy. Far from putting an end to the Great Depression, in the U.S., the depression became worse thanks to the combined efforts of Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (elected 1932) and their interventionist policies into the economy, i.e., FDR’s New Deal.

Hmmm... makes me think of the Green New Deal. The Smooth Hawley Tariff Act on imported goods, signed into law by Herbert Hoover reduced international trade, causing a drastic reduction in revenues from U.S. exports (because of exports are paid for with imports) along with retaliatory tariffs.

The New Deal was an attempt by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to use the crisis surrounding the recession following the Stock Market Crash of 1929 as an excuse to intervene in the economy. Interventions of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” included: National Industrial Recovery Act (1933) which controlled industrial prices and wages; Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933) to control agricultural prices and output (paying farmers not to produce); National Labor Relations Act (1935) to control wage prices by forcing employers to negotiate with government empowered unions; Glass-Steagall Act which created the FDIC, to federally insure bank deposits; and many others.

Roosevelt also made thousands of executive orders, which created further uncertainty and disruption of the economy. Uncertainty led to people to hold onto their money (“hoarding”) as opposed to investing it as they were waiting to see what the government would do next.

Did World War II end the Great Depression and help the economy? What World War II did end were many of the regulations that crippled the economy. Wars, though sometimes necessary, are negative on an economy as capital that allocated to productive uses is used for funding a war (destruction). [1]

[2] These were the Fed's critical mistakes. The Fed began raising the fed funds rate in the spring of 1928. It kept increasing it through a recession that started in August 1929. When the stock market crashed, investors turned to the currency markets. At that time, the gold standard supported the value of the dollars held by the U.S. government.

Speculators began trading in their dollars for gold in September 1931. That created a run on the dollar. The Fed raised interest rates again to preserve the dollar's value. That further restricted the availability of money for businesses. More bankruptcies followed. The Fed did not increase the supply of money to combat deflation. Investors withdrew all their deposits from banks. The failure of the banks created more panic. The Fed ignored the banks' plight.

This situation destroyed any of consumers’ remaining confidence in financial institutions. Most people withdrew their cash and put it under their mattresses. That further decreased the money supply. The Fed did not put enough money in circulation to get the economy going again. Instead, the Fed allowed the total supply of U.S. dollars to fall by a third. [2]

[3] The Great Depression brought the prosperous American empire to its knees. Money and industry dried up almost overnight, along with the nation’s food resources. It was the worst of times to be an American. In reality, the probability of a similar economic disaster shaking this nation again is not as low as you might imagine.

Sure, there are new checks and balances – “safety valves” to ensure that the US stock market can’t crash as fast. But even as recently as 2008, America’s economy was badly shaken and sank once again via The Great Rescission. But the truth of the matter is Wall Street and big banks never actually learn the lessons of the past. And with Fed holding interest rates at 0% - 0.25%, the government’s bag of tricks is running on empty.

The next economic fall could match or exceed that of The Great Depression. History often repeats itself, and the best way to avoid past suffering is to learn from the mistakes of our forbearers – and try to prepare ourselves for harder times yet to come. As Edmond Burke once famously quoted, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Some important lessons to survive the Great Depression are: “Job Security” Is A Dangerous Myth The stock market is just a numerical representation of reality. When it crashes, it’s the underlying businesses that make up the stock exchange that struggle to perform. And once a crash starts, it’s difficult to stop. When fear turns into all-out panic people, stop spending, which leads to lower business profits, which pushes stock prices even lower, which then leads to even less spending.

Economic depression is a vicious cycle, where businesses are not selling their inventories because people are not buying. All businesses will immediately start downsizing their staff of employees to help offset their future drop in revenues. The weaker businesses will find that massive layoffs are not enough. They can’t keep the doors open, and everyone who worked for them is out of a job.

This downward cycle ushered in the era of The Great Depression. Unemployment rates skyrocketed. The unemployed masses spent their remaining savings on only the bare essentials (i.e., food, rent) until even those dollars ran out. After that, many were left with shanty towns and food lines as their only remaining options. So even if you think your job is secure, are you 100% certain?

Let’s imagine that your company does survive but to do so must layoff a few employees from each department. How can you be certain you won’t be among those few? If you’re a relatively young employee, you might be let go because hey “you’ll land on your feet”. If you’re a more seasoned employee, cutting your salary will make a bigger difference to a struggling business’s bottom line. You can’t assume how these things will shake out… In stable times, people like to talk about their “job security”.

They fool themselves into believing that their job or their industry can weather any storm. It’s a suckers bet. Instead, you should assume that you could lose your job in an instant and live, plan and prepare accordingly.

Next, Self-Defense Matters in Tough Times- As times got tougher, people got more desperate. People who could not afford to feed themselves or their families forced to more extreme means of providing or risk starvation. Organized crime took off like a rocket ship. The mobs in New York and California became some of the wealthiest organizations in the country because of their control of the liquor smuggling operations.

Desperate times call for desperate measures to survive The Great Depression. A father or mother with starving children will abandon their morals and steal from others. You should assume your resources will come under attack. Especially if you’ve stockpiled food, vital supplies, and resources others want. Get prepared to protect what’s yours.

Diversify Your Skill Set - Many of the previous well-off families were forced into lives of extreme poverty. As the cushy jobs vanished and monetary assets tanked, people who had no real useful skills suffered the most.

Previously wealthy parents, watched in horror as their children died of starvation or illnesses they could not afford to fight off. Mothers and fathers died by sacrificing their own needs for their children. Leaving their children alone, to fend for themselves. When times get tough, you’ll need to figure out how to scratch out a living. Learn how to provide an essential service to others and trade or barter for it.

Figure out how to secure critical resources and turn those into necessary goods or services. It’s best if you acquire those self-reliant survival skills today. If you wait, it may be too late.

You Must Stay Mentally Prepared - Brothers and sisters, lovers and friends were subject to extreme suffering and (as the name of the era implies) depression. Many folks were simply not equipped to handle the cultural shift from prosperity to poverty – or chose not to – and opted to take their own lives. If you want to be a rock in a sea of misery, you need to sharpen your mind.