Saturday, September 1, 2007


Part IV
They Really DON'T Give A Damn!

One of the primary symbols of this compassionate conservatism was the  Hooverville.  With two million homeless people, families had to live somewhere, and all too often the only source of shelter was a flimsy, hastily improvised structure made out of readily available components:  empty packing cases, old car bodies, tar paper, etc.  Groups of families often congregated near railroad embankments, on unoccupied land, beside garbage incinerators, in city dumps, etc.  And in some cases those who found themselves in a Hooverville were actually more fortunate when compared to others.  No, this it not Kelli doing her imitation of Barbara Bush on homeless people in a sports stadium.  People, families, often found themselves huddling together to keep warm in doorways, or under bridges, or in alleys, ad infinitum.  [21]

Predictably enough, the Hoover response was a nonresponse.  Terrified by the idea of general relief programs, the vast majority of legislation passed during the Hoover Administration was geared to assist big business, a practice which Abe finds surreal.  "Have you ever  noticed," Abe chuckled, "that whenever corporations get federal assistance--either in the form of  tac cuts or out state and/or federal handouts--that it's for the benefit of the entire country, a good investment.  But when we help the individual citizen with a social program it's a part of a communist plot?  Now isn't that just amazing?"  Amazing, but true.  The Home Loan Act of 1932 created special banks which extended emergency credit to people golding private mortgages on private homes.  It was one of the few programs designed to help individuals.  But the 1932 Glass-Steagall Act provided $1 billion in gold so that banks could compensate for foreign withdrawals.  The January 1932 Reconstruction Finance Corporation provided cash to sinking industries.  The RFC, for all intents and purposes, was little more than a loan institution designed to serve banks, railroad companies, building and loan associations, insurance companies,and trust funds.  It came with capital of $500 million and was given the authority to borrow an additional $1.5 billion.  True, it loaned out billions of dollars to ailing industries, but true to Hoover;s form, it ignored farmers and small business.  [22]

The only time when Hoover showed anything even resembling actual initiative, merely cost him more brownie points with the American people.  I am of course talking about the repulsive chain of event associated with the 1932 Bonus March and the appropriately named Bonus Army.

In the spring of 1932, approximately 15,000 to 17,000 World War I veterans, accompanied by their wives and children, congregated in Washington DC at the Capitol to lobby fpr a bill that would have given them their service bonuses which weren't due until 1945.  The Republican-controlled Senate, however, promptly ignored the Bonus March and the veterans, and defeated the bill.   Most of the veterans merely gave up and returned to their homes, but approximately two thousand with no form of employment took refuge near the capitol in deserted buildings and shanties/  Hoover was both embarrassed and frightened by the veterans, concerned that their mere presence might result in social unrest.  In the meantime the Congress passed a bill which would have allowed the veterans to borrow against their service bonuses.  (Even at this stage the GOP dominated senate saw borrowing as a viable option, even after the Crash in October of 1929!), but the veterans refused the offer and opted to stay right where they were.  In July the police were called in to remove the veterans but a skirmish resulted and Hoover finally lost patience.  Hoover called in the United States Army (under the command of General Douglas MacArthur).  No shots were fired, but the veterans were driven out with tanks and tear gas; their shanties were burned.  Later Hoover insisted that the Bonus Army had been infiltrated by Communists, that it was a "polyglot of tramps and hoodlums." [23]

"I'd say that both Bush and Hoover were genuine ingrates when it came to war Veterans."  According to Abe, Hoover's contempt for those who had served bravely during World War I was a mere prelude to the all too despicable manner in which the current Administration treats returning veterans from the invasion and occupation of Iraq.  "Hoover was operating under a misguided ideology of small government and a fear of socialism.  But Bush, who managed to avoid actual service in a war theater, seems to hate the vets that he sent to war in the first place.  Walter Reed, forcing physically and psychologically wounded soldiers to serve multiple tours of duty.  In this respect Bush has actually found a way to out Hoover Hoover."

In conclusion, my coauthors and I would like to follow the following observations.  In so many ways the Bush administration is little more than an exaggerated, if not hyperactive replay of the 1920s.  On the one hand the powers tat be talk about morality and decency, defining that morality in terms of bigotry against minorities and the gay/lesbian community and an almost obsessive desire to hoard money without any regard for concepts such as fair play and honesty.   They talk about freedom and liberty,  and they quote scripture, but they have no problem when it comes to persecuting gays, lesbians, and minorities and they certainly don't mind thumping the Bible when they use federal tax policy and program cuts to benefit the wealthy and persecute the poor. 

Like the Administrations of the 1920s we find ourselves in an administration which talks about morals and ethics but which ignores or even engages in criminal activity on a regular basis.  Indeed, in this regard, the Bush Administration  resembles the scandal ridden Harding administration, and like Harding, Bush is clearly unfit for the job; the only difference being that Harding, despite his hard drinking, gambling, and overall corruption, at least had the honest to admit that he was intellectually unfit for the job.  On the one hand we have a religious revival. And, as in the 1920s, we see a rash of scandals emanating  from the Administration itself.  The powers that be claim to love and adore Jesus, but we all know that if they were to be honest about their motives and intentions they would change the "In God We Trust" on our coins and currency to "In Gold We Trust."

During the 1920s the American people were burdened with debt because they incessantly bought on credit.  Despite a phony patina of Christian spirituality the basic philosophy of the 1920s was the same philosophy, or rather attitude problem(s) that we see in society today:  the belief that we have to keep up with the Joneses to maintain our worth as human beings, that we are defined by the things we can afford to buy or charge.  Then, like today we are burdened with debt.  few of us believe that we need to save for that proverbial rainy day.  Whether it was buying on margin or  buying a house with a variable mortgage, the fact remains that people in the year 2007, like people in 1929, find themselves in a state of financial risk.

And now the bad news.  As we stated in a previous series, the Bush Administration has been steadily removing the protections that FDR and the Democratic Party implemented to both, protect workers, and to prevent another Stock Market Crash and Depression.   We would do well to remember that prior to Roosevelt's reforms Depressions in the economy were expected.  We even had a name for it.  We called it the business cycle, and until the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression we gave little thought to the lower classes who invariably suffered the most.  And now the worst news of all.  Each of those depressions during the so called business cycle was worse than the one preceding it.   Do we really want to risk a crash followed by a Depression that might be worse than the one our grandparents and great grand-parents experienced during the 1920s and 1930s? 

Somehow I don't think so. 

Uncle Abe
Praetor One
Bible Belted
Doctor Who
Thomas Paine

September , 2007

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