Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Effects of the Great Depression (1)

Author: Miriam Medina (with reference to sources of information)

One of the songs that reflected the mood of this period was "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime.", where it shows how despite this person's patriotism and all the sacrifices he had made to achieve the American Dream, he was reduced to the status of a bum standing on a bread line.

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," lyrics by Yip Harburg, 1931

They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,
When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.
They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,
Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Why don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

The Panic of 1929 and the ensuing depression were the most terrible the nation had ever suffered. "The stock market crash on October 23, 1929 wiped out an average of more than a billion dollars worth of paper values a day. A staggering total of 15 million were unemployed, and those who continued to work did so under greatly reduced wage scales." The flow of capital into productive enterprise slowed down to a trickle. The country was suffering from under consumption not overproduction. Banks were weighted down with government bonds, real estate mortgages based on greatly appreciated valuations, and highly speculative securities. Mass hysteria reigned.

Beginning in the United States, the Great Depression spread to most of the world's industrial countries, bringing foreign-trade to a standstill. There was a rapid decline in production and sales of goods. Thirteen to Fifteen million people were left unemployed as a result of factory shut-downs. Bankrupt businesses and banks closed their doors. Depositors who had entrusted the bank with their life savings discovered much to their shock and dismay that they were wiped out by the bank collapse.

Many had to depend on charity in order to survive. Farm and home foreclosures were at an all-time high. Everywhere Americans were suffering physical and emotional hardships. People were not buying .They just couldn't afford to do it anymore , nor were they any longer in a "whoopee" mood over "the good old Days".

To be continued: The Effects of the Great Depression (2)

Photo Credit: "Bread Line in New York City"; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA; Reproduction Number LCC-SZ62-75787


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