I’m not sure what to make of all this. Looking just at the idea, I was disgusted by the bailout. Eventually all of the talk about pushing the problems off to our ‘grandkids’ will actually mean pushing the problems off onto us. That is if we continue to have even the option of pushing these problems off…eventually the nation will not have folks willing to loan any money.
But nothing makes me think twice more than clever, historical writing that speaks to nostalgia…
The Great Depression was not just a period of wholesale unemployment and incredible poverty — of bread lines and apple-peddlers and women selling brief intimacy for 10 cents a dance. It was also the period of Hitler and Mussolini and, in this country, of Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin, and the belief among otherwise sane people that communism was the remedy for what ailed us. An economic crisis is like war. It’s impossible to contain. It affects everything it touches.
Ben Bernanke knows all this. He might focus on the raw numbers of the Great Depression — “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished,” Franklin Roosevelt said — but he would also have to know their social and cultural ramifications. You can, if you want, say the bailout program is about the future. But it’s really about the past.