I have been doing a lot of reading about the economy and events leading up to the Great Depression. The circumstances that caused the Great Depression and the Great Recession are very similar, both involved banking and economic problems in many countries. For instance, Germany after WWI had to pay reparations with payments that were so high they could not afford to run their government after they had been devastated by fighting in a war. There were recessions and depressions on and off after WWI, especially in Europe, but also in the United States. Germany was hit the worst with hyperinflation. The people of Germany looked for someone to blame. Remember politics and economics go hand in hand. They had multiple theories split among the population of who was to blame, the Kaiser, the new government, communists, or Jews. In German society, an elite class had enjoyed many privileges and many resented them. Many skilled workers had been killed in the war, their infrastructure was falling apart, people were starving, there was a shortage of fuel, and a shortage of raw materials. Germany was also being shunned internationally.
Hardships such as starvation and lack of work cause people to become radicalized due to fear and anger. They had a lot of people swing both left and right. There were attempts at revolutions. The government used a group of right wing soldiers to try to get control. We all know what this lead to later. The people of Germany were very disillusioned and looking for hope. They did not understand what was happening; they were just trying to have a better life. Hitler made brilliant speeches, got the rich to pay for propaganda, and terrorized people with the paramilitary. President Hindenburg made Hitler his chancellor thinking he could control him and his followers. He took a negative destructive leader of people who fueled support for his movement by anger and hate into his administration.
Right now in the United States, we have a prison system this is overflowing, problems with police brutality, loss of civil rights, surveillance, disillusionment, radicalization, illogical blaming, racial hatred, immigrant hatred, and rich elite who have caused huge damage to the economy who also pay for propaganda. Our highest court has given the wealthy the power to control the outcome of elections in a huge way, we have people calling many established parts of our social nets socialism while working to destroy them. The United States was shunned by many countries for a war that should not have happened along with other acts of imperialism that have gone on for the last few decades. Many have been affected by loss of jobs, homes, lack of health care, inability to afford education and more. People are angry and afraid. The paramilitary in Germany attacked in many ways those who opposed Hitler. We have some similar activities in the United States by those who are against certain individuals or a party who are targeted, manipulated, have dirt dug up on them, false information circulated about them, tricks pulled, prosecution, ignoring of requests by government agencies, and courts that favor those with wealth and particular political leanings.
One of the biggest mistakes the White House has made is not giving the citizens enough information to understand their thinking behind the decisions they are making. They make the economy sound too complex and mysterious for the average citizen. Their explanations that the Bush administration caused the problems just sound like blaming on the right. Bush is not the whole story anyway, it started way before Bush. Information is distributed by those with a corporate agenda on some hack news show often by someone with just a high school diploma let alone a degree in economics. It has become abundantly clear that one reason for this is the White House focused on Wall Street instead of Main Street while campaign promises were broken. The corporations were the number one priority. From what I understand, the Obama administration did keep us from having a second Great Depression. Job plans for the unemployed middle class and working people were an afterthought. We are going to have huge unemployment for a long time. I understand President Obama was handed a bucket of crap from failures in the past, but telling people who have lost their homes and don’t have jobs to stop whining is not going to motivate people to follow him. It only makes people angrier. What is he thinking?
The economic and political conditions we have in this country now have historically caused huge problems for countries. For decades, mainly the Republicans and a few Democrats have caused the decline of the working class and middle class by their policies that deregulated and favored big business over the welfare of the United States as a whole. Our judicial system is designed to favor big business and the decline of labor unions took away the voice of the workers. President Obama has attempted to unite with the Republicans with their hateful, negative, illogical and often insanely selfish agenda. The result of this is Republicans have done everything they could to halt all progress for the middle class and working people by blocking reforms or watering them down. So, we have not gotten very far. The movement we all got behind when we got Obama elected was sabotaged and people have lost hope.
If the Republicans get back into the White House, especially the Tea Party brand they will destroy this country. People who did not normally vote in Germany came out of the woodwork, especially the young and women to vote for Hitler. The support for the Nazis was highest among Protestants and those in the rural areas. Older people who believed Hitler would restore traditional German values were behind him. Does any of this sound familiar?
I am not saying the Republicans are Nazis, but they have among their ranks some twisted people who are capable of great evil. These conditions are similar to what happened in Germany that allowed the population to be controlled by a power hungry insane man because they were looking for hope and change. When these conditions occur catastrophically bad things can happen. We have the advantage of knowing this, unlike the people of post WWI Germany. The United States and everything our constitution stands for could disappear. Let us all be conscious of this and not let this situation get any worse than it is. At this point, we can turn it around.
Aftershock, The Next Economy and America’s Future is amazing. He explains what has gone on to cause the recession and what we need to do to get a strong economy back in a way that a non-economist can understand. It is not a long book and an easy read. The recession did not happen because the middle class spent too much money and did not save. High debt is a symptom, not the cause of the recession. Our politicians who are more concerned with being reelected than the good of the country have opted for short term solutions rather than lasting solutions. It is not difficult to see that by eroding the middle class capitalism cannot work. It is also not hard to understand that if all of the money is concentrated with a tiny percentage of the population the economy is rendered dysfunctional. We have to have reform to survive and have a healthy economy over the long term.
Robert Reich should be in the White House helping President Obama straighten out the economy. For one thing, he is able to explain what is going on and why certain choices are made to the American people. Information and truth calms people and goes a long way to prevention of radicalization. People also feel a lot different about failure when they know the White House is on their side and doing their best, Robert Reich would engender trust. The point of a country is to work together for the benefit of the majority. Together we can do things we cannot do alone. We have not been building infrastructure for a long time and many on the right are trying to take away our social nets that help prop up the economy in difficult times. A true democracy follows through with the consensus of the majority and this is not happening.
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…”, Mr. Spock.
We are in danger of loosing America. Forces with an agenda are trying to take control. They say what they think people want to hear to get their support, but those following them don‘t understand what they really are. In my research about workplace bullying one of the consequences is those with an agenda other than the work at hand cause great dysfunction, corruption, abuse and waste of finances. The same thing happened with the leadership of our country over decades getting worse with time until the eight years of George W. Bush‘s chaotic presidency ended with the Great Recession. The real work of running this country for the benefit of all was hijacked.
Without education about what is going on people cannot get behind what we need to do to get our economy and political system back on a healthy track. A healthy democracy does not work without a highly educated population, not propaganda, but education. This helps prevent radicalization as well. Conspiracy theories and lies propagate behind a void of the truth. Where is that transparency we were promised.
Read Robert Reich’s blog post for today:
The President’s Backyard Discussion of the Economy (as It Could Be)
Robert Reich at a book signing in New York: