Tuesday, March 24, 2009

1938--ah, that was a year!

Driving to the gym this morning, I heard the 'Bloomberg Market Minute' on the car radio. This rather wonderful service (brought to us, I assume, by the mayor of New York and the business that made him rich) encapsulates in 60 seconds the financial developments of the night just past. What almost made me drive off the road was the news that the New York Stock Exchange's rally of the past two weeks was the largest since 1938.

Ah, 1938. That was a year! Unemployment was 19 percent, the highest it had been in three years, and higher than it would ever be again, I trust. (And nota bene, in 1938 most families were intact, and most wives did not work. That 19 percent meant households without a wage earner, not men unemployed while their wives brought home a salary, or vice versa.)

Three million families had a man engaged in government make-work like the WPA, three days a week of digging ditches at four dollars a day; 1.8 million families were drawing some kind of Social Security assistance; and 1.6 million families--mine among them--were "on relief," that being the 1930s term for the dole. My mother was given a charge account at the local IGA grocery, worth I think the same $12 a week that Mr. Drew earned on the WPA, and every month a truck came by (manned by two or three of those men on make-work projects) and offloaded staples such as flour, rich, prunes, and raisins. That's how we got through the Great Depression. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford


At 4:55 AM, Anonymous ick53993 said...

They say this is the Recession. So the story along the Route 66 is said to be in high demand. John Steinbeck published 'The Grapes of Wrath' seventy years ago. I hope we can better survive than our ancestors did.


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