Depression Then and Now

Americans walked out of their polling places last month and expressed a 73% rate of discontent with the job that Congress is doing.  They came out in force against government spending, influence or economic management of any kind.

The Pew Research Center just dug up some stats about how people during the 1930’s, another period of harsh economic realities, felt about Government.  Astonishingly, they found that in many ways, the reactions, hopes and desires were the opposite of those that are so prevalent today…

Quite unlike today’s public, what Depression-era Americans wanted from their government was, on many counts, more not less. And despite their far more dire economic straits, they remained more optimistic than today’s public. Nor did average Americans then turn their ire upon their Groton-Harvard-educated president — this despite his failure, over his first term in office, to bring a swift end to their hardship. FDR had his detractors but these tended to be fellow members of the social and economic elite.

You can see this contrast illustrated in the infograph below:

The midterms showed that, as a nation, we’re not looking for Obama to be FDR.  Those who pushed him to work on big healthcare and infrastructure projects miscalculated the mood and the moment.  Using the Depression as a guide for the Great Recession failed miserably – we are very different from the Americans of the 30’s in many respects, apparently.


How a Different America Responded to the Great Depression (Pew Research)

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