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September 15th, 2010
Profiles from the Recession
[BLOG] Hard Times Then, Hard Times Now

Tom McNamara, Blueprint America

Much has been made of the similarities between today’s economic downturn and The Great Depression. Pundits have, for example, labeled the current era “The Great Recession.” And the facts seem to bear that out. Fifty-five percent of Americans in the workforce have lost their jobs, suffered a pay cut or seen their hours reduced since 2007. By comparison, unemployment alone reached 25 percent in the 1930s. There is, no doubt, a relationship between the two. TIME magazine illustrated that relationship when, just after the 2008 election, the publication put Barack Obama on its cover in a classic Franklin Delano Roosevelt pose, right down to the cigarette holder. The title crystallized the message: “The New New Deal: What Barack Obama can learn from FDR, and what Democrats need to do.”

There are other similarities, too. The hard-luck stories from then and now are more or less the same. And the pictures tell the story.

Then: The Great Depression

Roy Swinford, a worker for the Works Progress Administration in Chicago, laid down 45,000 bricks a day. He kept a crew of 20 men busy at top speed to supply him with bricks. (Source: New Deal Network)

Now: The Great Recession

Kevin Light, a project superintendent with the Washington State Department of Transportation, supervised the City of Washougal’s SR-14 Pedestrian Tunnel stimulus project. In an interview with his employer, Light said, “this project enabled us to continue working and bring employees back to work.” Light’s grandchildren, as he put it, will one day be able to look at the tunnel and say that he built it. (Source: Washington State Department of Transportation)

Then: The Great Depression

Bridge builders working on a Public Works Administration project in Chicago. (Source: New Deal Network)

Now: The Great Recession

Bridge builders working on a stimulus project in Seattle. (Source: Washington State Department of Transportation)

Now: The New New Deal

Of course, Congress and the Obama administration implemented a type of modern New Deal in the form of the 2009 Recovery Act, a $787 billion government stimulus program. While much of the money was in tax breaks, some $150 billion went to infrastructure programs like those in Washington State (see the state department of transportation’s Flickr page for more “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”-like documentation of their state’s stimulus dollars at work). Those projects were, as the president has said, intended to put Americans back to work.

As the midterm elections approach, many will ask: Did the stimulus work? Considering that the jury is still out even on the New Deal, it’s hard to tell.

Then again, an announcement just weeks ago from President Obama may be telling. Obama said that another $50 billion in stimulus-like government spending on infrastructure projects will likely be needed as this “Great Recession” continues. Just don’t call it “Stimulus Part Two” — the president has been careful to avoid using that rhetoric again.

  • Dale Netherton

    When the government spends money ( it has taken from taxpayers ) it simply disrupts some facet of supply and demand. For instance when the government “stimulates” spending by making money available for consumption it either takes it form the consumption ability of a taxpayer or it borrows which limits funds to people who will pay it back or it prints money and devalues the currency. Get government out of the economy and let the market work . Let private industry supply what the producers see as rational demand and expect government to protect individual rights through voluntary contributions. Otherwise we will experience the same statist trend that has wiped out all empires.

  • FazeBrown

    Unfortunately, President Hoover decided to take a hands off approach and instead of the markets correcting itself, the countryn was plunged further into what is now known as The Great Depression.
    I find it very interesting that most people who believe the markets will correct this economic downturn, either don’t know what they’re talking about or they have something to gain if this country fails. This economy needs to be rescued. If a man’s drowning, I doubt he’d turn down a pair of water wings or driftwood, just because he rather have a row boat… We must do whatever’s necessary to briing our country out of the abyss. History serves to remind us that we are damned to repeat past mistakes, if we don’t pay heed to what worked and what didn’t…

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