By Anonymous (not verified) on October 27, 2009

Eighty years ago this week, the stock market crashed and ushered in the Great Depression. We need to apply the lessons from that era to our own to relieve the needless suffering of the Great Recession.

In just two days, between Oct. 28 and 29, 1929, the stock market plummeted by 25 percent. Between September and November of that year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 40 percent of its value. By July of 1932, the Dow had lost nearly 90 percent of its value.

By then the Great Depression was raging, with unemployment rates rising to 25 percent.

To combat unemployment and alleviate poverty, the federal government engaged in a massive public works and jobs program through the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

Private markets weren’t about to create jobs, and the public sector became the employer of last resort. The job creation from the WPA provided survival and sustenance for millions of American families. Where is the contemporary WPA?

Absent public job creation, it is likely that the economy will not fully recover. The official unemployment rate stands at 9.8 percent. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics acknowledges that the adjusted unemployment rate — including part-timers looking for full-time work, and those who don’t look for work because they don’t think work is out there — is as high as 17 percent. This means that one in six Americans does not have a job. Among certain subgroups — notably older Americans and blacks — the unemployment rate exceeds Depression-era unemployment.

To commemorate this anniversary of the Great Depression, the Obama administration ought to engage in Depression-era tactics to jump-start the economy. We have spent $700 billion bailing out banks and $787 billion in economic stimulus. But we have not focused on directly creating employment, on lifting people at the bottom.

The length of the Great Recession depends largely on how quickly we are able to put our nation back to work. A 10 percent unemployment rate is too high, and its costs are too great. The same nation that created a Works Progress Administration in the 1930s should create another one in the 21st century.

Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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