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View Diary: The Great Depression Pt. III (172 comments)

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  •  I am still saying the depression didn't end (2+ / 0-)
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    Vacationland, MGross

    until WWII.  The numbers you show always miss the most important number, which is unemployment.  While it improved from its low (it almost had to), 10% unemployment is simply not a recovery and is definitely still depression territory.  FDR did some great things that benefited the country for the next 70+ years, but in fact the depression didn't end until we started ramping up arms sales in 1939.

    •  Fine, but (12+ / 0-)

      what could FDR have done that would have made it end sooner?  The RW echo chamber thinks that continuing Hoover's policies would have done so (without any empirical proof), and there would have been much more poverty and starvation to pay for the alleged "higher employment."

      We'll discuss much more of that in part 4.

      "When the going gets tough, the tough get 'too big to fail'."

      by New Deal democrat on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 05:22:31 AM PST

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      •  He could have started building (0+ / 0-)

        up our military in 36/37 instead of use being caught almost defenseless at the start of WWII.

        "The most virtuous hearts have a touch of hell's own fire in them" Tennyson

        by Void Indigo on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 05:53:31 AM PST

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        •  This is a common canard. (10+ / 0-)

          U.S. defense preparedness was not inadequate in 1941.  Japan's run of success lasted only six months after Pearl Harbor - as Yamamoto had predicted - and much of that was the capture of British, French, and Dutch territories in the South Pacific.  The only major U.S. territorial loss was the Philippines.  Arguing that the U.S. could have defeated Japan any faster than we did, or indeed have prevented her expansion, is very speculative at best.

          As to Germany, it's true that eleven months passed before the U.S. was ready to put ground troops into North Africa, and 30 months passed before we were ready to land in Northwest Europe.  Both of those had more to do with merchant shipping tonnage than with the size of our military.  As it happened, the time required to upgrade our merchant fleet was the same as the time needed to build up our military, and we did them simultaneously.  That is to say, by the time we had a military big enough to invade Europe, we had sufficient shipping to transport and support them, and by the time we had sufficient shipping to transport and support them, we had a big enough military for the operation.

          Moreover, both our military and merchant fleet were state of the art in 1944 largely because we had the benefit of lessons learned from others' mistakes in 1939-1940.  We didn't have the burden of obsolete shipping, nor of obsolete military organizations or equipment, which we would have had if we'd begun a buildup much before we did.

          •  Not inadequate? (4+ / 0-)

            We didn't have the burden of obsolete shipping, nor of obsolete military organizations or equipment, which we would have had if we'd begun a buildup much before we did

            The AAF had P40's and P39's as main line fighters. Both were obsolete by 1941. The Army was still armed with 03 Springfield's while the Garand was ramping up. We had no real tank, the M3 and M5 were obsolete in 1941. Our navy had good fighters and dive bombers but the torpedo bomber was a tragedy. Torpedoes for our submarines didn't detonate consistently.

            Tactically our Army and Navy needed improvement thru training and experimentation observing the lessons learned in Spain and China prior to WWII and German tactics after the start of WWII.

            We didn't have obsolete military organizations or equipment to a large degree because we didn't have those things to start with.

            "The most virtuous hearts have a touch of hell's own fire in them" Tennyson

            by Void Indigo on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 06:59:13 AM PST

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            •  That was my point! (5+ / 0-)

              We didn't have obsolete military organizations or equipment to a large degree because we didn't have those things to start with.

              That was my point.  Had we invested heavily in our military in 1936-37, much of what we'd built would have been obsolete when we began operations in 1942.  No one - not even the Germans - really knew what the practical requirements of modern war were in 1936-37, and every nation that had invested heavily in what they thought would be the practical requirements of modern war later paid a heavy price in both technical and tactical obsolescence.

              The U.S. was not burdened by that obsolescence.  And by the time we had sufficient shipping tonnage to engage in major operations, we'd built a military large enough and modern enough - in both equipment and doctrine - to fight effectively.

            •  our defense systems were wholly adequate (6+ / 0-)

              for protecting the territorial integrity of the United States of America.

              which is all they should ever be.

              FDR could have spent more on useful public infrastructure programs -- but as was noted in one of the earlier posts, the official unemployment figures being reported don't include people working in government work programs. which is a stupid point of ideology, not of economic reality. the actual unemployment figures would have been lower than the 10% you continue to cite.

              I am further of the opinion that the President must be impeached and removed from office!

              by UntimelyRippd on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 07:23:38 AM PST

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            •  I read a book by one man who was drafted in, (1+ / 0-)
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              New Deal democrat

              IIRC, 1938.  His first assignment was to the goddamn horse cavalry.

              He wrote of training troops to use mortars with a baseball bat and a cushioned base.

              The problem wasn't lack of training as much as lack of equipment.

              A jackass can kick down a barn but it takes a carpenter to build one.--Sam Rayburn (D-TX)

              by Ice Blue on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 10:33:12 AM PST

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            •  What's wrong with Springfield rifles? (0+ / 0-)

              No other country at the start of the war had a semi-auto rifle as the standard issue.  We were the only ones for the bulk of the war for whom a semi-auto rifle was anywhere near standard-issue.  All others used such bolt-action rifles.  Our equipment was on par with what most of the rest of the world used.  The Germans had some better armored vehicles, but the extent of their motorization is generally vastly exaggerated.  Some had better aircraft, but we did alright.  We lost the war for the first six months, then we came back and kicked their asses almost without exception.

              -5.38, -5.90 Deus mihi iustitiam dabit.

              by cjallen on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 10:47:13 AM PST

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        •  With Congressional approval you mean. (6+ / 0-)

          Until Germany started massive air campaigns against England, Americans largely wanted no part of engaging in the war.

          Moving on, finally.

          by fisheye on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 07:03:26 AM PST

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          •  Even later than that.... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ice Blue, New Deal democrat, fisheye

            FDR had to promise "no more foreign wars" as late as October 1940, in the midst of the London Blitz.  In terms of war with Germany, the political tipping point was the sinking of the U.S.S. Reuben James (11 October 1941).

            •  Which if I recall (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              fisheye, NCrissieB

              the sinking of the U.S.S. Reuben James (11 October 1941)

              correctly was escorting a convoy to England and in international waters. That was a violation of neutrality and thus a legal target.  

              "The most virtuous hearts have a touch of hell's own fire in them" Tennyson

              by Void Indigo on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 07:40:41 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yes. FDR played a dangerous game there. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                semiot, Ice Blue, fisheye

                FDR clearly violated the Neutrality Act in authorizing U.S. warships to escort convoys across the Atlantic, even if the convoys contained U.S.-registered merchant ships (and they did).  That's why FDR couldn't ask Congress to treat the sinking of the Reuben James as an outright causus belli.  It did, however, lead to the repeal of many provisions of the Neutrality Act, and swung key senators in favor of further engagement on Britain's behalf.

                Even had the Japanese never launched their Winter 1941 offensive - Pearl Harbor and near simultaneous attacks on the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and the East Indies - it's likely that our escalation of naval activity in the Atlantic would have triggered a causus belli sometime in 1942.

                Regardless, the brake on U.S. major operations in 1942-1944 was the size of our merchant fleet, and thus we could not have effectively used a larger military any sooner than we had one.  Not beginning our military buildup until late 1940 allowed us to take better advantage of lessons learned in Poland and (especially) France and the Battle of Britain.

                We still had some bad doctrine and "mis-builds" to overcome - tank destroyers are the most obvious, our wholly inadequate personnel replacement system was another - but we had much less of either than any other major combatant.

        •  Whoa. In the late '30s, there was a battle (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          New Deal democrat, cjallen

          taking place in this country between the isolationists (the people who wanted the US to stay out of the war in Europe) and the interventionists (those who wanted the US to come to the aid of Great Britain).  The pressure was on FDR from foreign leaders, yet lot of Americans were adamantly against a repeat of WWI.

          Further, Charles Lindburg was still one of the most popular men in America.  He was a frontman for the isolationist movement.  He had toured Nazi armaments factories and knew America would take a beating if we went to war against Germany.  

          The War Department, however, was trying to gear up with what little funding they got from Congress.

          This debate wasn't settled 'til Pearl Harbor.

          A jackass can kick down a barn but it takes a carpenter to build one.--Sam Rayburn (D-TX)

          by Ice Blue on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 10:23:50 AM PST

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    •  asdf (9+ / 0-)

      I don't disagree with that assessment.  But I think it's important to remember a few points.

      1.) The economy experienced severe damage at the beginning of the decade when unemployment spiked over 20%.  That's a very high rate to deal with.

      2.) In general the number kept moving lower for most of the decade (save the 38 recession).

      "You think you can intimidate me? Screw you. Choose your Weapon." Eliot Spitzer

      by bonddad on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 05:22:55 AM PST

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      •  According to NBER (0+ / 0-)

        the first leg of the depression ended in March of '33, before FDR even took office, so we really have no way to know whether FDR's policies actually caused the growth rate or whether the economy was turning on its own anyways.  We do know that his policies have helped the economy over the last 70 years, but have essentially no way to say that his policies actually ended the depression (as opposed to say the confidence his election inspired).

        •  FDR's Emergency Banking Act was the turn (0+ / 0-)

          Roosevelt was sworn in on March 4, 1933.  Within the week he had declared a 4 day banking holiday, and then the banks reopened under the Emergency Banking Act.  That marked the turning point of the Depression as noted so nicely by the NBER.

          Cheers.

          "When the going gets tough, the tough get 'too big to fail'."

          by New Deal democrat on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 11:36:50 AM PST

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    •  FDR was opposed fiercely by industry (11+ / 0-)

      corporatists, and right wingers of his day. One can only imagine the battle for social security. It is akin to the battle for universal healthcare today. It aint gonna happen without a battle.

      The NeoCOM (Corporate Owned Media) is Neocon.

      by Brahman Colorado on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 05:34:18 AM PST

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      •  You can read about it (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ice Blue

        at www.socialsecurity.gov.  There is a lot of info about creating Social Security there.

        Once I read about how hard a time the republicans gave FDR to keep him from creating Social Security. I couldn't find it the last time I looked, but that doesn't mean it isn't on there. It just means I couldn't find it.

        My father in law was given a job building county roads.  There is a big, wide dirt road near us that is called 'Commonwealth Road' that he helped build.  He didn't have a job until then. Those roads helped open up land that people couldn't get to before, too. They are still used by a lot of people.  We are lucky to have rocky and clay mud which makes strong road beds.

        My dad worked through the depression, but he lost $500 investing in a railroad stock.  At that time you could buy a home for that much money or lots of land.  He never invested in anything again.

    •  How do you compare employment (4+ / 0-)

      statistics of post and pre depression when the working conditions were so drastically altered? If minimum wage were illiminated today, employment would rise. What does that mean? I think the point is the trend not a snapshot. What meaning does repeating this labor statistic have to the health and long term security of the economy?

      What difference does it make what the government expenditure was on? Defense spending or public works? You saying they didn't go far enough into debt and government spending prior to the buildup for the war? That's hardly a case for laissez fair alternative to the New Deal.

      Moving on, finally.

      by fisheye on Mon Jan 05, 2009 at 07:00:44 AM PST

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