Of course, they lived through it. My parents were just kids, but they felt the sting of those difficult times.
They, like many parents who lived through the Depression, often reminded us kids “how good we have it.”
While their reminders registered with us, it wasn’t until I read Jonathan Alter’s book, “The Defining Moment,” did I realize how close our economy came to a complete collapse. Our democracy was in trouble.
Alter’s book touches on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first 100 days.
As many of us have read in history books, Roosevelt took office in 1933, the height of the horrible economic situation that was gripping the nation. Historians estimate that unemployment was as high as 80 percent in some areas. Business investments were down 90 percent from 1929. Banks were closing in droves.
Roosevelt swung into action on his very first day in office, declaring a “bank holiday,” in which all of the nation’s banks were closed for several days.
Some prominent Americans called on Roosevelt to assume the role of “dictator” so that he could push through his programs to turn the economy around.
Roosevelt instead chose to ignore the calls to become a dictator. He took the opposite direction, deciding to work with Congress to implement programs that were crucial to an economic recovery.
There are many safeguards in place to ensure that we never again endure another Great Depression. There are social programs to help the needy. Our money in banks is insured by the federal government. This means that, if a bank closes, we can still get our money. That wasn’t the case during the Depression.
Roosevelt and Congress steered our nation back on course. Democracy is alive and well because of them.
Fast-forward to 2013 and we have another crisis looming. Because President Obama and Congress were unable to reach a budget deal, $85 billion in deep, automatic budget cuts are taking place. This past weekend, many congressmen left Washington rather than trying to reach a last-minute budget deal. Both sides are blaming each other for the across-the-board budget cuts.
Therefore, automatic budget cuts were implemented.
Washington officials use the term “sequester” to describe the budget cuts. The term stands for a group of cuts to economic spending. The sequester plan was developed as an incentive to cut $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.
Because our leaders were unable to come up with a deal, some key programs face significant budget cuts. They include $42.7 billion in defense cuts, $28.7 billion in domestic programs cuts and $9 billion in Medicare cuts.
Americans will suffer because both sides are unwilling to compromise.
I know that there are many Americans who feel strongly that budget cuts are necessary. I won’t argue against their point. We need to reduce our budget deficit.
But, at the same time, the safety and welfare of Americans must be kept in mind. I just think it is imperative that the two sides get together and work out an agreement.
Roosevelt and Congress knew they had to do something to prevent an economic collapse. So why can’t our current president and Congress do the same?
While today’s situation isn’t nearly as grim as it was in the 1930s, Obama and Congress need to show the American people that they are working to help them. The sequester should be put to rest so that Americans can continue to prosper.
Roosevelt and his Congress worked too hard to turn things around. We don’t need to slip into economic chaos.