Examiner #5 “Brother can you spare a dime”
“Brother can you spare a dime’” is a famous song of The Great Depression that was produced in 1931. The song spoke of the dire financial times that had consumed the United States. One of its most notable verses went like this:
Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
There are few Americans left today who lived and experienced the financial tribulations of the Depression, but that doesn’t stop the urge to compare today’s economic difficulties to the trying times of the 1930’s. Unfortunately, there are a number of troubling similarities. For instance, many claim the Depression had its roots in the stock market crash of 1929 and its effects were promptly exported to the entire world. Today’s situation is comparable in that the housing and mortgage bubble burst which originated in the United States has dramatic consequences for much of the world.
During the Depression, unemployment rose to 25% of the working population. Today, official unemployment is reported at 9.7%, but most people including many reporting agencies dispute this number claiming true unemployment is closer to 18%. Nobody knows for sure, but armies of talented job seekers are frustrated in their pursuit of any livelihood.
The Depression is notable for its depiction of bankrupted farmers who lost everything trudging down roads in dilapidated vehicles seeking some respite from their condition. Currently, millions of homeowners have already lost their homes and millions more fear that fateful day when a certified letter of foreclosure arrives at their front door. There appears to be no end to this vicious cycle as one in five households are considered financially “upside down” in their homes. Are we at the end of the financial meltdown as politicians and Wall Street would like us to believe, or is there a worse calamity that is still to come?
During the Depression, there were many optimistic cheers claiming the worse was over, but the misery continued for close to 12 years until the beginning of World War II. The present argument among the financial gurus is which letter of the alphabet will prevail. Some claim a “V” recovery which indicates the economy has already hit bottom and is again growing. The skeptics warn of the “W” revival which warns of an aborted recovery and severe economic storms in the near future.
It is left to each of us to determine our future. The key is preparedness. All Americans should arrange to cope with either imminent recovery or further distress. Failing to prepare will make you a victim who may find oneself on a street corner chanting “Brother can you spare a dime” or, more probably, the updated inflation weighted version “Brother can you spare a dollar”?