Politics

Democrats to the Rescue . . . Again

Few of us today remember the Roaring 20s but they resembled the roaring 90s quite a bit: the stock market soared, the economy expanded dramatically, unemployment was low. Millionaires became even more obscenely rich and new multimillionaires popped up everywhere. Life was a continuous party. It seemed that nothing could go wrong . . . but something did.

Since the stock market was soaring, stock was bought on larger and larger margins (borrowed money). Banks loaned more money than they had. When stocks fell, brokers and buyers could not meet their margins, banks had no money for their depositors, companies could not get lines of credit for their payrolls so they laid off workers. Laid off workers could not buy products, company revenues kept sinking, companies kept on firing.

The cause of the Great Depression was lack of sensible regulations in banking and brokerage industries. We relied on laisse-faire capitalism, unbridled, self-regulated capitalism. The last advocate of that policy, Herbert Hoover, was voted out of office in 1932, still claiming that the economy was basically sound. Voters put one of this nation's greatest presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, a liberal Democrat in the White House.

Roosevelt and the Democratic Party forced reasonable regulations on banking and other industries. Additionally, they funded dozens of projects with federal money that rebuilt the infrastructure and even the culture of this nation. He successfully brought this nation to a point where we could significantly contribute to the Second World War and he also successfully led us through it.

That was the beginning of the last century. What went wrong this time? Another round of deregulation by yet another Republican president, Ronald Reagan. Just let corporations regulate themselves and everything will be hunky-dory.

Again, everything was hunky-dory for a while. New millionaires were created and the old ones became billionaires. The Roaring 90s repeated the excesses of the Roaring 20s with nearly the same results. The savings and loan collapse in 1989 was the harbinger of catastrophes to come.

The federal government had the wherewithal to bail out the S&Ls, no problem. Then Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Adelphia and many other companies went under as a result of corruption that cost their employees their jobs and retirement savings in most instances. We lost Pan Am, TWA, and Eastern Airlines to the greediest when the least moral men in the country performed hostile takeovers and sold off the pieces of these American icons for relentless profit.

Greed replaced knowledgeable business practices to the point that CEOs are now given contracts that pay them more if they fail in their first year than if they devote themselves to the company's welfare for 10 or 15 years. What kind of capitalism is that?

Well, deregulation has brought the nation's conservative corporate leaders once again to revile the government they love. Since Republican policy led us into the current catastrophe, we now, yet again, must turn to the Democratic Party to save the nation from economic collapse. We are very lucky to have a candidate in that party with the same promise Franklin Roosevelt brought to the presidency in 1933.

Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. Let's hope that we will not let Republicans fool us a third time.