Tag Archives: Great Depression

A song about building the American Dream, railroads, towers, war, then being tossed aside to beg for change

Most Americans know the lyrics of this depression-era song. Now they know what it was about.
 
They used to tell me I was building a dream,
and so I followed the mob,
When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear,
I was always there right on the job.
They used to tell me I was building a dream,
with peace and glory ahead,
Why should I be standing in line,
just waiting for bread?

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?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al. It was Al all the time.
Say don’t you remember? I’m your pal. Buddy, can you spare a dime?

You get your weather forecast at the grocery store DUH!

My Grandpa, 27 year veteran of the Army, was also a staunch Democrat mostly because of Roosevelt and his emergency actions to stop the Depression from destroying America. As bad as it was, it could have gone worse. I know a lot of our (ahem)”conservative” readers, those who drew the assignment of trolling the weblog today, are screaming at their monitors right now just from that. Now, don’t y’all worry none, boys, you’ll get more to holler about presently.
He was in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the ones who at public expense did the necessary work to keep the Heartland from turning into a desert, and cleaned up other little “mistakes” visited on the ecosystem by Mechanized American Mercantilism. That’s my nouveau mot du jour.
Grandpa was assigned on a dairy farm. With a bunch of others, one of whom was from some city and had apparently never become acquainted with farm life. And who complained about caring for, cleaning and milking the cows. Since cattle lay belly down to sleep at night, often in their own feces, you can’t just lead Bossy to the barn, slap a bucket under her and starting pulling teats. Hell to the No Sir.
You have to wash those teats first, especially in a setup with a milking machine.
Ol’ boy was understandably not very happy with that. Wished the cows gone in fact. Grandpa asked him “what would you do for milk then?” and he said “Why, I’d just go to the store and buy it.” Enter NOAA and the National Weather Service. Both of them proposed to be cut by the “conservatives”.

No, seriously. It’s been echoed up and down the Right Wing Talking points by now so I’m not sure which one exactly said it first. Bachmann perhaps Who represents a Dairy district by the way.

But they’re searching for things that cumulatively wouldn’t cut a tenth of the deficit, because they’re not going to dare breathe the Subsidies to The Rich in the form of the Police and Military State.

A “Sacred Cow” as it were. Which is a misnomer as is “scapegoat” as used in the vernacular “they made him the scapegoat”.
Let’s roll with those a few moments

For instance, the Wealthy “scapegoat” food stamps and public housing and point to privately subsidized enterprises like Soup Kitchens and the Salvation Army. Cut a check to the mission every other month, so they think, Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am nobody goes hungry.
Ummmm… not so… Aside from the Privatize Everything mentality causing most of the problems in the economy today, the very little spent on soup kitchens and missions doesn’t even go to a red hot two percent of the people who need help just to Not Freakin’ Starve In The Streets.

Then there’s the National Weather Service. The Lunatic Fringe want to cut it because, “people would just get their weather from weather.com or Weatherbug”….

Uhhhh…. not only didn’t your cheeseburger and fries not magically appear at your McFatFood restaurant, there were many middlemen such as, oh, let’s see, the Earth used to grow the potatoes and the grains and other grasses the cattle ate, and so forth…

Weatherbug and weather.com and your Corporate Media weather forecasts all came from THE NATIONAL OCEANIC and ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION and distributed, free of charge actually, by the NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE, The satellites used to monitor the weather, the weather stations across the globe, the people who told you about global warming… (and you stupid bastards really hate that part, don’t you?) all of them including NASA, originally set in place so that your Giant Shipping Industries and the Military who “acquire” your supply contracts from, shall we say “unwilling” business partners like say, every country in the world who are forced into selling the goods and services of their nations at a price YOU dictate… could have accurate weather and other information necessary for your Corporate Dictatorship to function.

Just another way for Wall Street to get their money for free at public expense.

Our prejudice against tent-dwellers

Great Depression Okies living in tents
What do home-enabled Coloradans have against disadvantaged people forced to live in tents? The Great Depression saw migrant workers having to subsist under canvas, striking miners have been forced from their homes and into camps in Ludlow and before that Cripple Creek. And of course the first Colorado tent-dwellers to get everyone’s panties in a knot were the Native Americans who held original claim to the territory.

The above photograph is from Dorothea Lange’s historic series which documented the lives of migrant workers as they fled the Dust Bowl for the fertile agricultural plantations of California. The woman at right is the iconic “Migrant Mother” known for a more famous closeup. I chose this shot because it makes clear that she and her seven children were living in a tent.

Colorado was one of the states which the Okies had to cross in search of work in California. As depicted in Grapes of Wrath, Colorado and Arizona only begrudgingly tolerated the vagabonds, making sure they didn’t linger and kept on their way.

Do we fear the poor because they threaten our own sense of prosperity? There but for the grace of God, go ourselves? We shoo them along lest their itinerant ways tax our charity, or they take the righting of economic inequity into their own hands. The Europeans have always shunned the ever-homeless gypsies. Landless people can’t be trusted, they’re in the opposite position of what we look for in businesses, reliable to the extreme of being “bonded.” People unattached to assets don’t have capital to bond them with responsibility.

Depression era photograph by Dorothea LangeBefore Coloradans were chasing off out-of-state migrant workers, yesterday’s illegal immigrants, they were offended by earlier indigent encampments. When miners struck in Colorado’s southern coal fields, the mine owners evicted them from the company-owned houses. The unions were left to build a tent city in Ludlow to put pressure on the industry to accept some labor demands. The standoff was spun as a standoff between the ungrateful miners, most of them recent immigrants, and a nation’s critical source of heating fuel. The Colorado population was roused to man a militia and beat the miners into submission. As much as consumers feared an interrupted coal supply in the record cold of the winter of 1914, imagine the miners enduring in their tents. In the end, we all know the result: the Ludlow Massacre and the unions were defeated.

The gold miners fared slightly better in their 1894 strike to preserve the eight hour day. When they closed down the mines and camped on site to keep them shut, the folks of Colorado Springs were rallied to form a near 2000-strong army to go attack the ingrates. Fortunately the miners escaped a battle, but the common population’s prejudice against the laborers in their tents was the same.

Could these have been related to the sentiments which inflamed Colorado Territory settlers in 1864, enough to go after the few remnants of Native Americans encamped along Sand Creek?

The Pikes Peak region plays an ignoble role in all of these examples. Men from Colorado Springs and Colorado City formed the population from which participants were drawn for Chivington’s raid against the Cheyenne, the private army which marched against the Cripple Creek gold strike, and the militia which Rockefeller mobilized to torment the tent city of Ludlow. Colorado Springs was a hotbed of Klu Klux Klan activity in the 1930s, epitomizing local xenophobia.

When Colorado Springs city councilman speak of fielding calls from constituents angry about the growing homeless encampments, I cannot help but think of our legacy of intolerance of people deemed lesser than us. Colorado Springs has always been ripe for bigotry and hatred.

Not so long ago our city was the crucible for Amendment Two which sought to deprive homosexuals of protection from discrimination. More recently fear-mongering about immigration from Mexico made Colorado Springs fertile for recruiting gunmen for the Minutemen, to make pilgrimages to the Mexican border with the promise of getting to shoot Mexicans pell-mell. Since the election of President Obama, we’ve seen a phenomenal growth of Tea Party enthusiasts, white bigots determined not to have their taxes spent by a nigger.

What a sorry racist lot we’ve been, anti-labor, anti-progressive and anti-poor. Somewhere in the past there must have been city leaders who defied the simple-minded xenophobia of our historic population, otherwise all our statues of municipal heroes would be wearing clan gowns. Hopefully with the current bloodlust to run off the victims of our current depression, city politicians will lead my setting a higher moral example.

Apres nous, le Depression

If it matters what to call this financial crisis, what is it? Is America in a recession? When does a deep recession approach a depression? When is an economic crash revealed to be a collapse? Before we can rename the Great Depression, as we did the Great War (WWI), in deference to this latest, we would do better to address the cataclysm which left this depression.

It was not a meteor, not the foot of Godzilla, nor a collapsed salt mine. The scorched earth we see about us, this rapidly degrading economy, is the destruction wrought by a Norman raid; a blitz of rape and pillage with brutal indifference.

It wouldn’t matter what you call it except that the raiders are still among us. If your valuables are still intact, it’s because they haven’t yet been sacked. If you still have your house, it’s not because the tethers aren’t attached, it’s that they haven’t started towing it off.

When you can see this robbery for what it is, you’ll know that history can tell us that the barbarians do not leave even gold fillings unmolested.

Do you doubt a viking analogy? Look at the economic news today. Over half a million jobs lost in January, over three million jobs lost already. On the same day, the stock market rallies upward.

While you are losing your livelihood, those who invested in the long ships are heartened by the projected success of this raid.