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Wednesday, June 4, 2008 03:39 pm

Herbert Hoover revisited

The present occupant of the White House blissfully ignorant about the economy

Untitled Document The official story of the Great Depression is that it began with the stock-market crash of 1929. Wrong. Depressions don’t instantaneously explode in a country — they creep up. The big financial crash was preceded by years of financial manipulation by Wall Street hucksters, wage declines for the majority of workers, a growing epidemic of farm losses and malign neglect by President Herbert Hoover. Even when it came, Hoover continued to insist that the economy was fundamentally sound, that Washington should simply stay the course, and that the market should be permitted to work its magic. If this sounds familiar, that’s because George W. Bush is the Hoover of 2008. In April, for the fourth month in a row, the American economy lost jobs, but Bush insisted that strong action is unnecessary, noting that “only” 20,000 jobs were lost and boasting that the unemployment rate was still 5 percent. First of all, the unemployment rate misses the depth of the problem. For example, it does not count “discouraged” workers — some 400,000 people who’ve been out of work for so long that they’ve given up looking. Also, if you worked even one day at a temporary job during the month, you’re counted as “employed.”
This raises the deeper flaw in job numbers, which is that they cover up the decline in people’s income; millions of people who need full-time work are only able to find part-time jobs. Meanwhile, as rank-and-file workers (who make up 80 percent of the workforce) see their incomes stagnate, they also see the cost of gasoline, food, health care, and other basics skyrocket. When the average pay for eight of 10 Americans is not even keeping up with the cost of living — look out.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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