Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Depression's Lessons Resonate Today

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Depression's Lessons Resonate Today

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

It's nice when people can live long enough to see misery turn into nostalgia.

Recently, some folks talked about life during the Great Depression with the Times-Union.

Louise Henry, 85, remembers being able to buy flour and fatback for a few cents.

Retired lawyer Walter G. Arnold, 96, struggled to find a job, and wound up being hired by the county attorney at the princely sum of $50 a month.

Verlin Smith, 82, shared a graduation photo of himself in a hand-me-down suit.

Today, in our label-crazy teen culture, some kids would just as soon drop out of school before subjecting themselves to the teasing they would get if they showed up in an outfit that both of their siblings once wore.

It's easy to admire people who endured this nation's worse economic crisis.

So why can't some people who live in poverty today behave themselves? Unlike today, poor people during the Depression weren't invisible.

The Depression touched everyone.

It sent unemployment rates surging to around 25 percent; for black people, it hit 50 percent.

It sent families to shantytowns.

The suffering was so widespread, President Roosevelt couldn't wait for the market to fix it.

So he came up with the New Deal -- and agencies like the Works Progress Administration. The WPA put people to work building roads and buildings, and creating arts and literacy projects.

Now, times have changed.

Many live in communities that are disconnected from the job market, and any hope that they can transcend their condition.

Today, poverty is growing. But unlike during the Depression, it is concentrated. And that makes it harder to fight -- and easier for the powers that be to ignore.

The Century Foundation is a nonprofit public policy research foundation that believes an effective mix of government, open democracy and free markets are key to solving the nation's most pressing problems. …

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