in an Industrial State
BECAUSE MICHIGAN'S LEADING INDUSTRY was production of automobiles, which in the 1920s were still considered by many people to be luxury items rather than necessities, the state was quickly ravaged by the depression. In 1929, 5,337,087 vehicles were manufactured, but two years later the figure had plummeted to 1,331,860. The nonmanufacturing sector was affected as well and farm prices drastically declined. By 1933, farmers were so desperate that they threatened to use violence to prevent judges and sheriffs from seizing their land and homes as payment for delinquent taxes or unpaid mortgages. Fearing a riot, the legislature in 1933 postponed repayment of delinquent taxes and land tax sales for a minimum of five years. Unfortunately, faced with an immediate, dire crisis, much of Michigan's political leadership acted to compound, rather than alleviate the suffering of their constituents.
To understand why both the Republican and Democratic parties shared the belief that the people had a duty to support their government but the government had no obligation to support its people, it is necessary to examine the traditional American view of unemployment and poverty. In America, the poor have always been scorned because most people consider poverty an unnecessary disgrace in this “land of plenty.” This belief is rooted in the English Poor Law of 1601 which stated that people were poor because of laziness. To give the impoverished any assistance would merely reward and perpetuate their laziness, and therefore relief should be meted out only to prevent starvation. This concept became