Chasing the Phantom of Recovery
I am a farmer. . . . Last spring I thought you really intended to do something for this country. Now I have given it all up. Henceforward I am swearing eternal vengeance on the financial barons and will do every single thing I can to bring about communism.
-- An Indiana farmer to Franklin D. Roosevelt,
October 16, 1933
In October 1933 Lorena Hickok steered Bluette westward into America's agrarian heartland and back to the scenes of her own childhood.
The Depression "is 10 or 12 years old out here," she reminded Hopkins from Iowa. "These plains are beautiful," she wrote Eleanor Roosevelt from North Dakota. "But, oh, the terrible, crushing drabness of life here. And the suffering, for both people and animals. . . . Most of the farm buildings haven't been painted in God only knows how long . . . ! If I had to live here, I think I'd just quietly call it a day and commit suicide. . . . The people up here . . . are in a daze. A sort of nameless dread hangs over the place."1
As the NRA enclosed more and more sectors within its code agreements, prices for industrial products stabilized, then rose modestly. But in agriculture, the sector the New Deal had identified as most in need of revitalization and on which it pinned its chief hopes for recovery, prices remained stuck at less than 60 percent of 1929 levels. Farmers felt betrayed. In the farm counties of Minnesota in November, Hickok noted "the bitterness toward NRA. . . . NRA is not at all popular, to be sure. Well, how could it be?" she asked. The prices that farmers paid "did go up faster than their incomes."2 Astonishingly, the New Deal in____________________