Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?: The Great Depression 1929-1933 by Milton Meltzer.
Facts on File: NY, 1991.
Originally published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc: NY, 1969.

This is not a new book, but it is gaining in importance as our economy is being pushed closer towards a catastrophe. Within our country there has been argument about how the 1930s Depression was handled ever since it happened. There are some people now saying that the sooner we have a collapse the better-we will then be able to start rebuilding. They are ignoring the widespread devastation that would result, and there are many people again who would do little to help individuals through the devastation. This is an account of the 1930s Depression by a historian who lived through it.

The primary focus of the book is how the American people were affected by not just the October 1929 Stock Market crash, but also the massive laying off of workers and salary cuts resulting from working at all having more importance than the salary or conditions. He touches on FDR's New Deal but does not give many details of the programs or their effects.

I put off reading this book because I know enough about this period of widespread unemployment, poverty, and homelessness to know the book would be depressing. There is no cheerful book about the Great Depression.

This is a subject that was barely covered in my years of American history classes. We read maybe a chapter in 9th grade and some in 5th grade, too. It was never really discussed. Yet, it is such an important subject to learn about, particularly now, since for the last two and a half decades (1980s-2000s) parallels have been appearing. We have seen massive layoffs by corporations (with the corporations showing profits as a result of the layoffs), many years of cutting workers' benefits and increasing workload, the ceasing of manufacturing in our country, huge increases in prices (especially food, fuel, and real estate), home mortgages and other debt that people cannot hope to pay, a larger gap between the wealthy and everyone else, a frenzy of buying plus stock and real estate speculation similar to that of the 1920s, and a great lack of confidence in the economy as a whole by both businessmen and workers.

In the early 1990s, there was a trend emerging indicating the possibility of another Great Depression. Investors have, since the late 1980s, used one industry after another to try to prop up the economy (and when that industry is maximized they move on to another). The latest industries (real estate and oil) cannot be sustained, and their crash could bring the whole thing down because of their importance as necessities. In the 1990s, a shift in priorities might have stopped the crisis. That shift didn't happen. Since the election of G. W. Bush in 2000, it seems there has been instead a rush towards an inevitable crash. It is so important to study the 1920s and 1930s to learn how we can avoid or alleviate the worst conditions.

This time around we are facing some frightening differences. In the 1930s, there was a lack of jobs, but a workforce skilled in manufacturing, so they were prepared to work once given a job-not this time. Also in the 1930s, there were many more families involved in the growing of food. The ones who still had their homes could at least grow some food and possibly feed others. It has been generations since the bulk of our people grew their own food. Knowing these dangers you would think our government would want to avoid a crash, but now as then, they are refusing to interfere in business whatever the cost.

As with many Meltzer books, this is just a starting point. He does give references at the end for further reading, and hopefully, his readers will read more.

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