Acknowledging Martha (Gellhorn)
‘Nobody knows de trouble I’ve seen.
This is all before I married Hemingway. That’s another story.
Roosevelt hired Harold Hopkins to explain the Depression to him. The facts were grim. By 1933, 17 million Americans were out of work. Steel pants and coalmines were at a standstill. Thirty-eight states had closed their banks and over a quarter of a million families had been evicted from their homes.
Children scavenged through rubbish dumps and skin diseases, tuberculosis and syphilis abounded. Drought swallowed up the Midwest. Dead trees and brushwood littered the countryside. Roadside camps built out of cardboard, sacks and corrugated iron populated the country.
Publicly admitted national debt totaled $27,053,141,414. In your current dollars, $466,433,472,655. For those of who don’t know, that means your currency’s been debauched. That always happens with paper currency. Same things with coins. That’s called clipping.
Ernie was one of the few who knew that. He always said the surest way to take over a country was by debauching its money supply. Making it worth less per each individual unit of currency. Because compound interest comes out. So you need more and more currency, faster and faster, to equal previous purchasing power.
Like now in your sequester and austerity budget. The bondholders, the holders of the compound interest, get paid first. That’s austerity. For those of you who don’t know, austerity is a debt call.
Like a rat race, someone trains you to run and to serve.
I’ll leave that to you to figure out.
Anyway, Roosevelt bequeathed a division of Research, Statistics and Finance to Hopkins. In the flash of an eye, data overwhelmed him.
That’s when I came in. “Find the people,” he said, “listen to their stories. Tell me about them. Send dispatches.”
My boss, Lorena Hickok, gave me five dollars a day for meals and expenses, train vouchers for transportation and off I went.
I’d interview five families a day, record their stories, hole up in a hotel at night, write and in the morning forward dispatches to Lorena.
That was the Great Depression.
Here’s some numbers.
In 1933, a quarter of a million families had been removed from their homes. Today, 1.5mm to 3.5mm homes sit vacant, their previous occupants disappeared through foreclosure. And more in the pipeline. 250,000 families to 2mm+ families, conservatively.
In 1933, 17 million Americans were out of work. Today, more than 100 million Americans don’t have jobs. 17 million to 100 million+.
And the publicly admitted debt? In current values, $466B+ in 1933 to more than $16T today and hungrily approaching $17T. With unfunded liabilities (contracted future spending) of more than $200T.
I like Liz Warren’s recent disclosure, the newly minted Senator from Massachusetts. Did you see it?
To keep up with productivity gains, minimum wage would sit at $22 an hour. Translated, that’s close to a thousand dollars a week per forty hours of work. To barely get by. How many minimal wageworkers make $1,000 a week?
Ernie was a hell of a correspondent in the early days. Those days led him to drive an ambulance in the first WW. He got a good novel out of that. I’m sure you all know what lifted the country out of the Great Depression. WW II. He got a good novel out of that, too. But you know that.
What happened to him in Ketchum wasn’t right. Put two and two together. He understood currency.
Looking at things from afar, I see the drift of things. I’m sure you can, too.
~ Stephen J. Bergstrom