S. History, 2011).
Only after aggressive government intervention did the Dust Bowl conditions improve. The government, even before the drought was broken in 1939, was able to reduce soil erosion by 65% through the actions of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which planted 200 million trees to “break the wind, hold water in the soil, and hold the soil itself in place” (“Disasters: The 1930s,” U.S. History, 2011). Farmers received instruction by the government on “soil conservation and anti-erosion techniques, including crop rotation, strip farming, contour plowing, terracing and other beneficial farming practices” (“Disasters: The 1930s,” U.S. History, 2011). For the first time, the government took an interest not simply in preserving some of its land from development in the form of national parks, but gave counsel to farmers how to use the land.
The gap between the haves and the have-nots, already wide even before the Great Depression, grew into a chasm in the years after the Great Crash. While few people were unaffected by the Depression, the poor suffered the most “Unemployment rose from a shocking 5 million in 1930 to an almost unbelievable 13 million by the end of 1932” (“Life during the Great Depression,” All about History, 2011). Increasingly, there were calls for the Hoover Administration to treat the Depressions causes and provide some relief. The Hoover Administrations most vocal critic was that of John Maynard Keynes, a British economist who had advocated a radical reworking of conventional economic theory.
According to classical economic theory, as prices fall during a recession, or a natural trough in the business cycle, eventually demand will increase as prices decrease to such a level there is a tremendous incentive to buy goods and services. Producers expand production to meet the new surge in demand, hire more workers, and the business cycle once again surges upward into an expansionary period. Keynes, however, noted that when people are frightened of losing their jobs, they are not interested in spending more money, and instead save money. They hide money under the mattress — literally, in the case of the Great Depression, given the catastrophic bank runs that depleted confidence in the national banking system immediately after the crash.
“At the start of the Depression, the federal government did not guarantee bank deposits, so many people in their 80s and 90s [today] recall withdrawing [all of their] money — or arriving too late and seeing their savings disappear” (“Great depression colors seniors view of crisis,” MSNBC, 2008) (“Great depression colors seniors view of crisis,” MSNBC, 2008). “I have a little steel box with a key and I was thinking about taking my checking account out and putting it in there,” said one elderly woman, during the height of the recent financial crisis (“Great depression colors seniors view of crisis,” MSNBC, 2008) (“Great depression colors seniors view of crisis,” MSNBC, 2008).
During a depression, according to Keynes “people hoard money no matter how much the central bank tries to expand the money supply” by lowering interest rates to further encourage more investment and spending (Kangas 1997). Keynesian economic theory suggests that “government should do what the people [are] not: start spending. He called this priming the pump of the economy,” which the subsequent Roosevelt Administration attempted to do through massive public works projects (Kangas 1997). The New Deal and eventually World War II defense spending (accompanied by heightened government control over private industry, even beyond that was practiced during the 1930s) finally extricated the U.S. from the Depression.
“Disasters: The 1930s.” U.S. History. February 20, 2011
“The Great Depression: What happened and how it compares with today.” The Great
Depression. February 20, 2011.
“Great depression colors seniors view of crisis.” MSNBC. 2008. February 20, 2011 at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27202324/
“Life during the Great Depression.” All about History. February 20, 2011
Johnson, Paul. A History of the American people. New York: Harper, 1999.
Kangas, Steve. “Causes of the Great Depression.” The Great Depression, 1997. February 20,