I will begin with a comment by Schlesinger about Andrew Mellon, Coolidge's Secretary of the Treasury, and one of the richest men in America:
"The government is just a business," said Mellon, "and can and should be run on business principles." The first necessity, accordingly, was to balance the budget, and the second to pay off the debt. But Mellon's greater interest, it soon developed, was somewhat inconsistently in the reduction of tax rates, especially in the highest brackets...Mellon, ever tenacious, kept chipping away each year at rates in the upper brackets."
In fact, during the 1920's Republican administrations managed to cut the top tax bracket by 75 percent, at the same time endlessly whining about the budget deficit and the national debt.
"Mr. Mellon Homself," as George W. Norris of Nebraska observed of the Mellon bill of 1925, "gets a larger personal reduction than the aggregate of practially all the taxpayers in the state of Nebraska."
And what was the consequence of this largesse to the richest among us? An increase in business development? More jobs created by benevolent tycoons with their gigantic profits?
"...the Mellon penchant for tax reduction served to make more money available for speculation. "A decrease of taxes," as Mellon said, "causes an inspiration to trade and commerce." With this he injected a few more billion dollars into a boom which hardly needed to be further inspired."
And, of course, what would be the fun of a massive giveaway to the rich, without a gutting of the Federal regulatory structure?
"President Coolidge was prepared further to attest his trust in business leadership by weakening the instrumentalities through which past national governments had sought to regulate business. The regulatory commissions, inherited from more suspicious days, were quickly infused with the new spirit of unity. To the Tariff Commission, for example, were sent men who acted almost as open representatives of protected industries. When the Commission's minority...began to object...Coolidge upbraided them for raising prudish scruples."
Schlesinger has this to say about W. T. Humphrey, appointed by Coolidge to the Federal Trade Commission:
"...no longer, he said, would the Commission serve as a "publicity bureau to spread socialistic propaganda. Where the FTC had been set up to discourage monopoly, it now espoused the cause of the self regulation of business..."
Overt forms of concentration thrived...Holding companies moved into the utility and transportation fields, chain stores into retail distribution; in all areas big firms swallowed small firms and merged wth other big ones. By 1930, the two hundred largest nonbanking corporations controlled half the total corporate wealth of the country."
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
"The output per man-hour rose about 40 percent during the decade. The central economic challenge was to distribute the gains of productivity in a manner that would maintain employment and prosperity.
By the rules of orthodox economics, the reduction in production costs should have brought about either a reduction in prices or a rise in wages, or both...Denied outlet in lower prices because of accumulating rigidities, the gains of technological efficiency were equally denied outlet in higher wages...because of the bargaining feebleness of the labor movement...As a result these gains were captured by the businessmen themselves in the form of profits. Through the decade, profits rose 80 percent as a whole, or twice as much as productivity; the profits of financial institutions rose a fantastic 150 percent."
The increase in profits naturally pushed up the prices of corporate securities...As the twenties proceeded, the stock market sucked off an increasing share of the undistributed gains of industrial efficiency...the diversion of the gains of efficiency into profits was bound to result in a falling off of the capacity of the people as a whole to buy."
An exact parallel to the last few years. I find it so painful to read things like this and realize how absolutely clear it was to anyone who cared, what the result of Reaganomics and of Bush corruption were inevitably going to be.
"The Mellon tax policy, placing its emphasis on relief for millionaires rather than for consumers, made the maldistibution of income and oversaving even worse. By 1929, the 2.3 percent of the population with incomes over $10,000 were responsible for two thirds of the 15 billion dollars in savings."
And now, to me, the worst of all:
"Yet Wall Street and Washington had few qualms...The torrent of excess money pouring into the market, swept stock prices ever upward. And the leaders of the business community, now heedless of caution in their passion for gain, promoted new investment trusts, devised new holding companies and manipulated new pools, always with the aim of floating new securities for the apparently insatiable market...
In time it would appear that even the leaders of business could not decipher the intricate financial structures they were erecting. But for the moment everyone understood that here was an endless source of money and power, a roulette wheel at which no one lost...
Government officials meanwhile watched the speculative boom with affable approval."
(emphasis mine) Yes, at every step of the way, the Republicans of the Reagan and Bush administrations deliberately recreated the exact conditions which caused the economy to spiral out of control and crash in 1929. And there can be no claim that anyone was unaware of this. The circumstances of Republican mishandling of the country in service to the rich, which caused the Great Depression, were clearly known to anyone with a basic knowledge of our country's economic history. Yet Reagan and Bush, Gingrich, Armey, Delay, McConnell, Boehner and a hundred more Republican servants of the wealthy drove the economy over the same cliff again.
This is not mismanagement. It constitutes the most massive deliberate crime ever committed against the American people, for which we will pay for decades; and it at the same time constitutes the worst subversion and betrayal of our country that we have ever seen.
And yet, being rich, they seem to be walking scot free.