Both the Great Depression and today’s recession started off in a time of  great economic inequality. Both economic calamities brought to the surface systemic inadequacies. Perhaps the most recognized authority on the history of the Great Depression, Stanford history professor David M. Kennedy sheds needed light on the differences and similarities between the two eras. He points out that one reason we do not have universal health care as do all other industrialized countries is that after the second world war, companies like Kaiser added health benefits to attract workers. Today, he says too much of our thinking has remained stuck in that period. We look at how today’s food lines in cars are like the bread lines of the thirties, and the frustration at food rotting in the fields when many are hungry. And we look at the notably docility of Americans in putting up with economic injustice. But Kennedy does have “cautious optimism” that “this is a pause; it is not broken.”

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