There are few people left who can answer the question, "How did your family survive during the Great Depression?" Not many who endured those hard times are still around to tell about it.
One friend who remembers, reports that his father, a chemist, had lost his job. An acquaintance came to him and said, "I want to start manufacturing soap. If you will help me work out a formula for the right kind of soap, I'll let you have my mattress factory, with all the equipment included."
The chemist agreed to the bargain although he knew nothing about making mattresses. He agreed, rather than have his family go hungry. My friend talked about long hours of peddling mattresses door to door from the back of an old truck. It wasn't his favorite thing to do, but the family survived.
My own mother told of times when my father would head home from work with only $10 in his pocket to buy groceries for the six people in our family. If he met someone along the way, even a stranger, who gave him a hard luck story, Daddy would share his $10 and come home with only $5.00. This didn't make Mother happy, but it was an example of how those who had a little shared with those who had nothing. That, and bartering services for food as well as growing your own, got many families through the depression. Now I hear people saying things like, "Business is slow, but we're doing fine, although I had to let some of my employees go."
As the financial system worsens, it's beginning to look as if the sacrifices President Obama talked of so insistently on the campaign trail, are being made mostly by those who can least afford them.
Recently I read in World Book Encyclopedia that one of the actions taken to defeat the Great Depression was a cap on wages. Think about it. If it was determined that, say $50,000 a year is the amount that any responsible person needs to sustain life with a few luxuries thrown in, than it would be well if the heads of businesses, organizations and, yes, government agencies should decide on a cap of $50,000 for everyone so that money would be available for more people to remain employed, even if those at the top had to sacrifice a few luxuries
Take the City of Clearwater, for example. There are employees who are receiving more than $100,000 a year in salary at this time. None of them will starve if they have to manage on, say $60,000 a year. The logical, and I think, smart thing to do is to set the wage cap at $60,000 and use the saved money to continue to employee at least some of the people who are now losing their jobs. A caring community would function that way.
Beyond that, the money our government saves by forcing people into unemployment is probably a whole lot less than we would eventually spend in efforts to provide food and shelter by means of soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
It just makes sense, at least to me. When I ventured to suggest this partial solution to a government official, I was told that Clearwater needed to be competitive in our salaries. Otherwise the best officials would go elsewhere. Personally, I think the "best" officials would be the ones who would see the sense and fairness of sharing in a time of need.
The Clearwater City government is just an example, of course. If all, or even most, of the businesses and organizations in the United States would follow this example, everyone would survive the next few years with far less trauma and much more sense of community. We'd be Americans together again. That would be something worth sacrificing for.
Anne M. Garris
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