debate about the reasonableness of government intervention to combat the
impacts of COVID-19 is like an echo from my past.
growing up, I remember my parents recounting their experiences as children during
the Great Depression when FDR, a proponent of Keynesian economics, introduced
the New Deal designed to provide temporary help to unemployed Americans, to
provide aid to the most vulnerable members of society, and to shore up the
economy by stimulating industrial production.
New Deal worked, by 1938, Roosevelt became increasingly concerned about the
rising U.S. debt. Although there are some striking similarities between the
consequences of the Great Depression and the consequences of the coronavirus
pandemic, there are also some glaring contrasts.
years, even during periods of economic expansion, there has been little concern
about the ramifications of unbridled spending and no apparent appetite by
either party to address the rising debt. Due to the elevated profile of
politicians, they have become the de facto standard bearers for societal norms.
Citizens of this country who are two generations removed from the Great
Depression have been deprived of some very valuable lessons. For example, “saving
for a rainy day” was a frequent admonition in my household growing up and “spending
more than you have” was the height of irresponsible behavior.
many people are unable to survive even the temporary loss of employment. The
reckless spending habits of our government and the availability of too much
credit have encouraged some people in our consumerist society to spend money
they don’t have on products they don’t need. There is a delicate balance
between necessary spending to ensure the health of the economy and the comfort of
the consumer and extravagant spending that actually undermines the stability of
the spender and, therefore, the nation as a whole.
my father, many of the people who lost their jobs during the Depression were
embarrassed to be standing in breadlines and humiliated by having to rely on
government assistance. Today, this sort of dependency is no longer a badge of
shame, but is seen by some, as a just and desired means of support. As a
result, U.S. businesses, both large and small, are justifiably concerned about
their ability to reassemble a willing and able workforce when the current
crisis is over.
there is rising concern that the restrictions being imposed by some government
officials in response to COVID-19 are too draconian and are a blatant
infringement on individual liberties. Some of these restrictions may be the
outgrowth of legitimate worries, but others, I fear, are an attempt to pander
to favored industries (you can buy pot but not vegetable seeds) and/or simply
an unabashed play for power.
In any case,
the peaceful protests that are occurring in response are a healthy reaction to
this perceived overreach and a sacred right under our democratic system. Just
like the New Deal generated debates over collective security versus individual
rights, so too, the debates of today are raising similar concerns.
As we sort through
these issues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, let’s be ever remindful
of the fact that “The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government
strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong
enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the
government”. Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Shelly Aldean is a Carson City resident.