Popular imagination has the Great Depression opening with a bang in October 1929. We forget that even by December of that year, the market had no idea what was really in store. After a period of wild, bipolar volatility, stocks had taken two big tumbles (a 12.8% drop on Oct. 28 and an 11.7% fall the next day) while the top bankers and "captains of industry" rushed to shore up the market. By November, the Dow had hit its low for the year at 198, down from the giddy September high of 381.
But, the financial pundits and government leaders of the day insisted, the economy's fundamentals were still strong. Mass unemployment was, some months after the crash, still just something that went on in Germany and Britain. America was strong and merely needed a push to keep the financial markets from harming the broader economy.
With that in mind, Herbert Hoover -- only nine months into his presidency -- assembled leaders from the public and private sectors to create an economic-stimulus package. Among the measures, Time magazine reported at the time, was a promise from Congress to offer bipartisan support for a tax-cut package. The proposal called for $160 million in tax relief -- only about $22 billion if adjusted against the gross domestic product at the time, and therefore much smaller than the plan under consideration here in 2008. Read Time's original coverage of the plan.
Also on the table was an assurance from the Federal Reserve that it would provide cheaper credit.
None of this worked. What was first seen as speed bump to the expansion of American finance became something much larger.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Posted by Bakersfield Bubble at 11:50 PM