“Shanty” is a word that has fallen into disuse these days. You seldom hear it in the US. According to Etymonline (a delightful etymological dictionary), it’s derived from the Canadian French word chantier, referring to a rough wooden cabin used by lumberjacks. During the economic upheaval of the Great Depression, the shanty came to represent the plight of the average American who had lost home, work, and all but the most basic of sustenance. Using whatever they could find, homeless families built their shanties while waiting for the economic turnaround that would make it possible to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.
During the depression years of the 1930s, shanty towns peppered the American landscape. They were often known as Hoovervilles, a derisive way of referring to the man who sat in the Oval Office at the start of the depression: Herbert Hoover. Even the powerless in our society have their way of getting a small bit of revenge. In this case, who can blame them?
What you may not know is that makeshift homeless communities are back. Only this time they’re not composed of wood and metal shanties, but inexpensive camping materials. Tent cities have emerged across the nation, inhabited by homeless families and even their pets as they endure the same economic waiting game faced by earlier Americans seventy-five years ago. For two stories about this sad reality (one from the east coast and the other from the west), click HERE and HERE. These stories stand as bookends of shame, marking just how low our financial and economic strength has deteriorated.
As a child, I read of the plight of depression-era Americans. I heard the stories my father told of those difficult times. A nickel or a fresh egg was something to be cherished. To this day, Dad doesn’t feel he’s had a meal unless it includes at least a little bit of meat. That sense of loss goes all the way back to his experience of the Great Depression. It marked him forever, and I suspect in part that it turned him into the successful and compassionate businessman that he became. Hearing those stories as a child, I never dreamed I would live in an America where it’s happening again on a large scale.
Is it any wonder so many of our nation’s citizens are turning to government for help? Franklin Roosevelt promised help rather than pushing free-market reforms that could have ended the depression. Barack Obama does likewise.
Our choice is not between the average American worker or the rich tycoon. That’s a false choice that has been proposed to us by the politicians who get rich on the arguments that divide us. Our true choice, the one we must make and that we must use to help us choose elected leaders, is between more government interference in the market or a genuinely free market where people decide for themselves how to use their economic power.
Government is a bed where two lovers sleep. Their names are Power and Money. They can always be found together. This has always been true and it will always remain the truth. Power needs Money to get into office and to remain in office. Money needs Power in order to gain an unfair advantage. There are only two ways to prevent their relationship from damaging the economy as a whole. First, we must elect truthful representatives of the greatest integrity who tell us what we need to hear, not what we long to hear. Second, we the people must take back the power that has been amassed at the top by self-serving politicians who feather their nests while throwing crumbs to the rest of us. The federal government must be cut in size, scope, power, and spending.
Power belongs to the people only when it’s diffused. And there is no greater way to exercise your personal power than to make your own choices about where you’ll live, where you will work, and how you’ll spend your earnings. There will always be those among us who will sacrifice leisure time to work harder. There will always be those who prefer to relax more, drink more wine, spend more days at the beach. I say that with no moral judgment because I recognize both to be good options. But the choice belongs to those who make it. The choice for others is not mine to make, nor does it belong to the government.
In this world there are no perfect economic systems; the closest thing we have is the free market. A truly free market is nothing more than personal liberty exercised in an economic way. (Do yourself a great favor and read Liberalism by Ludwig von Mises. It will change you forever.) What made America the economic power house that it used to be? Invention, new ideas, creativity, ingenuity. Where do we find these unleashed in such a way as to build strong nations? Only in the free world. Countries with centralized, socialized planning are weaker for it.
Our jealousy that someone else might have a bit more than we have has turned us into slaves who are willing to give our government masters more control. They wield that control gladly, evidently convinced of their moral superiority, and they are well paid for it with salaries, perks, pensions, healthcare services, and speaker’s fees. Occasionally, a liberty-minded candidate invites us to emerge from that slavery, to walk in the golden sunshine of economic and personal freedom, but the bright beams of liberty frighten us back into our shanties. “No,” we cry, “it is better to take the certain crumbs of our government overlords than to face the uncertainties of our own decision making.”
We no longer have Hooverville shanty towns in America. Today we have Obamaville tent cities. A review of the economic times might demonstrate the accuracy of my point. Barack Obama, a believer in centralized planning and former member of the socialist New Party, was elected in November 2008. Where have his leadership and his policies brought us in four years?
Well, let’s start with the prices you’re paying at your grocery store. In 2011 alone they increased dramatically. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, coffee went up 31% in price. If you paid $3.00 for your pack of coffee, it went up to $3.62. Here are some other increases for 2011: peanut butter 22% increase, margarine 18%, flour 16%, potatoes 14%, orange juice 12% and bread and pasta 10%.
When it comes to the average price of a gallon of gasonline, the increase is more than 100%. That affects not only your ability to get to work, but the cost of public transportation for those who use it, and the cost of every single item that is moved by gas-powered vehicles or farmed with gas-powered vehicles. In response, President Obama has doubled down on the very policies that are causing gasoline prices to increase. He is waging a war on the producers of our energy and that energy is costing more at every step of the production and delivery of the items we need every day.
At the Democrat National Convention this summer, Obama said that America is not in decline. Oh, if only that were true. To be fair, the decline began before he took office. But the big-government, massive-bailout, vote-buying policies that started this mess have only increased under Obama. We’re standing in an economic sinkhole. Our government goes deeper while telling us that we’ll somehow see light of day if we just keep digging. A disastrous third round of “quantitative easing” recently began (QE3). An already deflated dollar will sink further. Nations will increasingly avoid the dollar, even as they are already doing.
Are we really that stupid? Or are we just blind and fearful? The blinders must come off. And when Mitt Romney takes the oath of office we must keep them off.
America isn’t a shanty town after all. It’s a tent city. Either way, it’s the middle class and the poor who are moving into those tents among the ruins of their former lives. The buck stops there, Mr. President.
Welcome to Obamaville, everyone.