How To Help the Economy (10-22-1930)

The economy was bad and growing worse.  People were losing jobs.  Business owners were scared about the future.  The government was clueless.

That was Chicago—in 1930.

Twelve months before, the Stock Market had crashed.  Now the nation was feeling the ripple effect.  Unemployment had reaching 8.9%.
Depression01
A private group named the Illinois Free Employment Service was trying to help.  Some days over a thousand jobless men came in looking for work.  Most of these applicants were manual laborers.  Many white-collar workers had also signed up, saying they’d take anything offered.

As for women, they might find opportunities in domestic work.  “Surely there are [people] who could afford maid service,” one counselor declared.  “Perhaps even for half days, to help out these women who sit here day after day with desperation in their hearts.”

For those who couldn’t find work, there was the Goodfellows Fund.  An alliance of local social agencies was collecting money to buy food, pay rent, or keep utilities operating for the city’s 75,000 needy families.  The Tribune was picking up all the administrative costs.

On this same day, the University of Chicago was hosting a major conference on business conditions.  The 45 invited headliners included leaders of the country’s biggest industries, magnates with names like Chrysler, Rosenwald, Insull, and Zukor.  About 1,000 members of the general public were also present.

Depression Chicago

The conference members agreed that the current slump was caused by a surplus of manufactured goods.  That resulted in lower prices.  Then companies had to lay off workers—which only made things worse, because now those unemployed people had no money to spend.

To grow a healthy economy, the federal government should relax its hold on business.  “The anti-trust laws corrected one extreme but brought about another,” one CEO said.  “What is desired by all legitimate business is stability, rather than waves of prosperity and depression.”

There were already enough laws on the books to protect the public interest, another exec claimed.  All that business wanted was a fair set of rules.

Those were some of the things Chicagoans were talking about in 1930.  Two years later, at the depth of the Great Depression, unemployment reached 25%.  The economy would not fully recover until after World War II.

—30—

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