Thanksgiving, then and now

editor's note: The following editorial appeared in the Medford Mail Tribune the day before Thanksgiving Day, 1929, about a month after the stock market crash that began Oct. 24 and culminated in Black Tuesday, Oct. 29 (the MT didn't publish on Thanksgiving in those days).

We are told that business conditions in the East must be worse than supposed, because President Hoover is calling so many conferences, and spending so much time in an effort to stimulate industrial activity in all parts of the country.

This may be a natural conclusion, but it is not, to our mind, a sound one. If any other type of man were in the White House — if former President Coolidge happened to be there at the present time, for example — it is doubtful if any action of this sort would be taken. And probably from the standpoint of averting a real economic disaster, such action is not necessary.

But President Hoover happens to be an economic specialist, with original ideas of his own, as to how business depressions, actual or threatened, should be treated.

And he is simply carrying into effect these ideas. He believes — and has always believed — that the body politic is not unlike the individual. Just as all individuals have a hidden reserve, only called upon in some unusual crisis and capable of saving the individual from what under normal circumstances might result in disaster, so has that collection of individuals known as a nation.

With characteristic energy and skill, he is calling on that latent reserve. A major panic is not what he fears; he simply wishes to demonstrate that by intelligently utilizing the hidden forces available, even a minor depression can be avoided.

It will be very interesting to see how his program works out. It is, as far as we know, the first time that the theory of preventive medicine has been actually applied, in any country, in an effort to prove that periodic depressions are not — as has been so often stated — unavoidable in modern industrial civilization, but can be effectively checked if not completely eliminated, by adopting and applying enlightened prophylactic measures.

With the luxury of hindsight, we know today Hoover was unable to prevent what became the Great Depression. The stock market didn't hit bottom until 1932, having lost 89 percent of its value from its 1929 peak.

We also know what the Mail Tribune in 1929 regarded as unprecedented — government intervention to shore up the economy — now is commonplace. If the MT found Hoover's modest efforts — the holding of "conferences" — to be groundbreaking, imagine what it would have thought of a $700 billion rescue package passed by Congress. (The New York Times on Oct. 30, 1929, estimated the New York Stock Exchange's losses on Black Tuesday at $8 billion to $9 billion).

What we don't know — what no one can know — is whether the intervention of 2008 will work any better than Hoover's did. We do know this: Americans still have a great deal for which to be thankful today. Although the economic news continues to be bleak, and likely will get worse before it gets better, we are confident the country will weather this storm just as it has other difficult times in the past. Today is, even more than in past years, a day to count our many blessings.

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