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Editorial: Heat wave: Can’t stop Depression era comparisons
8/9/2012 1:07:00 PM
It really was a hot one.
No matter where you went in the lower 48 states in July, it seemed oppressively hot. Apparently it didn’t just seem so; it was a record-breaking fact. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week that the average temperature across the country last month was the highest ever recorded since they started keeping such records in 1895.
The second hottest July was back in 1936.
It is yet another comparison this era has to the Great Depression, and none of those comparisons can be good. The question is, what have we learned since then?
Certainly the economic collapse that defined the ‘30s was more unhinged, the accompanying heat and drought more devastating and long-lasting. From a historical perspective, the great thing about the Great Depression is that it is the lowest touchstone we have. No matter how bad things have gotten, they have not been that bad. But it is still too close for comfort.
We like to think we put in enough regulations to stop markets and banks from completely imploding again, but the past five years have shown us how complacency and lack of imagination can let greed overrule good intentions. We like to think farming methods have been altered and advanced, but a long drought can eat through the highest production technology.
At the moment, drought conditions have touched 63 percent of the country. That drives food prices higher nationwide, causes more hardship for farmers, and weakens recovery.
Even though the majority of the U.S. population is no longer rural, the national weather and the national economy remain vulnerable to one another. After steps were taken to prevent another Great Depression and another Dust Bowl, it was easy to forget hard times during bountiful times and easy to return to bad habits.
The perspective of 76 years should allow us to manage these challenges more wisely. Otherwise, the heat wave of July 2012 is another reminder that the country is susceptible to same troubles of the 1930s. And we don’t need another reminder.
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