The Great Depression Online

Great Depression Online Archive Issue:

Revisiting the Gilded Age

Great Depression Online
Long Beach, CA
May 22, 2009

Inside This Issue You Will Discover…

*** It’s Pouring
*** Becoming Less Rich
*** Revisiting the Gilded Age
*** And More

It’s Pouring

This economy stinks.  There’s no doubt about it.  Indeed, its wretched reek’s so bad that “Ron Edo, 42, an aircraft maintenance worker from Temecula, CA, …has sent out more than 1,500 resumes since he lost his job a year ago.”

Good grief…1,500 resumes.  And, still, no takers.

“Luckily I saved when I was young,” said Ron. “My parents used to always tell me to save for a rainy day.  And it’s pouring.”

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We came across Ron’s plight in a recent AP story titled, Stress Map Outlines Recession’s Stories.  And where poor Ron’s sent out 1,500 resumes, Bruce Paul, a vintage car mechanic from Shakopee, MN, who was laid off in January, doesn’t even know what one is.

“You go out and they say, you know, you need a resume.  And I say, ‘A Resume?  What’s that?”’

Becoming Less Rich

But Ron and Bruce, and their contemporaries, aren’t the only ones feeling the pain of this economy.  Up at the higher end of the spectrum, the rich are hurting too.

“Richard and Amanda Peacock spent five years building their dream home, a 10,000-square-foot, orange mansion overlooking the ocean here [Vero Beach, FL],” reported the Wall Street Journal.  “They filled it with leopard-skin chairs, pinball machines, antique Coca-Cola signs and six sports cars.  It had a room full of 100 hunting trophies – including a hyena and the head of an elephant – and an aviary out back housing eight rare parrots.

“On a recent Saturday, they held a one-day auction to try to sell it all.

“Mr. Peacock’s auction marked a new moment in the fall of the latest Gilded Age.  Fire-sale auctions of mansions, yachts, sports cars and other trappings of wealth have become increasingly common as the rich become less rich.”

What a bummer it must be to go from rich to less rich.  Particularly when no one wants the gaudy doodads you want to get rid of…

“When the six cars came on the block […] the sale stalled.  Only one -- a cloned 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda convertible -- reached Mr. Peacock’s asking price.  The Peacocks didn’t accept the bids on the others, including the Ferrari.  An Italian speedboat and a pair of jet skis also failed to sell.

“In all, 500 items sold for about $300,000.  About $200,000 went to pay the auctioneer and other expenses.

‘“Nobody’s spending money right now,’ said Mr. Peacock, sitting under the tent with his head buried in his hands.  ‘“I guess we’ll try to just keep hanging on.”’

Revisiting the Gilded Age

If getting rid of a stuffed elephant head is part of the fall of the latest Gilded Age, then we’re all for it.  Of course the original Gilded Age, if you remember, came out of the boom following the Civil War. 

Back then the nation’s industry was lead by titans like Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Carnegie who took manufacturing production above the combined total of Great Britain, Germany, and France.  That was back when America was a budding world power, a land of opportunity, where freedom rang. 

Back then its leaders still cared about upholding the constitution and held matters of individual freedom and liberty above those of special interest groups.  And back then – if you can believe it – if a company failed, do you know what the government did?

Absolutely nothing. 

No kidding, they just let the company fail…they really did.

But that was before the federal income tax, the IRS, the Federal Reserve, Social Security, the New Deal, the Great Society, the War on Poverty, Medicare, Medicaid, and on and on.  And that was back when people were still trim and the suggestion to use the public purse to stimulate the economy – even for the greater good of all – would have been met with offense, outrage, and indignation.

Was it a better world?

“I think when you spread the wealth around it’s good for everybody,” says the President.

Apparently it wasn’t.


M.N. Gordon
Great Depression Online

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