3JM Company Inc.



Published Articles by David Balovich

Title: Recession, Depression, Does It Matter?
Published in: Creditworthy News
Date: 6/11/12

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.
Edmund Burke, 1729 – 1797

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana, 1863 – 1952

Much has been written about the present financial crises, recession, and or depression, whatever it is called today, that we have been wallowing in for almost six years. There has been finger pointing, misleading information, and a distortion of “facts” reported by politicians, news readers, and the self proclaimed “experts” who claim to know the causes that led us into our current financial crises and the remedies. The fact is the reason that we are in the present financial state is because of our failure, as a world society, to learn from our previous mistakes.

The term “financial crisis” is often applied broadly to situations where some financial institutions or assets suddenly lose a major portion of their value. Since the 19th century, many financial crisis have been attributed to bank or monetary failures that, like falling dominos, resulted in either recessions or depressions not only in the United States but worldwide.  A “financial crisis” is usually defined as a direct result of a loss in paper wealth and unless there is a resulting recession or depression does not change the real economy.

Although the world economists have offered numerous theories about how financial crises develop and how they could be prevented, they have yet to agree on any one particular theory or method of prevention. And so financial crises remain a regular occurrence around the world and all we have to assist us is to look at the past and hope that we don’t repeat our mistakes, again.

The Panic of 1873

There are those who have stated and written that the United States and also the world is in the worst financial crises in history today. That is not correct. The Panic of 1873, caused a severe international economic depression in both the United States and Europe that lasted for almost twenty years. The Panic of 1873 was often known as the Great Depression until the 1930’s and is now referred to as the Long Depression. It lasted fourteen years longer than the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

The Panic of 1873 was caused by an over expansion of the railroad industry and the Coinage Act of 1873 that affected the silver market. Contributing events were the infamous Chicago Fire, the outbreak of equine influenza, President Grants’ monetary policies (that increased interest rates while driving down the money supply), and the failure of Jay Cooke & Company (read Lehman Brothers). During the period of 1873 to 1875, the New York Stock Exchange was closed for ten days; 89 of the country’s railroads filed bankruptcy; 18,000 businesses closed and the unemployment rate rose from 3% to 14%. Construction work stopped, wages were cut, real estate prices fell and corporate profits vanished at a time when only corporations paid income taxes.

In Europe the Vienna Stock Exchange crashed causing several bank failures and the Berlin Railway went out of business. In the United Kingdom the long depression resulted in bankruptcies, unemployment, the stoppage of all public work projects, and caused a major trade slump that lasted until 1897. The British net national product ratio fell from 11.5% to almost half, 6%. France like the UK also suffered a period of stagnation until 1897. During this period the countries of the world including the U. S. began creating  protective tariffs for both its agricultural and industrial products.

The Panic of 1893

Just as the United States and the world began to recover from the Panic of 1873 the U. S. experienced the most serious economic depression it had ever encountered. The Panic of 1893 was caused by continuing railroad and bank failures compounded by a “run” on the banks and the United States gold supply.

In 1890 Congress had passed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in response to the agricultural growers lobby who wanted to repay their debts in silver which would provide them cheaper dollars than gold backed currencies. The Act required the U. S. Government to buy millions of ounces of silver which contributed to the emerging silver mining industry as it drove up the price of precious metal. People then attempted to redeem silver notes for gold causing the statutory limit for the minimum amount of gold in federal reserves to be attained at which point U.S. notes could no longer be successfully redeemed for gold. President Cleveland, after his election convinced Congress to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act thinking that this would solve the monetary problem. Instead U.S. citizens withdrew their money from the banks demanding payment in gold and created a financial panic in the UK where investors sold their American investments so they could  purchase American currency backed by gold.

Along with a series of bank failures, the Northern Pacific Railway, the Union Pacific Railroad and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad all failed. Over 16,000 companies and 500 banks closed their doors forever. Unemployment rose to 19% causing middle-class families the inability to meet their mortgage obligations. Many families walked away from recently built homes having lost their life savings when their bank was shuttered.

The Panic of 1893 saw the first populist march on Washington, known as “Coxey’s Army” (read Tea Party) where unemployed workers from all states came to the Capitol to demand a federal jobs program. During the six years between 1893 and 1899 unemployment remained at an average 14%.

The Panic of 1907

The Panic of 1907 was a financial crisis that occurred in the U. S. when the New York Stock Exchange lost almost half of its value from the previous year. The “panic” occurred during a period of economic recession and there were many “runs” on both banks and trust companies. Although the “panic” began in New York it eventually spread throughout the country and caused many state and local banks to close their doors. In addition, many businesses filed for bankruptcy protection. The 1907 panic only lasted 13 months but during that  period the following occurred:

The American stock market lost 18% of its capitalization,

The copper market collapsed,

The Standard Oil Company was fined $29 million for antitrust violations,

Banking runs occurred in Egypt, Japan, Hamburg, and Chile,

On October 24, eleven bank and trust companies closed their doors in New York City,

A failed attempt to control the copper market resulted in the shares of the United Copper Company falling to under $10 a share from a high of $60 in a single day,

A bankruptcy filing by the City of New York was averted when J P Morgan purchased

$30 million in New  York City bonds,

The failure of 50 stock exchanges in New York City was averted with a loan of $19 million dollars from J P Morgan,

Teddy Roosevelt, approved the sale of the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company to

U. S. Steel, a company controlled by J P Morgan, despite anti-trust concerns. This was significant because Roosevelt had a reputation as being a “monopoly buster” and it was, until now, a cornerstone of his presidency.

The Panic of 1907 is most significant because it ultimately led to the creation of the Federal Reserve Act that Congress passed and President Wilson signed into law on the same day, December 23, 1913.

1930 The “Great Depression”

For many, 1930 is the most recognized worldwide economic failure. Although it is most remembered and thought of as the “worst” of all depressions it only lasted for 4 years and 5 months. Two and a half years less than the average length of a depression.

The depression originated in the U. S. after the stock market crash in October 1929.  Most other countries did not begin to suffer until 1930 when Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff bill in June that led to a 50% reduction in international trade. The average duty paid on imports between the years 1921-1928 was 25.9%. After the passage of Smoot-Hawley the tariff increased to 50% between the years 1931-1935. Many believe that an ordinary recession grew into the Great Depression not only because of Smoot-Hawley but also because of the actions taken by the Federal Reserve to regulate interest rates, curtail bank failures, and control the money supply.

Prior to the stock market crash in 1929, margin requirements were only 10% of deposits. Brokerage firms would therefore lend $9 for every $1 dollar an investor had deposited with them. When the market began to decline brokers called in these loans, which the investors could not pay back. Britain’s decision to return to the Gold Standard is also considered a contributing factor although Britain quickly abandoned the gold standard in 1931. Every major currency left the gold standard during the Great Depression but not at the same time. Countries that left the gold standard early recovered more quickly than those that did so later on.

The administration of President Hoover initiated several programs to turn unemployment around and restore the economy quickly. Among the programs were the National Credit Corporation (a consortium of banks organized to lend money), the Federal Home Loan Bank (a government program designed to re-vitalize new home construction and financing), The Emergency Relief Act and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (government programs created to provide funds for public works, financial institutions, railroads, and farmers). All of these programs were failures and did nothing to restore the economy, in fact, the economy worsened after these programs were enacted. Interestingly, under the Roosevelt Administration, these programs after being renamed and packaged into the “New Deal” and the “Second New Deal” prospered and were given credit for playing a critical role in ending the depression.  

After the panic of 1929 and during the first 10 months of 1930, 744 U.S. banks closed their doors. Prior to Franklin Roosevelt’s election in 1932, 5,000 banks failed and eventually another 4,000 banks would fail before 1939, bringing the total number of depression era bank failures to 9,000. Many are of the opinion that had the Federal Reserve requested “emergency powers” instead of doing nothing while the large New York banks failed, the Great Depression may never have come about. However, because the Federal Reserve did not have the sufficient amount of gold on hand that was required at the time, (40%), to back the outstanding issued Federal Reserve Notes, the Fed was powerless to do anything as the banks began to fail. It was not until 1933, when President Roosevelt signed an Executive Order making the private ownership of gold illegal, did the Federal Reserve have sufficient gold on hand to rescue the remaining troubled banks. The Bank Act of 1935, that raised reserve requirements, was also a factor in the Fed’s effort to rescue the U. S. banks.

Between 1929 and 1933 unemployment in the U. S. was as high as 25% and 33% in Europe. By the mid-1930’s the economy began to recover due to the various programs in President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” such as public works and farm subsidiaries. Full recovery, however, was not realized until the start of World War Two and it is believed that because Roosevelt continued trying to balance the U. S. budget, during the depression, he never allocated enough money necessary to bring about a full recovery.

Recessions & Depressions

Recessions and depressions are not new to the U. S. and the world  nor do they happen infrequently. Since the Continental Congress of 1776 the U.S. has gone through 42 recessions and 5 depressions. The average recession has lasted 17 months while a depression has lasted no longer than 5 years. It has yet to be determined if the Panic of 2007 is a recession or a depression. What is known is that the U. S. and the world has yet to recover and it has lasted longer than either the Panic of 1893 or the Great Depression of 1930.

During the first six months of 2012:

The United States GDP has decreased to 1.9% (Bloomberg News),

The Bank of Spain has reported 66.2 billion euros ($82 billon dollars) has been transferred from the Spanish banking system to other countries by worried depositors (Reuters),

Greece has reported that retail sales have declined 16.2% and continue to do so (Financial Times),

There are rumors coming out of China that they are experiencing the beginning of a recession (British Guardian),

71% of small business owners in the U.S. do not believe the recession is over (Business Week).

In May 2012, 20,000 people applied for 877 new jobs at the Hyundai Motors Manufacturing plant in Montgomery, Alabama forcing the company to suspend the application process. (USA Today)

During the past five years 40% of working adults in the U.S. have seen their employer paid benefits reduced or eliminated entirely. (USA Today).

Looking back through history, the periods of financial crises appear to occur whenever government interferes with commerce, whether through the enactment of laws, regulations, or monetary policies. We also know that every election year we continue to nominate and often elect the least qualified candidates to lead our countries.

If we fail to pay attention to the writings of Burke and Santayana, we will end up where we are today, again!

David Balovich, 1947 –

I wish you well.

David Balovich is an author, credit consultant, educator, and public speaker.
He can be reached at 3jmcompany@gmail.com or through the Creditworthy website.

The information provided above is for educational purposes only and not provided as legal advice. Legal advice should be obtained from a licensed attorney in good standing with the Bar Association and preferably Board Certified in either Creditor Rights or Bankruptcy.  

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