One morning, while idly watching a half finished bowl of oatmeal congeal at the kitchen table, I took notice of sounds coming from the TV in the living room. It was tuned to some media station and the word that caught my attention was ‘halfer’. “Now what the hell does that mean?”, I mutter to myself. Then, I went back to watching the bowl of oats.
Later, that morning, I had the opportunity to ask a friend if they’d ever heard of the term. “Yeah, I think so”, was the response by one of my neighbor out collecting her mail. “ That’s one of them far left side nut jobs! You know, like those ‘truthers’. The people who think Bush planned 911”
Actually, I had no idea what she was talking about and resolved not to make anymore late morning inquiries by the mailbox in the future. I quickly collected my mail (mostly bills of course) and crossed the street with a wave over my shoulder.
“Hey!” She shouted before I could make it inside my house. “You’re not a halfer-dude are you?” “No,” I yelled back through the rapidly closing door, “I’m a wholer-dude.”
Standing there in the entryway, bills now forgotten, I wondered, what the hell was a ‘halfer’ anyway. While thinking this I unconsciously dug around in my pants pocket for the cell phone. I had resolved to give the Forsythkid a call.
FK ,as he was known about town, was something of a recluse. He’d been that way for a long time. Ever since mid-decade when he’d quite his job and had retreated permanently to that rat hole of a place he called home. Now, he was smart mind you. A regular Einstein to hear some tell it. He was just a mite disorganized and fumble fingered when it came to domestic chores. On rare occasions, I would spot him shambling around the park near his home. I would always wave with a big smile and I would always feel a little sorry for him as I did so. But, when it came to brains, now that was a different story. He was somewhere up there, that was for sure. So, who better than good old FK to help clear up this halfer thang, as old ex-president Bush would say.
After a few rings, FK answered in a voice that made it obvious he had been awakened. “Yo FK, This is Danomanno,” I said in my most pleasant voice. “I’ve got a question I thought you might be able to help me with.”
“Jes a sec,” came the muffled response. I could hear a toilet flush, water running and then the creak of a door opening. “Mmm OK, shoot.”
Feeling a bit foolish now, I recapped my mornings antics at the mailbox and related that I had never heard the term ’halfer’ before.
“So, that’s my question to you Mr. Forsythkid,” I mumbled apolitically. “I was hoping you could help me out.”
The line was silent for so long I’d thought old FK had fallen asleep. Then I heard a ragged breath drawn in and exhaled. “ Yeah, I’ve heard the term before DanO. It’s been a long time though. God, I think the last time I heard it used was back in the days when President Harding first took office. You remember back in the early twenties when everything had gone to hell in a hand basket?”
No. Actually I had no idea of what he was talking about. But I ‘d never let him know that. “ Sure,” I responded gamely. “So, there were these ‘halfers’ even back then huh? Some kind of radical group or something?”
“Not really,” FK responded as he settled into a tone used to lecture the gentile among us. “Back in 1921 it was a lot worst than it is today. Unemployment was at 20% following a runaway inflation that left most folks poor and hungry ! Why heck fire, now that you mention it, it pretty much like it is today. The country was straddled with a mountain of debt and crazy spending by a Progressive government that was out of control. Then, the election of 1921 came and went. Woodrow Wilson exited stage left and Warren G. Harding came in to clean up the mess that had been left behind.” FK paused for a moment, then continued. “Well, right off the bat, old Harding put before Congress what he called ’A Return to Normalcy Bill’.” FK bust out in laughter. “ I want to tell you it was like a bucket of cold water on a dog in heat. Why in some of the bills measures, he called for a fifty percent reduction in spending and a national debt reduction program while at the same time reducing taxes. Some people called him Halfer Harding back then, just maybe not to his face.”
“So,” I interjected. “ This had a good effect on the nation?”
“Why hell boy!” FK retorted. “ Right after that, the misery index which is a combination of unemployment and inflation had its sharpest decline in U.S. history! Unemployment plummeted from 20% to an average of 3.3% for the balance of that decade. The Gross National Product averaged 7% from 1924 to 1929. Wages, profits, and productivity all made substantial gains during what became known as the Roaring Twenties.”
“Hey wait just one moment,” I exclaimed. “ Didn’t the Great Depression happen right after that?”
“Yes, my boy it did,” FK agreed. “But in actuality, the stock market crash of 1929 was not the calamity Americans have been made to believe. There were no major business or bank failures resulting from the crash. The crash of 1929 occurred in October and by December of that year the economy was once again calm and remained so for the next six months.” FK stopped for a moment, the resumed. “Get it through your head that the depression did not occur because of the stock market crash. There were several errors on the part of policy makers that plunged our economy into such a deep depression. The inaction on behalf of President Hoover, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Federal Reserve Board to curb over-speculation proved very unwise.” FK stopped his line of thought to explain. “ That speculation stuff is just what brought on our current bout of misery, DanO. If you give the boys on Wall Street too much rope, they’ll hang themselves every time. But, “FK admitted. “I digress. Anyway, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 which President Hoover (another in a line of Progressives) supported and signed into law helped to paralyze global commerce. The huge tax increases also signed into law by Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt retarded economic growth, ballooned the national debt, and sunk the nation deeper into the great depression. If Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt had moved to curb over-speculation and otherwise continued the economic policies of Harding and Coolidge, the nation may have been able to have avoided the great depression. Most certainly, the depression would not have been as deep and prolonged as it was. Anyways, that’s my thought on the subject. So, you see being a halfer is not all that bad an idea. Back then or even now.” FK concluded. “Well, son, I hope that answered your question?”
“Yeah,” I answered. “But let me ask you one more thing. Where do you get all that knowledge FK?”
“Why I Googled it of course!”
Wow, excellent post. It really defines the fact that all economies have downturns, but that it is how you handle them that counts. Just as FDR gets credit for halting the Great Depression (which is a myth) it was actually WW2 that got us out. Why? Because govt spending doesn’t “make things”, it generally just expresses a philosophy. Basically, a spender like Obama trades in “gifts” to his favorite groups, such as Govt unions. It is his hope that those dollars come back to him and he gains more power.
The opposite scenario, as you detail, is cutting govt waste and spending, which naturally puts more money in the pockets of business and individuals. People feel “comfortable” starting a small business, and small businesses feel good growing larger. Can the Govt simulate this? Ask the USSR…oh wait.