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I wonder how slowly progress would have come without the Great Depression and President Roosevelt’s resulting New Deal policies? I used to think the Depression caused all the disparity and deprivation of the 1930s but now it seems to me that the Depression served to force our government to take notice of the disparity between affluent Americans and the general population  that existed long before the Depression.

We’ve all heard, read, or seen stories about the Roaring Twenty’s and the excesses of that time. Depictions of the Roaring Twenty’s leave an impression that while bootleggers and gangsters ruled the big cities a burgeoning economy supported the insatiable   appetite of the populace for booze, broads, and unending entertainment from Vaudeville, Broadway Shows, movie theaters, and speakeasies. Today's Movies and TV shows about that era leave me with the impression that life was one big, continuous, wild party for everyone. 

It seems from the merriment on the screen  that it was a time of prosperity and happiness for all America. Sorry. Not true. 

Before the Great Depression, living conditions were crude and life was hard for the general population. The necessities and conveniencies enjoyed by some folks in the 1920s didn’t reach the majority in those big cities and they certainly didn’t reach folks in rural America.  

I mentioned already the sad condition of the Tennessee Valley before the TVA brought electricity and many other government sponsored benefits to the region. But the Tennessee Valley wasn't alone in its needs.

In the early 1930s only 10% of rural America had electricity. For 90% of rural folks, the benefits of electricity were not available. The government refused to become involved with this 'inconvenience' because the prevailing ideology dictated that private enterprise should compete for the business and eventually build power plants. Never mind that the technology was available and the people were in dire need of it, the government would not get involved.

Quotes below from Websters World Encyclopedia 2001, American History, The Great Depression:

"In keeping with the prevailing prosperity (at least in the urban areas if the country) governmental policy during the 1920s was eminently conservative. It was based on the belief that if government did what it could to foster private business, prosperity would eventually encompass most of the rest of the population.
Accordingly, Republican policies were intended to create the most favorable conditions for U.S. industry."

... "the federal government started a program of tax cuts, reflecting treasury secretary Andrew Mellon's belief that high income taxes prevented the rich from investing in new industrial enterprises.
Congress, in a series of laws passed between 1921 and 1929, responded favorably to his proposals that wartime taxes on income, excess profit taxes and corporation taxes be repealed outright or drastically reduced."

Calvin Coolidge (R), President 1923 - 1929 put it bluntly when he stated: "The chief business of the American people is business."  

(My thoughts: it wasn't until the Great Depression hit after the financial collapse of 1929 that the voters of  America's struggling populace realized that the federal government was Big Business Oriented and it wasn't People Friendly.)

"In the Presidential campaign of 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt ...
argued that the depression stemmed from the U.S. economy's underlying flaws, which had been aggravated by Republican policies during the 1920s."

(My thoughts: the same 1920s ideology continues to rear its ugly head in Washington;  those 'trickle down economic policies' are not people friendly. They didn't work then and they won't work now - except to make the most wealthy among us more wealthy.) 

Quotations above are from: Webster's 2001 Millennium CD-ROM Encyclopedia Copyright 2000 Multimedia Inc.