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The Depression Never Ended

As we slowly begin to understand that the American Dream was not merely a dream but a hoax, and that far from benefiting economic democracy, it produced a terrifying concentration of wealth and power, we can also grasp the quality of our new dependency. It is similar to the old company-store syndrome. These few huge enterprises control the jobs, and as job competition increases, they also control the salaries.

As Tennessee Ernie Ford sang: We work for the company, we beg to keep our jobs, we don’t make trouble, and we buy at the company store.

In retrospect we can see what should have been obvious all along. The Great Depression of the 1930s never ended. It went underground, covered over by a war which created jobs and expanded industrial capacity, and then, when the war was over, by an advertising fantasy, a pipe dream sold to us with a purpose.

The new American life-style based on commodity consumption on, emphasizing credit buying on the never-never plan, and economic growth with its inevitable concentration of economic power, only produced a more virulent version of the older Depression. In the 1930s, as the number of jobs went down, at least prices did too. Now, because economic concentration has advanced to the point where price competition is passé, as jobs disappear, prices go up.

This new phenomenon was summarized in Mother Jones (February 1977) by economists David Olson and Richard Parker, reporting on a study by Dr. Howard Wachtel and Peter Adeisheim for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress:

“They found that corporations in food, utilities, rubber, tobacco, computers, aircraft, to name a few, had all raised their prices at times the textbooks say they should have rolled them back. How can corporations raise prices when the economy is stagnant, demand is falling, factories are operating well below full capacity and more and more people are out of work? The answer, Wachtel says, is economic concentration—entire industries increasingly dominated by a small number of ever-larger firms . . . fewer and fewer big businesses need to compete through pricing. This creates a situation in which prices can be increased and inflation kept rising even during periods of recession.”



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