The factors contributing to the struggle of working class Americans during the Depression are still relevant today. Clues as to the imminent occurrence of a second Depression can be found by comparing the Great Depression to today’s economic climate.
The following essay compares contributing factors to the struggles of working class society during the time of the Depression and today. Key factors to be analyzed are; low wages and unemployment rates, unfair tax laws and foreign and American economic influences, as well as American spending.
Low wages are as much a problem today as they were during the Depression. One out of four working families in America today are low income; earning wages which are so low that it is nearly impossible for them to survive financially (Waldron, et.al., 2004). Key characteristics in today’s poor include; low-paying jobs, inadequate benefits and little-to-no job advancement opportunities and lack of skills and/or education (2004).
Presently the economy demands high skilled workers, due to the rise in technology. Low paying service jobs are still available and needed by the economy, yet the United States has not taken the proper action to support employees of such jobs and thus their needs and those of their families, go unmet (2004). Lack of proper support by government reduces the chances for families of low paying service jobs to make or plan a solid future.
Policies and regulations today are inadequate for the needs of the poor; much like during the Depression. Suggestions for the improvement of poverty-stricken American’s involve the creation of better paying jobs, better access to education, training and health care and better benefits; all these items are available to better paid employees. It is suggested that in order to accomplish these things, Americans must effectively invest public resources (2004).
Research has shown that the level of education strongly influence living standards in America; for example, thirty-five percent of low-income families have a parent who did not graduate high school (2004).
America’s poor struggle with balancing their wages; the majority of their income is going to housing and utilities, not leaving enough for health care. This is a concern because without health care, America’s poor miss work or lose their job because of illness. The struggles of low-paid workers in America are similar to that of workers during the Depression. Education and skills were as important, and difficult, to obtain today as in the 1930s.
As in the 1930s, tax structures and investments affect working Americans significantly. Public assistance varies and is mandated by state; however the maximum amount of earnings allowed by any state in America is so low, that if a family wanted to maintain health insurance after reaching the maximum income level, it is close to impossible. Some states only allow a maximum yearly income level of ten thousand dollars. Once reaching the maximum amount, public assistance is no longer available. There were similar concerns of how to help America’s poor during the Depression.
The Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s demonstrates the struggles and political policies which affected the poor during the Depression. During the Dust Bowl migration, families from Oklahoma and surrounding states headed for California during the Depression, in search for a better life in the growing agricultural state (Gregory, 2004). The Depression affected everyone, but especially farmers in Oklahoma and surrounding states; the severe drought made it all the worse.
Unemployment rates were high across the country; farmers and those in the city experienced joblessness. The poor were often discriminated against by states; many states were unwilling to allow the poor to relocate to their states (Gregory, 2004). California, for example, set up a boarder patrol to keep poor migrants out of the state. It wasn’t until 1941, that the Supreme Court decided that states had no right to restrict fellow Americans from migrating to their state (2004). There were attempts by some counties to help educated farmers; as well as give minor health care services.