Our Historically-illiterate (and proud of it) President Trump has Never Read the History of the Preventable Evils that were Loosed on America and the Planet by the President’s Corrupt Crony Capitalists in 1919


WARNING: Trump/Pence and their Cronies are Blindly Following the Formula for a 1929-style Stock Market Crash that is likely to be followed by a 1930s-style Great Depression)


“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” --  George Santayana


The following history lesson, taken virtually verbatim from the Encyclopedia Britannica is a perfect example of the old truism in the title (attributed to philosopher George Santayana).

Readers can draw their own conclusions from the following historical account of what can happen (like it did 100 years ago this year) when a group of greedy, unaccountable, authoritarian, Big Business-oriented ruling elites think that they can run a government like an inherently sociopathic, multi-national corporation.


For starters, consider these few facts – and then read on:


  1. President Trump’s pro-Big Business administration is probably just as corrupt as was President Harding’s;


  1. Trump’s obedient VP Michael Pence is probably more devout than the conservative, “tax-cutter for the rich” Vice President Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge was named after John Calvin, was advised by his grandfather in his introduction to Christianity to focus on the gospel of John (as opposed to the Sermon on the Mount) and once publicly expressed his desire to “establish the Kingdom of God on earth”.


(Interestingly, according to the Miller Center, during Coolidge’s term in office, the United Fruit company controlled most of the revenue of Honduras, U.S. firms dominated Venezuelan oil production, U.S. troops trained and maintained a pro-American National Guard in the Dominican Republic, occupied Nicaragua and Haiti with a peacekeeping force of U.S. soldiers, controlled Cuban politics and the Cuban economy, and had disputes with Mexico over theMexican oil fields that were owned by American companies.)

  1. Pence’s Christian Fundamentalist movement and voter base is at least as strong today as it was in the mid-1920s when the KKK, racism and fear of foreigners were rampant; and


  1. Trump’s and Pence’s far right-wing advisors, their pro-Big Business Coalition Cabinet, their Ultra-Conservative Supreme Court, their obedient, xenophobic/racist Republicans in Congress, their Crony Capitalist Cheerleaders everywhere and their temporarily gleeful Booming Wall Street Billionaire Partners in Crime are ignoring their “Great Comeuppance”, as have the multitudes of sociopathic neo-fascists in the history of the world,


It is suggested that the types of elites mentioned above and below (and those who have been victimized by them) watch the current series of PBS’s fine historical documentaries titled “The Dictator’s Playbook” to find out what sometimes happens to tyrannical wealth-and-power elites from the past who have enriched themselves at the expense of their bamboozled followers. The series of (only six so far)) “profiles in tyranny” can be viewed at




The United States from 1920 to 1945


(The Mistakes of the Postwar Pro-Big Business, Conservative Republican Administrations)


The information below has been taken essentially verbatim from:

(The choices of what phrases were boldened were made by GGK)


After the end of WWI, many Americans were left with a feeling of distrust toward foreigners and radicals,whom they held responsible for the war.


The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the founding of the communist Third International in 1919 further fanned American fears of radicalism. Race riots and labour unrest added to the tension.


Thus, when a series of strikes and indiscriminate bombings began in 1919, the unrelated incidents were all assumed—incorrectly in most cases—to be communist-inspired.


During the ensuing Red Scare, civil liberties were sometimes grossly-violated and many innocent aliens were deported.The Red Scare was over within a year, but a general distrust of foreigners, liberal reform movements, and organized labour remained throughout the 1920s. In fact, many viewed Warren G Harding’s landslide victory in 1920 as a repudiation of Woodrow Wilson’s internationalism and of the reforms of the Progressive era.


Peace and prosperity


Harding took office with a clear mandate to restore business as usual, a condition he termed “normalcy.” Americans wished to put reminders of the Great War behind them, as well as the brutal strikes, the Red Scare, and the sharp recession of Wilson’s last years in office. Peace and prosperity were what people desired, and these would be achieved under Harding.


As part of his policy of returning Americac to prewar conditions, Harding pardoned many individuals who had been convicted of antiwar activities or for being radicals.


His main concern, however, was business.Reversing progressive and wartime trends, the Harding administration strove to establish probusiness policies. Attorney General Harry M Daugherty obtained injunctions against striking workers.


The Supreme Court sided with management in disputes over unions, minimum wage laws, child labour, and other issues.


Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hooverexpanded the size of his department fourfold during the next eight years in attempts to foster business growth and efficiency and to encourage trade associations and business–labour cooperation. Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon, one of the country’s richest men, drastically cut taxes, especially on the wealthy; he also cut federal spending to reduce the national debt.


In foreign affairs the Harding administration tried to ensure peace by urging disarmament, and at the Washington NavalConference in 1921, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes negotiated the first effective arms-reduction in history.


On the whole, however, the policies of the United States were narrow and nationalistic. It did not cooperate with the League of Nations. It insisted that Europeans pay their American debts but in 1922 passed the Fordney-McCumber Tariff, which raised duties so high that foreigners had great difficulty earning the necessary dollars.


When immigration reached prewar levels (some 800,000 people entered the country between June 1920 and June 1921), Congress gave in to the protests of organized labour, which believed immigrants were taking jobs away from American citizens, and to the objections of business leaders and patriotic organizations, who feared that some of the immigrants might be radicals.


Reversing traditional American policy, Congress passed first an emergency restriction bill and then in 1924 the National Origins Act. The act set a quota limiting the number of immigrants to 164,000 annually (150,000 after July 1, 1927); it discriminated against immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and barred Asians completely. The quota did not pertain to North Americans, however.


Harding’s policies, his genial nature, and the return of prosperity made the president extremely popular. His sudden death in the summer of 1923 resulted in a national outpouring of grief. Yet it soon became evident that his administration had been the most corrupt since Ulysses S. Grant’s.


President Harding had appointed venal mediocrities, many of them old cronies, to office, and they had betrayed his trust. The most publicized scandal was the illegal leasing of naval oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming, which led to the conviction of Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall for accepting a bribe.


Calvin Coolidge, Harding’s vice president and successor, was a taciturn, parsimonious New Englander who restored honesty to government. His administration suffered none of the stigma of the Harding scandals, and Coolidge, thanks to a buoyant economy and a divided Democratic Party, easily defeated the conservative Democrat John W. Davis in the election of 1924, though an independent campaign by third party candidate Senator Robert M. LaFollette of Wisconsin drew off insurgent Republicans, Coolidge received both more popular and electoral votes than his opponents combined.


Coolidge followed Harding’s policies, and prosperity continued for most of the decade. From 1922 to 1929, stock dividends rose by 108 percent, corporate profits by 76 percent, and wages by 33 percent. In 1929, 4,455,100 passenger cars were sold by American factories, one for every 27 members of the population, a record that was not broken until 1950. Productivity was the key to America’s economic growth. Because of improvements in technology, overall labour costs declined by nearly 10 percent, even though the wages of individual workers rose.


The prosperity was not solidly based, however. The wealthy benefited most, and agriculture and several industries, such as textiles and bituminous coal mining, were seriously depressed; after 1926 construction declined.


Social changes were not limited to the young. Productivity gains brought most Americans up to at least a modest level of comfort. People were working fewer hours a week and earning more money than ever before.


New consumer goods—radios, telephones, refrigerators, and above all the motor car—made life better, and they were easier to buy thanks to a vastly expanded consumer credit system. Leisure activities became more important, professional sports boomed, and the rapid growth of tabloid newspapers, magazines, movies, and radios enabled millions to share in the exciting world of speakeasies, flappers, and jazzmusic, even if only vicariously.


On the darker side, anti-foreign sentiment led to the revival of the racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan, especially in rural areas.


During the early 1920s the Klan achieved a membership of some 5,000,000 and gained control of, or influence over, many city and state governments.


Rural areas also provided the base for a Christian fundamentalist movement, as farmers and small-town dwellers who felt threatened and alienated by the rapidly expanding, socially changing citiesfought to preserve American moral standards by stressing religious orthodoxy.


The Christian Fundamentalist movement grew steadily until 1925, when John T Scopes, a biology teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, was tried for violating a law common to many Southern states prohibiting the teaching of the theory of evolution. Although Scopes was found guilty of breaking the law, both the law itself and fundamentalist beliefs were ridiculed during the course of the trial, which attracted national attention.


A Ku Klux Klan initiation ceremony, 1920s.



A Ku Klux Klan initiation ceremony, 1920s.© Jack Benton—Hulton Archive/Getty Images


One Christian Fundamentalist goal that was achieved was the passage in 1919 of the Prohibition (18th) Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.Millions of mostly Fundamentalist churchgoers hailed Prohibition as a moral advance, and the liquor consumption of working people, as well as the incidence of alcohol-related diseases and deaths, does seem to have dropped during the period.


On the other hand, millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens drank the prohibited liquor, prompting the growth of organized crime. The illegal liquor business was so lucrative and federal prohibition enforcement machinery was so slight that gangsters were soon engaged in the large-scale smuggling, manufacture, and sale of alcoholic beverages.


As in legitimate business, the highest profits came from achieving economies of scale, so gangsters engaged in complex mergers and takeovers; but, unlike corporate warfare, the underworld used real guns to wipe out competition.


In 1931 a national law-enforcement commission, formed to study the flouting of prohibition and the activities of gangsters, was to report that prohibition was virtually unenforceable; and, with the coming of the Great Depression, prohibition ceased to be a key political issue. In 1933 the 21st Amendment brought its repeal.


In the meantime, prohibition and religion were the major issues of the 1928 presidential campaign between the Republican nominee, Herbert Hoover, and the Democrat, Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York.


Smith was an opponent of prohibition and a Roman Catholic. His candidacy brought enthusiasm and a heavy Democratic vote in the large cities, but a landslide against him in the dry and Evangelical Christian hinterlands (= Republican) secured the election for Hoover.


The Great Depression


In October 1929, only months after Hoover took office, the stock market crashed, the average value of 50 leading stocks falling by almost half in two months. Despite occasional rallies, the slide persisted until 1932, when stock averages were barely a fourth of what they had been in 1929. Industrial production soon followed the stock market, giving rise to the worst unemployment the country had ever seen. By 1933 at least a quarter of the work force was unemployed. Adjusted for deflation, salaries had fallen by 40 percent and industrial wages by 60 percent.


People gathering on the steps of the building across from the New York Stock Exchange on Black Thursday, October 24, 1929, the start of the stock market crash in the United States.



People gathering on the steps of the building across from the New York Stock Exchange on Black Thursday, October 24, 1929, the start of the stock market crash in the United States.AP


The causes of the Great Depression were many and various. Agriculture had collapsed in 1919 and was a continuing source of weakness. Because of poor regulatory policies, many banks were overextended. Wages had not kept up with profits, and by the late 1920s consumers were reaching the limits of their ability to borrow and spend. Production had already begun to decline and unemployment to rise before the crash.


The crash, which was inevitable since stock prices were much in excess of real value, greatly accelerated every bad tendency, destroying the confidence of investors and consumers alike.


Hoover met the crisis energetically, in contrast to earlier administrations, which had done little to cope with panics except reduce government spending. He extracted promises from manufacturers to maintain production. He signed legislation providing generous additional sums for public works. He also signed the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which raised duties to an average level of 50 percent.


These steps failed to ease the depression, however, while the tariff helped to export it. International trade had never recovered from World War I. Europe still depended on American sales and investments for income and on American loans to maintain the complicated structure of debt payments and reparations erected in the 1920s. After the crash Americans stopped investing in Europe, and the tariff deprived foreigners of their American markets.


Foreign nations struck back with tariffs of their own, and all suffered from the resulting anarchy.


In the 1930 elections the Democratic Party won control of the House of Representativesand, in combination with liberal Republicans, the Senate as well.


Soon afterward a slight rise in production and employment made it seem that the worst of the depression was over. Then, in the spring of 1931, another crisis erupted.


The weakening western European economy brought down a major bank in Vienna, and Germany defaulted on its reparations-payments. Hoover proposed a one-year moratorium on reparations and war-debt payments, but, even though the moratorium was adopted, it was too little too late.


In the resulting financial panic most European governments went off the gold standard and devalued their currencies, thus destroying the exchange system, with devastating effects upon trade. Europeans withdrew gold from American banks, leading the banks to call in their loans to American businesses. A cascade of bankruptcies ensued, bank customers collapsing first and after them the banks.


Hoover tried hard to stabilize the economy. He persuaded Congress to establish a Reconstruction Finance Corporation to lend funds to banks, railroads, insurance companies, and other institutions.


At the same time, in January 1932, new capital was arranged for federal land banks. The Glass–Steagall Act provided gold to meet foreign withdrawals and liberalized Federal Reserve credit. The Federal Home Loan Bank Act sought to prop up threatened building and loan associations. But these measures failed to promote recovery or to arrest the rising tide of unemployment.


Hoover, whose administrative abilities had masked severe political shortcomings, made things worse by offering negative leadership to the nation.


His public addresses were conspicuously lacking in candor.He vetoed measures for direct federal relief, despite the fact that local governments and private charities, the traditional sources for welfare, were clearly incapable of providing adequate aid for the ever-rising numbers of homeless and hungry. When unemployed veterans refused to leave Washington after their request for immediate payment of approved bonuses was denied, Hoover sent out the army, which dispersed the protesters at bayonet point and burned down their makeshift quarters.


Hoover’s failures and mistakes guaranteed that whoever the Democrats nominated in 1932 would become the next president. Their candidate was Gov. Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York. He won the election by a large margin, and the Democrats won majorities in both branches of Congress.


The New Deal


Roosevelt took office amid a terrifying bank crisis that had forced many states to suspend banking activities. He acted quickly to restore public confidence. On Inaugural Day, March 4, 1933, he declared that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The next day he halted trading in gold and declared a national “bank holiday.”


On March 9 he submitted to Congress an Emergency Banking Bill authorizing government to strengthen, reorganize, and reopen solvent banks. The House passed the bill by acclamation, sight unseen, after only 38 minutes of debate. That night the Senate passed it unamended, 73 votes to 7. On March 12 Roosevelt announced that, on the following day, sound banks would begin to reopen. On March 13, deposits exceeded withdrawals in the first reopened banks. “Capitalism was saved in eight days,” Raymond Moley, a member of the president’s famous “brain trust,” later observed.


In fact, the legal basis for the bank holiday was doubtful. The term itself was a misnomer, intended to give a festive air to what was actually a desperate last resort. Most of the reopened banks were not audited to establish their solvency; instead the public was asked to trust the president. Nevertheless, the bank holiday exemplified brilliant leadership at work. It restored confidence where all had been lost and saved the financial system.


Roosevelt followed it up with legislation that did actually put the banking structure on a solid footing. The Glass–Steagall Act of 1933 separated commercial from investment banking and created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to guarantee small deposits. The Banking Act of 1935 strengthened the Federal Reserve System, the first major improvement since its birth in 1913.


With the country enthusiastically behind him, Roosevelt kept Congress in special session and piece by piece sent it recommendations that formed the basic recovery program of his first 100 days in office. F


From March 9 to June 16, 1933, Congress enacted all of Roosevelt’s proposals. Among the bills passed was one creating the Tennessee Valley Authority, would build dams and power plants and in many other ways salvage a vast, impoverished region.


The Securities Exchange Act gave the Federal Trade Commission broad new regulatory powers, which in 1934 were passed on to the newly created Securities and Exchange Commission. The Home Owners Loan Act established a corporation that refinanced one of every five mortgages on urban private residences. Other bills passed during the Hundred Days, as well as subsequent legislation, provided aid for the unemployed and the working poor and attacked the problems of agriculture and business.




Despite the importance of this growth of federal responsibility, the New Deal’s greatest achievement was to restore faith in American democracy at a time when many people believed that the only choice left was between communism and fascism.


Its greatest failure was its inability to bring about complete economic recovery. Some economists, notably John Maynard Keynes of Great Britain, were calling for massive deficit spending to promote recovery; and by 1937 the New Deal’s own experience proved that pump priming worked, whereas spending cutbacks only hurt the economy. Roosevelt remained unpersuaded, however, and the depression lingered on until U.S. entry into World War II brought full employment.