09 August 2012

What a real depression looks like

Homeless men line up for a place to sleep, New York, 1930.

As opposed to the current "economic slowdown" that everyone complains about.

Photo credit Bettmann/Corbis, via the New York Times and First Time User.


  1. This economic slowdown would look a hell of a lot worse if we didn't have the social safety net in place that didn't exist during the Great Depression. And today we've made sure our homeless sleep in places we seldom see.

    1. Couldn't have said it better, BJ. I'm sensing in this post the same logic used to argue that there's no health care crisis because there are plenty of emergency rooms out there.

  2. This is what *that* depression looked like.

    We won't really know until the future how bad our present situation is. Homeless don't line up in the same ways anymore, but I volunteer at a homeless shelter that is full every night. Not as photogenic, but still desperate people.

  3. This picture says more about the differences between the safety net in place for homeless individuals and families during the Great Depression vs. today than it does about economic conditions then vs. now.

    In the 1930s, the City had the capacity to provide a mere 5,856 beds each night to homeless individuals. Today, homelessness in NYC is at all-time highs and the City houses more than 40,000 individuals a night. The City of New York is bound by law to provide shelter by the rather unique "right to shelter" that was put in place well after the Great Depression. The lines that exist today at shelter intake centers do not look like the one above mainly because the City is successful at placing homeless individuals and families into emergency housing.

    If you talk to these people, I think you'll find they have very real reasons to complain about the "current economic slowdown."

    For more about homelessness in NYC during the Great Depression, see: http://www.amazon.com/New-York-City-Great-Depression/dp/0738565970
    There's also a lot of great current data and information about homelessness in NYC on the nyc.gov/dhs page.

  4. Give it time...give it time.

  5. Hmmm, what about this:
    Or speaking of homeless shalters:
    Or this:

  6. I saw this story and came to the comments to voice my view and was glad to see so many common sense comments that reflect my concerns. The 1930's depression is the picture of true austerity, the result of greed and the policies of the Hoover Administration. In 2012 we still have some pursuing that misguided notion. We still have oligarchs and monopolists without a shred of guilt for what they have done to the country or a shred of decency to help repair the damage. They talk a good line about free markets with their subsidies and lobbied benefits until their greed and risky behavior ends in disaster. Then suddenly socialism, welfare and tax cuts to save them is a good thing, but for those in the lines, shelters and under bridges they preach rough and tumble free markets and cutting "entitlements". I know who is entitled.

  7. Yup. Unless you have the worst case ever documented, your current suffering is not 'real'.

    I hate that logic.

  8. I was recently in a Food Stamp line, in New York City. While there was probably a third of the people in that photo, the number was still extraordinary (and the line still went around the block).
    Hmm. Come to think of it, I was also at a recent "job fair" with similarly overwhelming numbers.
    I'm not making any point here, just observations.

  9. In California, food stamps are refilled electronically. No standing in line.

    The number of Americans on food stamps has set a record exceeding the Great Depression.

    The number of people no longer participating in the labor force exceeds the Great Depression.

    1. What;s your point? Are you suggesting that we are in an economic depression now?


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