Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Changing Things

By Calvin K. Sunderland, edited by Michael K. Sunderland

When Roosevelt came in things worsened quickly for the Sunderlands. FDR’s first act in office was to close every bank in the nation for the historic bank holiday. There was panic in some quarters and banks went under to the dismay of their depositors.

A flood of emergency measures came from the White House quickly rubber-stamped by a thoroughly cowed Congress. Whatever Roosevelt wanted, he got with hardly a murmur of dissent. The radical legislation came so fast and frenzied the people had no chance to ponder the effects and consequences. All they knew was that the president was doing something, and that’s what they wanted done... anything. The country was not only in a depression; it was also a bit demented. If it took a dictator to turn things around, so be it.

Roosevelt never quite gained dictatorial power on the order of Hitler. But he came close with many of the acts passed into law during the first 100 days. There was the National Recovery Act. The NRA was a clumsy effort by the federal government to gain almost total control over the nation’s economic activity. It powered the government to set hours, work weeks, minimum wages, prices, and allocate materials. It was all to be purely voluntary on the part of proprietors.

The Nazis painted the Star of David on Jewish establishments as a warning to the public not to patronize them. NRA’s method of promoting a boycott against non-volunteers was similar. A large white placard bearing the big blue NRA Eagle was displayed in windows and offices of proprietors “volunteering” to go along with the program. Consumers were encouraged to buy from those businesses displaying the eagle and to shun those that didn’t.

NRA was too much even for people in panic and it didn’t last long. The Supreme Court declared it to be unconstitutional and tossed it out. Thwarted and angered Roosevelt at every opportunity began packing the Supreme Court with radical leftists he was sure would approve his shredding of the Constitution. He even tried, but failed, to enlarge the Supreme Court beyond the traditional nine in order to name his own kind to the extra seats. (Sound familiar to today? Mike S.)

But it wasn’t the NRA that did Dad in. It was the Agricultural Adjustment Act. The AAA put the federal government into the business of paying farmers for not growing wheat, corn, cotton, and for not raising cows and pigs. A joke of the period: “If you’ll give me $100 for not growing 100 bushels of wheat, how much will you give me for not growing 1,000 bushels?” Some grew wealthy in the not growing business.

Rapid deflation set in and commodity prices plummeted. Making matters worse was the record harvest of 1932 that created gigantic surpluses.

Then came the AAA from Roosevelt’s prosperity machine to save American agriculture. Financed by a tax on the processing of farm products, $26,000,000 was poured into the pockets of Kansas’ wheat farmers in 1933. In return the farmers were to plow down 25% of their 1933 crop already planted, and reduce their 1934 planted acreage by another 15%. That’s what they did.

The money they got was to go toward restructuring their mortgage debt and for current operating expenses, but not to pay for past operating debts… like the ones they owed Orval Sunderland, my Dad. The bulk of Dad’s business was with farmers, on credit. The farmers promised to “pay you at harvest,” not specifying which harvest. There came a time when Dad ripped all the accounts owed by farmers from his ledger book, crumpled them into a pile on the floor of the garage, and burned them. The total in accounts receivable reduced to ashes by the effects of AAA on Orval Sunderland was according to Dad was on the order of $10,000... a small fortune in those days. Not an insignificant amount in any day.

As someone famous once said, “Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat the same mistakes,” Biden and Co. are hell bent on repeating these same types of mistakes. We have to vote them out and vote in Constitutional believing Senators and Congressmen. There my not be another opportunity. – Mike Sunderland


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