Jonathan Wolfman's Blog
JANUARY 21, 2012 7:22AM

A Ragtime Ethical Culture

Rate: 32 Flag

      Mr. Gingrich's deft defense of his too-too titillating personal life was not the most in the most recent fetid display of his party's ethical culture.

     That moment came when Dr. Paul stated (and the other three stood mutely by, nodding) that prior to the New Deal, before the federal government got into the business of helping out more kinds of people than the swells in watery Titanic upper deck suites then graves...         
     [Oh how I Love Love 
                                              Billy Zane's Callous Evil
                                                                                              whether smacked up against an
                         Atlantic berg
                                                                         or in 'Twin Peak' Eerie Eerie Forests]
...Dr. Paul alleged that before President  Roosevelt's fingers mangled the mechanisms of capital, "people weren't wandering the streets, ill." (The Congressman's a doctor after all.)
     So: I thought I'd poke about.
     In 1933, the worst Depression year, the US population was about 125,000,000.
(It's somewhat over 300M now. What busy rabbits we are.)
--Average yearly income was just under $1,500.
--Average house rent was $18/month.
--Average weekly wages for those who could find work/for those still with jobs was $20.
--Four years after that era's Wall Street betrayal of our nation, over 25% of the adult U.S. population eligible to work were unemployed.
--Millions of citizens not counted as homeless squatted in abandoned businesses and many more millions called shanty-town Hoovervilles home.
--The street-bound homeless numbered, in 1933, between 200,000 and 300,000.
     You would have to be ill yourself to believe that under these conditions millions of pre-New Deal citizens weren't wandering about our cities, towns, and rural areas sick and many slowly dying.
     More than anything else, Doctorow's masterwork is about the ruinous ethical detritus, the disastrous flotsam of the last era of unbridled, unregulated, American corporate capital.
     Ask yourselves:  why did Mr. Santorum, Mr. Romney, and Mr. Gingrich-the-historian stand mute...again, they nodded... in the face of this outrageous nonsense? The answer has to include the truth that these men are so deeply in the bag for the very wealthy and would so gladly try their best to drag us back to a 'Ragtime' era of unchecked capital that their silent nods are by now automatic, reflecting no thought or ethics whatever.



1933, Hooverville home, Ohio



1933, Hooverville home, St. Louis


 1935, unemployed, homeless men on street, Baltimore


Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
We can do so much better than these people offer.
What a shame we get the worst common denominator as so called leaders... But the problem is ours, since no one reads, especially history or economics ... No one has a clue what the truth is in reality... Thus we deserve or fate...
Ray we only deserve this attempt to erase the New Deal if we do not act, do not vote.
"Ragtime" is one of my favorite books. It has left a lasting impression, as has the era it describes. Anyone who doesn't know about those days doesn't know much about history. So much for "Newt the Historian." (r)
Judy I think he and Mr. Paul and others do know and it's precisely where they want us.
I have no words. Can I just shake my head? ~r
Joan you may, yes. And if you read/re-read the novel, you'll see precisely what I mean. (And the film's great, too, of course. Cagney's last role. Harold Rollins, Jr., too!)
Yes, Jon, but some of us have ideals!!!!! How can we vote for a president who has disappointed us????? Wouldn't it be better to elect a mercenary buffoon to bring our civilization crashing down around us so we can start anew???? (tag: irony)
Matt I am glad the terminally myopic annoy you, too. :)
The answer, at least to me, as to why these august men stand around with their hands in pocket listening to another spout inaccurate crap is that they just don't care.
My wife and I were just talking a few minutes ago about how in just 24 hours Gingrich is back "in the lead" in South Carolina. How would you like to be a voter there today with the 4 options available? You'd give anything for the option of "none of the above".
And I'm sure that John McCain is somewhere slowly shaking his head--asking himself, now on God's green earth did I end up with "that" woman as my running mate?
Walt whom do you think SC Repubs would like better than these four?
The 3 candidates will surely bring jobs and the bobble head industry. Look for them in a rear window near you
It there was even the remotest chance that 'voting' could possibly change anything major, it would be outlawed in a New York minute.

You can vote for THIS minion of the elite, or you can vote for THAT minion of the elite, but it really doesn't matter. The days when politicians and/or political parties might, on a good day, have cared about the electorate, are long gone (if they ever really existed).

Voting only tells 'them' that they've managed to fool most of you into thinking your vote matters, once again. A voting system that does not include a N.O.T.A. option is a fraud - not a democracy.

Too bad. It all could have been so very different.
Another Repub with dubious proposals to take things back to a falsely drawn past; proposals that incidentally (?) benefit them that have a lot more than them that don't. Isn't this getting to be dog bites man JW?
Then and now:

Each man can interpret another's experience only by his own. - Thoreau
I'm voting for Obama. At least with him there is hope for family assistance programs which will help educate and feed the minds of millions who wouldn't otherwise be able to function. None of the repiglicans convinces me of anything I don't already know about our crises.
"We can do so much better than these people offer." We need to get the money out of this and limit political donations to $100. a person and then, we might have a chance to actually electing someone not influenced by those corporate persons....
We can do better, we just need a fair chance.
B. you're so damned right.
Sheila that Court ruling was as dumb as it gets; yes...and destructive.
I never thought of this thinking of those 'people' but you are so right..
Man this is scary..

Linda espite those who say voting makes no diff, writing makes no diff, it does. They're mistaken.
Great word choice. Newt is FETID. I'm gonna keep using it:)
Christind I actually tht a lot abt which adj to use there. :)
Would just like to point out that in that same era:

Consumption (also known as tuberculosis) was at an all time high in this nation;

Rickets, polio and measles ravaged our young. (Rickets is a nutritional form of scurvy.)

So, no, I cannot believe that "people weren't walking the streets ill."

Oh how far we have progressed since then. I wish we could wind the clock back almost a hundred years. I love that music. I'll trade cholera, rickets, TB, 6 day 16 hours each work weeks and no pension, health benefits or employees rights for that music baby.

I bet the Republican Candidates are all about the music, too. Why else would they be so adamant about putting negroes back in those conditions of apartheid, fear of whitey and even worse economic position than the millions of disadvanted po' white trash working from age 8 in their factories, mines and sweat shops if not to get more Ragtime Blues music?

I'm definitely voting for none of them.
I hear you. Teaching was my calling, and I answered that call in various roles for almost four decades. Therefore, I speak with some authority when I say: One of our greatest failings as a nation is how we have allowed our public educational system to deteriorate. We are guilty of producing people who cannot or will not read and think critically. The ability to understand and intelligently discuss William Lutz’s work on doubletalk should be required before entering high school. High school might seem more appropriate, but our high school graduation rates are abysmal, so best get this lesson in as early as possible. There are, of course, other salient works, but Lutz opens the mind and enhances an individual’s ability to recognize when obfuscation rather than clarity is an author’s intent. To a large part, we have created a nation of media gluttons. We gobble up media like we do fast food, seldom stopping to read the label, to check the nutritional value, or to make an informed decision before we stuff ourselves with what only appears to be edible.
Paul Krugman, for one, is continually exposing the right's lies and fantasies.
Beauty I taught and did admin in public and private schools for 36 yrs. You're 100% right.
I still remember seeing those iconic photos of Dust Bowl-era women and their children. They were thin, wrinkled and looked so weather worn and world weary. As a child, I remember thinking those women must be 100 years old. I was shocked to lean recently that the woman in that famous photo was only in her 30s!!!!
Here's a link to her story. She was only 32!!!
Not only can we NOT see them if they aren't in our neighborhoods, this proves that we cannot see the poor and needy when we simply adopt the habit of closing our eyes and turning away...How Absolutely disgusting. rated
I wish Americans would vote with their hearts and not their checkbooks. American politics has always been dirty. It's our infrastructure which needs mending but we can't do that when our priorities are tied up with raging wars abroad. We're all casualties when we allow our establishment/leaders to profit from our ignorance which is probably due to many misinformed citizens who think wars will keep us safe and secure.

Which leaves me thinking...what we could have done with the trillions doled out to thugs in official capacities we could have spent to enrich the lives of the very people we pretend we're protecting here in the homeland. for this asshole..or that moron...
The evil we know..or the evil we know is coming..
can you say we're f___ed?
ink I don't believe that at all
Every single time I hear another idiot say things were better back when I want to ask them when that was.
My parents grew up during the depression. I grew up hearing the stories. My mothers parents lost their rental house in 1931. They wound up living in a barn till the family was split up. My mother was sent to live with her grandparents in rural northeastern Tennessee.
She related a story to me of an entire family starving to death in an empty store. They were trying to survive on hickory nuts.

I cannot say who I would vote for. I support none of the above right now.
Mission I get it; honest. Yet I have to vote to keep these bums out. And as to a Halcyon Past....Oh are you so right... ... ...
Republican dream world.
Growing up I heard Communism was evil because they didn't believe in God. How much more evil it feels to me, to claim to believe in God and care so little for His Creation.
What Mimetalker said.
Either they are in the pockets of the very wealthy, way down among the lint deposits, or they are firm believers in that line from a Carl Sandburg poem, "the past is a bucket of ashes" and therefore the truth of it is irrelevant, or maybe like P T Barnum they cynically underestimate the intelligence of the average voter.
This cry "We can do so much better"

With whom? How? Bashing GOP trash makes a nice distraction to the obvious fact that there is no one in serious politics in the USA currently who offers anything except a sweetened coat over the same disgusting thing. The total political system is so vilely corrupted by money all that seems to be possible is that desperate small groups camp out in small public areas and wave angry signs until the police come in with pepper spray and brute force to chase them back to their mouse holes.
All I can say is this. People should be able to read this and understand it. Only then there will be hope. R
I was participating in the WaPo live blog during the SC debate and threw in a incredulous comment about how back in the good ole days there weren't people dying in the street. SURE THERE WERE! That's the reason for the safety nets y'all have and the reason why ALL OTHER 'FIRST WORLD' AND SOME NOT-SO-FIRST COUNTRIES HAVE UNIVERSAL MEDICAL CARE FOR THEIR CITIZENS.

Some people like Paul cuz he wants to get out of foreign 'adventures', but he wants the govt to get out of EVERYTHING...
"Jan ok then cave"

Your solution? Is that the best that comes to mind?
Myriad so very right. :)
No, Jan I was asking you if you tht to cave,that we ought to cave, given that you're certain the electoral process is tainted by money beyond any ability to matter.
Since we both despise caving, I am very curious as to a real plan of action. Are you suggesting that there are real viable candidates on either side who are genuinely interested in fighting back the tsunami of social destruction advocated by both major political parties? Kicking around the open trash presented by the Republicans may be a popular sport amongst frustrated people that may lead to some applause from a sympathetic crown but the mass of venomous unreceptive and uninformed voters certainly aren't being convinced.
Instead of bitching about idiots I am interested in a useful plan of action that has some chance of making real change.
Not "crown" but "crowd"
"...Dr. Paul alleged that before President Roosevelt's fingers mangled the mechanisms of capital, 'people weren't wandering the streets, ill.'"

That's correct. They weren't wandering the streets ill. They were dying younger.

USA life expectancy at birth in 1930 [from National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 59, No. 9, September 28, 2011, page 48] --

Total: 59.2 years
Males: 57.7 years
Females: 60.0 years

USA life expectancy at birth in 2009 [from National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 59, No. 4, March 16, 2011, page 3] --

Total: 78.2 years
Males: 75.7 years
Females: 80.6 years

From 1930 to 2009 overall life expectancy increased by 19 years, with 18 years for men and a little over 20 years for women.

If Paul's idea is that life in pre-Roosevelt America was some kind of golden age, I don't get it.
Mish yes, that was what Dr. Paul was alleging. And the three others stood mute.
Jan I think there are no candidates who even want to usher in the kinds of campaign finance reform we'd like to see. Still, I know very well that the president speake far more to my values than anyone else running and not-voting for me isn't an option.
Some people's intentions for power is to help others while the aforementioned men's intentions for power is simply power....
When Obama was elected as a black man with all the education a bright energetic active person could get and a solid background in the Constitution I could not imagine a better antidote to the poisonous previous administrations. He promised a vigorous effort to stem the vicious agendas of both Bush and Clinton administrations to subjugate the country totally to the huge pressures of the reactionary forces to roll back the social conditions to the repressive times of the 19th century and to advance the country in decency and compassion for the large sector of not only black and Latino but of many white people who have had the country stolen from them. With much posturing about the power of the snakepit the Republicans have de-evolved to he has fairly well cooperated with them in almost every way and with with the grasping voracious monsters in the financial sector , has done little or nothing to help the nastily persecuted blacks and Latinos, not to speak of those people who are desperately seeking some way to maintain their middle class status, has promulgated unconstitutional horrors in demanding powers to defeat the promises in the Constitution for legal recourse of the accused in protect themselves against false accusations, has used frightful military technology against unarmed and guiltless civilians around the world, has acceded to the total corruption of the military-industrial complex, and several other things which are as bad as those I have noted. If you are pleased with his performance enough to vote for him I must evaluate you on that basis.
The announcement just now that Gingrich has won the latest primary seems to convey that the intellectual level of the country is not sufficient to support sensible democracy. It's pig's ear country and the political machinery to make decent and sensible sociable life has vanished. Run!
Jan as much as I do appreciate your comments here even when I disagree w them (and I do, do not imagine that yours or any Open reader's "evaluation of me" matters.

I am clear-as-a-bell that re-electing this flawed president is far preferable than electing either Mr. Romney or Mr. Gingrich.

Others will do what they like, of course. I will not, either through inaction or inaction, be even a scintilla of a reason to elect these Republicans now.

I voted for the flawed Mr. Humphrey, too. (I was too young to vote for/against Mr. Johnson.) And for the very flawed Mr. Mondale. And those who sat home or wrote in protest-candidates helped elect Mr. Reagan.
Ging on CNN at the moment talking about anti-religious bigotry that prevents prayer at school events. Orwellian...
Myriad uhmhmm...listening. Repugnant.
Our evaluations of each other always matters as that is the insight into each other on the machinery that produces our output. To participate in a process that is useless to produce a tangibly useful result is energy best placed elsewhere at the service of something more fruitful. But in requesting ideas at what the more fruitful processes might be I am merely admitting I am totally frustrated in the search at the moment and that is a major tragedy since the engines that are currently grinding up decency and compassion and basic good sense are remarkable efficient and inexorable at the moment and opportunities to oppose them are fast disappearing.
Gosh, Jon. so right on! Hate to say it, but "none of the above" hits the mark. Great piece!
To put it as forcefully as I can with no desire to be lewd or offensive, to attempt to get positive results in the US political system the way it is presently set up is the political equivalent of masturbation with all the force and energy and creativity potential and hope in the effort sprayed into empty air and no expectation of fertilizing a real potential to reinvigorate the country. It is a huge tragedy. I am very, very sorry.
Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. I would say that encompasses those three ruinations of our country. But then, did I say speak no evil?