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It’s unusual how something casually learned 65 years ago can provide insight into today’s economic mess. The Republicans in charge have been so busy celebrating control of the government with their hammer-handed ways that they’ve forgotten ancillary responsibilities of tending to the economy, like tracking it to know when danger points are reached or using measures to cool it down to keep the machinery in tune. My little memory gem stems from the head of the social science department at Iowa State Teachers College in 1953, M.R. Thompson.

In those days, the department occupied the top floor of “The Old Auditorium” building. Thompson’s main pulpit was No. 301 at the top of the stairs. Students entering immediately were made aware of something unusual about the room. “M.R.” had tracked the national debt by running a tape for each year up the front wall. By the time he had entered current years the tape was making trip after trip up the front wall, across the ceiling, down the back wall and up the front wall again. The students sitting on the right side of the room had the feeling of being cocooned in the national debt.

Those days the economy was chugging right along. We had come out of the Great Depression and World War II and we were going all out to satisfy shortages of consumer goods that had been bypassed in the 1940s. “M.R.” taught an investment course that was his favorite and, of course, the recent Depression came up when he offhandedly mentioned, “Every major economic downturn in the U.S. has been preceded by a farm depression of at least eight years.” It wasn’t a polemical statement — it can be proven in any economic history of the U.S. There is one major exception. The economic depression of 2008 was caused by untrammeled wild speculation of chiseling idiots selling and reselling sub-par housing loans until their house of cards collapsed when they lost their nerve.

After the 2008 fiasco, the Democrats again took power and acted immediately to tighten restraints on financial dealings and transactions. This alarms Republicans who believe they should be able to squeeze out a buck in any manner up to the threshold of direct stealing. So now we have the Republicans back, and all the sensible financial restraints have been removed or loosened. Now, let’s pause a moment and realize we have many more problems than just the economy. Besides the obvious personality deficiencies of our spoiled brat “great leader” and his tweetings, we have a lack of people in either party willing to oppose the daily output of infantile behavior. He keeps at least 10 “tempests in teapots” simultaneously. There is an imminent nuclear war on our plate. The uncontrolled immigration problems continue as a thorn, yet Congress refuses to work out this problem with some simple constitutional adjustments I have mentioned before. The big ball bouncer? They can’t set a budget! Then, the idiot in charge wants to tie establishing the budget to the immigration problems and building his extravagant wall. The two subjects shouldn’t be connected. He also has insulted most other countries on the globe and has already hurt trade considerably. This is not proper regulation of the economy.

The economy showed some of its true state during the week of Feb. 4. Dangerously overblown where we never need it (Wall Street) and dangerously sluggish where measures should be taken to improve sales, outputs, cooperating trade agreements and most importantly, to halt the runaway piling on of national debt. We now speak in trillions of dollars even faster than we made the adjustment to speaking in terms of billions. Think quadrillions. If professor Thompson were still alive, we wouldn’t be able to get into old Room 301. Meanwhile, in our private lives we plug away trying to keep our heads above water and the rest of our bodies out of the soup lines of the 1930s.

The current situation of depressed farm prices and production surpluses has lasted for the past four years. Thanks, “M.R.”

Stanley Smith is a former Cedar Falls City Council member.

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