We are told that the Great Depression really was over only when America’s industrial capabilities were put to work building things for World War II. Tanks, trucks, guns of all kinds, ships, airplanes, uniforms, foodstuffs, medical supplies and ammunition rolled off assembly lines, and a good share of it wound up being blown to bits before the war was over.
That all seems wasteful, but apparently it was good for the economy. Here’s a fact we don’t think about, however: The money to pay for all that output was largely borrowed through the sale of bonds or came from heavier taxes on those with wealth. The national debt and taxes both went way up.
Even though there was an adjustment after the war, the economy remained fairly stable. There were recessions, but they were brief, especially when compared with the present one that is supposed to be over but isn’t.
When Barack Obama became president four years ago, he planned to throw money at “shovel-ready” projects to help give the economy a kick-start. What happened to that? A few projects were put under way, but not enough to jolt the economy back to life.
Yet, much of America still needs to be rebuilt. Thousands of bridges are dangerous, engineers tell us. Tens of thousands of miles of roadways are needing repair. Flood-control levies in many areas are close to failure. The America that was built for us just before, during and after World War II is wearing out.
Gov. Jerry Brown, in his State of the State message Thursday, called for improvements to education and health care, and changes in job-killing legislation. He also wants to get moving on a delta pipeline and the high-speed rail system. All that is fine, if it proves possible.
But it might be better to start small by improving more roads, repairing or rebuilding more bridges, such as we’re doing in Madera. We’ll be seeing the positive results of that work right away, and no doubt the rest of the state would, too.