History Teaches Another Lesson

Jessica Bourse

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

When Franklin D. Roosevelt said those memorable words during his 1933 inaugural address, the United States was in the pit of depression; with an unemployment rate of 23.6 percent, and more than 10,000 failed banks, the future of the country looked dismal.

The Great Depression was a dark time in American history – and with our country’s current economic crisis, many Americans can’t help but make comparisons.

Paul Volcker, one of President Obama’s top economic advisers and former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said that the global economy appears to be falling apart more rapidly than that of the 1930s.

And that’s terrifying – but we can’t let fear win.

As a nation, we have stared scarier, and much uglier, things in the face. And we’ve triumphed.

This essay isn’t about the Great Depression – that’s history. However, history has a habit of repeating itself, and it will repeat itself unless our government does something about it.

With the national unemployment rate at 7.6 percent and a debt of $10.8 trillion, it is the very least to say that our present economic situation is less than desirable, especially here in California.

Our once-Golden State is now a hotbed of joblessness, with an unemployment rate of 9.3 percent – significantly higher than the national average.

Up until Friday, California didn’t have a budget, and the $42 billion deficit was becoming too heavy for Californians to bear. More than 10,000 state employees had been laid off, and 10,000 more would have been let go if the long-overdue budget hadn’t been signed when it finally was.

While the lack of a budget was detrimental to the education system, the new $130 billion financial plan will cut an estimated $7.4 billion from schools and community colleges, as well as another $3.7 billion the next fiscal year.

This means many schools will resort to cutting programs, classes, faculty and staff, and increasing class sizes and the cost per unit, just to stay afloat.

On Feb. 17, President Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus bill, aimed to dig the country out of recession.

From the $53 billion that will go to education, Glendale Unified School District will receive an estimated $13.5 million, which really isn’t as great as it sounds – due to the $20.4 million state budget cut to the district – it just softens the $7 million blow.

“The college will lose $500,000 to cuts this year, as well as a delayed $5 million payment,” said Ron Nakasone, interim executive vice president of administrative services. “Next year, GCC will be losing $3.7 million.”

While our immediate future looks grim, students should keep their eyes on what lies ahead.

The stimulus bill gave birth to the American Opportunity tax credit, which is set to establish a partially refundable tuition credit of $2,500 per student, which will not only make higher education attainable to an estimated 4 million students, but will make community colleges practically free.

By next year, the Pell Grant scholarship will increase by $500 per eligible student, benefiting an estimated 7 million students.

Not only will the bill create 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, including an estimated 396,000 jobs in California alone, but it will create more work-study opportunities for college students – which will not only help the students financially, but will play out in pumping money back into the market.

President Obama’s administration appears to be hard at work, creating transparency between the country and the Recovery Act’s efforts to end this recession.

Recovery.gov was launched immediately after the president signed the act, allowing citizens to watch their “money at work,” as the Web site states.

We are on the road to recovery, and like President Obama said, “The road to recovery will not be straight and true.” As a nation, we will encounter more obstacles on the path as we strive to become a more perfect union. And in the end, we will triumph and this recession will remain an event in the past.

In the words of FDR, “This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.”