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The Kiss, by Gustav Klimt, 1907-1908 (Photo credit: Wikipedia, all)

Tomorrow is Austrian Symbolist Painter Gustav Klimt‘s birthday.  He will be 150 years old.  Artists do not die.  Hence my featuring his most famous painting: The Kiss, and a second painting, his first portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.

Featuring Gustav Klimt may seem totally unrelated to a post on the Economy of the United States. But it seems everything is related.  In fact, I once knew at least one member of the Bloch-Bauer family and it could be…  Enough!

I will simply dedicate this post to Gustav Klimt (14 July 1862 – 6 February 1918).


The Treaty of Versailles was pitiless on the German people.  It demanded reparations totalling a punitive $31.4 billion.  As a result, the Treaty made it possible for Adolph Hitler to trap Germans into the dictatorship that led to World War II and its atrocities.  That war could have been been avoided.

Fortunately, at the conclusion of World War II, the United States and the world did not replay a Treaty of Versailles scenario.  The Marshall Plan was put into place and Europe was rebuilt. The plan went into operation beginning in April 1948 and the task was a four-year effort.  Japan also received the assistance it required to rebuild.

Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsbyles Ballets Russes and the Charleston

However, let us return to the 1920s.  As the proud, industrious and inventive people of Germany paid and paid, Americans danced the charleston and the very rich indulged in the lavish but ultimately meaningless life depicted in Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald‘s (24 September 1896 – 21 December 1940) Great Gatsby.  The novel was published in 1925, during the “Jazz Age,” when rich Americans travelled to the Paris and French Riviera of the roaring 1920s, years when Fitzgerald often joined Americans living in France.  The charleston was all the buzz and France was enthralled by Sergei Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes.

“Black Tuesday” and the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 

The bubble burst.  They danced all the way to 29 October 1929, the day the stock market was allowed to crash, Black Tuesday, and, unlike President George W. Bush who listened and had the decency to sign TARP into law, in 1930, President Herbert Hoover (10 August 1874 – 20 October 1964) did not veto the Smoot-Hawley defective remedy to the crash, but signed it into law: the Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.  It could be that he signed out of ignorance, but whatever his circumstances, when President Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, he plunged the world into an economic depression, the Great Depression, that lasted until World War II. The Stock Market had crashed on 29 October 1929, Black Tuesday, but the Depression did not spread into a worldwide tragedy until the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

The people had danced and continued to dance, but this time they danced not until a drunken stupor, clad in silk and Italian wool, but until they not only dropped, but dropped dead.  What had been a fad in the 1920s, the dance marathon, had become a way of life.

There is another book, among other books, Horace McCoy‘s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, a novel published by Simon and Schuster, in 1935.

The story goes as follows.  Gloria Beatty and Robert Syverten have danced for 879 hours in a dance marathon, when the woman, Mrs. Layden, whose favorites they are, is shot and killed by a stray bullet.  Participants are given $50.00 and Gloria takes her gun out of her bag and begs Robert to shoot her, which he does as a merciful gesture.  When the police ask Robert why he has shot Gloria, he says “They shoot horses, don’t they?”  This novel clings to the human imagination as does its film version, a 1969 film by Sydney Pollack starring Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin and Gig Young. (Wikipedia)

Cutbacks and Unemployment

And now, as I browse through online newspapers and other sources of information, I keep reading and hearing that cutbacks are taking place and that people are losing their jobs, jobs they need so they can put bread on the table, spend money, and be tax-payers, thereby ensuring a functional economy.  There has to be money in the public purse to put into operation and keep in operation the social programs that guarantee not only the wealth of nations, coincidentally the title of Adam Smith’s epochal book (1776), but also the welfare of nations.

The Welfare of Nations: taxes, social programs and Job Creation

It will take money and all citizens will have to pay their fair share of taxes, but if jobs are not created, the US and its financial partners could well be on the road to a financial demise.  TARP was not enough.  Jobs have to be created so a catastrope is averted.  A very short time ago and very late into President Obama’s current term, the American Supreme Court ruled, by one vote, one vote only, that the President’s health-care reforms were constitutional, as though they could be otherwise!

Now that President Obama seems to be looked upon as credible, as if matters could be otherwise, let him, and help him, create jobs, even if he is a person of colour.  Because of the voter purge currently taking place, I suspect a degree of racism that may extend to the White House.  However, this is mere speculation and, be that as it may, it remains that among the victims of the wars waged against Iraq and Afghanistan, one must include the citizens of the United States, whatever their ethnicity, and its financial partners, again, whatever their ethnicity.

The US has to help Iraq and Afghanistan, but it must also help itself and patriate, metaphorically speaking, a Marshall Plan, no matter who inhabits the White House. To its immense credit, the US voted President Obama into office, which was the right thing to do, and, to what would again be to its immense credit, at the moment, the US could and should help the leader they chose.  The Obama administration has changed the face of America.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has worked diplomatic wonders.  She has ushered in a new age of diplomacy.  But now everyone must pay taxes and people need jobs.

So let my conclusion be that the US needs a Marshall Plan so it can rebuild.

Adele Bloch-Bauer
© Micheline Walker
13 July 2012