E Martin Luther King Day

Despite my attempt to not write a blog today, I'm doing so because of the press of news from the rest of the world. But before we get into the details, here is a commentary on the risks and appeal of stimulus policies in the American past. Back when he first took office, some experts expected Pres. Trump might return the USA to the gold standard. Had he done so, the impact on the economy from covid-19 would have been even more horrific than it proved to be.

Photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash

Luckily he did not follow through on suggestion he made during his campaign, both for his still rotten legacy and for the good of the USA. But it triggered my memory to think about the battle over bi-metallism. Does anyone else remember the great orator William Jennings Bryan delivering his "Cross of Gold" speech to try to stop the election of Republican William McKinley in 1986, and the refusal of the Democrat Grover Cleveland to call for again counting silver as part of the backing for US currency? This was a subject that had roiled the young USA for a century. Initially, the founding fathers under Alexander Hamilton used both silver and gold to stand behind the new country's money. But by 1873, with the coinage act, the silver part of the equation ended, although real silver coins remained in circulation. (They were finally demonetized and replaced with lesser metals and paper, but that is a different bit of history.)

"You shall not press upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold", thundered Democrat Bryan, three years after a financial panic, when stimulus was in short supply. Bimetallism was backed by farmers who wanted to export more of their production, by silver miners, and the left. Does anyone beside me remember the song: "I've seen my brothers working throughout this mighty land. And I prayed they'd get together and together take a stand. But the banks are made of marble, with a guard at every door. And the vaults are stuffed with silver, that the people sweated for." Among those the singer saw are a longshoreman whose foreman said "got no work for you no more"; "the auction hammer knocking down (a farmer's) home"; and a coal miner who is unable to pay for the coal to heat his own "shack".

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