Page 2November 4, 2009
Panel discussion highlights poverty in past, Erie
Nearly 25 percent of Erie’spopulation today lives in pov-erty, a ﬁgure that dredges upimages of the Great Depressionof the 1930s. As part of its yearlong exami-ination of the Depression, Mer-cyhurst College presented a paneldiscussion on “Lessons and Leg-acies of the Great Depression”on Thursday, Oct. 29.During the panel discussion,six faculty members shared theirthoughts on the effects of theGreat Depression on variousaspects of American life. Thesix speakers were Dr. Allan Bel-ovarac, Dr. Juan Argaez, Dr.Peter Benekos, Dr. Randy Clem-ons, Dr. John Olszowka and Dr.Christina Riley-Brown.Riley-Brown began the dis-cussion by examining the“images and icons” of the GreatDepression.Literature and photography showed “an important anddecisive break in American opti-mism,” Riley-Brown said.Before the Depression, the American dream had been oneof “ﬁnancial independencethrough hard work,” but afterthis period, “We have a sense of the American dream…turnedinto the American nightmare,”she said. Argaez followed this discus-sion with an exploration of how economic thought inﬂuencedbehavior.By exploring Neoclassical Theory, Keynesian Theory andother economic trends of thepast 130 years, Argaez demon-strated that economic behaviorcomes in cycles of demand-sideand supply-side economics. By studying these cycles, an econo-mist can use the Great Depres-sion as a model to examinetoday’s recession, Argaez said. According to Olszowka, New Deal policies brought about a“transformation of the Ameri-can working class.” This timeperiod saw the rise of workerunions, which became recog-nized by the government underPresident Franklin D. Roos-evelt. After World War II, per capitaincome jumped and unions con-tinued to thrive. In effect, the working class evolved into themiddle class of today, Olszowkasaid.Not only did the dynamics of the working class change, but the“collective mindset about pov-erty” changed as well, Benekossaid. Benekos compared poverty to a coastline. He said, few peoplecare about the gradual erosionof the tide line, or day-to-day poverty, but funds ﬂood in fromthe public when a tidal wave, oreconomic disaster, strikes.Clemons told the audience,“Almost one in four people inErie live in poverty.”“I didn’t realize Erie was soimpoverished,” junior SarahHlusko said. After comparing the recentrecession to the Great Depres-sion, Clemons concluded hispresentation by saying, “Whenthis storm hit, thanks to theNew Deal, we already had insti-tutions in place.”Commenting on the otherspeakers’ presentations, Clem-ons said, “It’s always interest-ing to take an interdisciplinary approach to problems like this.”Hlusko said the discussion was “well-rounded” and thatshe enjoyed the presentation,particularly the “popular photo-graphs.” The ﬁlm, “The Grapes of Wrath,” will be shown on Tues-day, Dec. 15, in the Taylor Little Theatre as the next installmentof the yearlong series.
By Jennifer McCurdy
Dr. Juan Argaez spoke at the panel discussion, “Lessons andLegacies of the Great Depression,” on Thursday, Oct. 29. Thisdiscussion was part of the yearlong series, “Fear Itself: TheGreat Depression, New Deal and Today’s Search for EconomicSecurity.”
Ethan Magoc photo
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