Sunday, May 01, 2011

This day in history - May 1, 1894: Coxey's army reaches Washington, D.C.

On May 1, 1894, "Coxey's Army," a protest march of unemployed workers led by Jacob Coxey, a populist leader from Ohio, arrived in Washington, D.C. The march took place in the second year of a four-year economic depression, which was the worst in United States history up to that time and prior to the Great Depression considered the worst the U.S. had ever experienced.

The intention of the march was to protest unemployment caused by the "Panic of 1893" and to press the government to create jobs by building public works projects.

Economic instability was largely attributed to railroad overbuilding and questionable financing, which created bank failures and a credit crunch.

Railroad bubble. Housing bubble. Pick your bubble.

And then, of course, there was that whole bimetallism thing, but that's too much to go into here.

Although the march was a failure in attaining immediate goals, it did contribute to a process that led to unemployment insurance in the future Social Security Act.

Memo to Republicans: Markets have always been far from perfect and government intervention has frequently been required to help make things right.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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