Greatest Generation Sounds Off On Economic Crisis

SPOKANE — They won a World War, survived the Great Depression and they say if we would’ve learned from history, even read history, we wouldn’t be in this economic mess.

It’s a rebuke from America’s Greatest Generation, right here in Spokane.

They lived through the Great Depression in 1932, when some 25% of Americans were unemployed. In less than three years, from 1929 to 1932, stocks lost about 90% of their value.

During one week, the Dow lost 30-billion dollars, that was 10 times the federal government’s annual budget.

But the depression was more than numbers. Hal French was born the year the stock market crashed.

“All four of us were suffering from malnutrition,” French recalled his family’s situation. “We would get to eat rabbits occasionally.”

French says today’s recession is mostly self-inflicted and not as bad as it was the Great Depression.

“Some people have two cars, snowmobiles, but they’re saying ‘I don’t have any money for food and I can’t pay my mortgage’,” said French.

French says debt is the culprit of today’s economic recession.

“They never bought anything till they had the cash to pay for it… period,” he said. “It was all cash, you paid cash for everything.”

Ronald O’Brien is a child of the depression, he remembers how money was saved and spent back in those days.

“If you wanted a car or a pickup, you saved up the money until you could afford to get it,” said O’Brien.

The average American household is nearly $20,000 in debt and that’s without counting mortgages. It’s a scenario that frustrates Spokane’s greatest generation, whose own grandkids are becoming fiscally irresponsible.

“She sees it, she wants it, she buys it.. whether or not she can afford it,” O’Brien said about his granddaughter.

According to these seniors, younger generations need a different mind set when it comes to spending.

“People are gonna have to change their ways,” said O’Brien. “If they don’t, this country’s going down.”