Letters to the editor (01/12/13)
Two problems with a letter to the editor
Bus loads of illegal immigrants flooded the nation’s polling places to vote Democratic. Saddam Hussein had piles of nuclear weapons. And cutting taxes on the rich boosts the economy. Hey, just make up a theory if you don’t like the facts.
An example appeared recently in the News-Bulletin. A local Tea Party leader submitted a letter to the editor about the Depression of 1920. But the letter had two big problems.
First, except for the potshots at local people, it was mostly “astroturf.” That is, it was lifted word for word from another source that the writer did not acknowledge, considered a no-no in journalism.
In this case, the source was possibly a website called Sodahead, which posts random people’s opinions on important questions such as bacon-scented shaving cream or Kim Kardashian’s popularity in Bahrain.
While the Sodahead question was posted in 2010 by “Conservative in California,” the right-wing enthusiasm for the Depression of 1920 may have started with Glenn Beck’s researchers, who dug up and misinterpreted the event.
Second, historians think the 1920 Depression was caused by unemployment when American troops flooded back into the labor market after World War I. The situation was worsened by so many war-materiel factories closing down, either permanently or temporarily to retool for peacetime production.
The Sodahead post claims that the Depression ended quickly because President Warren Harding downsized government and cut taxes. However, the post-war government was mostly downsized during the Wilson presidency, before the depression began.
And while Harding cut tax rates, he also expanded the tax base and set up government relief offices for the unemployed throughout the nation (kinda like the Obama stimulus, ya’ know).