The Ken Burns PBS special Dust Bowl could well have been based upon Tim Egan’s book The Worst Hard Time. Although Egan appeared in the television special, his book takes the reader on an even more vivid journey. Of course it is also in the Dust Bowl that begins Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan dramatizes remarkable similarities between the Great Depression of the 1920s and the 1930s and the Great Recession of 2008-2011. The land grab in the High Plains, the breaking of the virgin sod, and the rampant speculation in wheat by homesteaders and suitcase farmers alike all fueled by easy money. Sounds a lot like no income check mortgages home equity loans!
If you interchange a few names: Housing Bubble for High Plains land, wheat speculation for Mortgage Backed Securities and suitcase farmers for real estate and Wall Street speculators Tim Egan could have very well been describing today’s financial crisis.
Egan wrote The Worst Hard Time in 2005 and uncannily described exactly what was coming in the next Worst Hard Time!
Another fine Tim Egan book is The Big Burn which includes many additional lessons on what happens when financial speculation and politics trumps common sense. It is all about Teddy Roosevelt, the environment and our National Parks.
Both books are timely reads.