Thanksgiving: An economic stimulus?

Published 4:20 am Sunday, November 23, 2008

By By Tray Smith
On Oct. 3, 1789, George Washington proclaimed a thanksgiving day, the first such declaration issued by the federal government. That day, which occurred 219 years ago, came 170 years after Americans, in the colony of Virginia, first celebrated Thanksgiving in 1619. Two years later, in 1621, the Virginians were joined by the Pilgrims of Massachusetts who welcomed local Indians to join their celebration of the year’s harvest. In 1623, the Pilgrims officially labeled their harvest festival as Thanksgiving, a ritual they held periodically after spouts of rain.
Subsequent presidents declared spontaneous thanksgivings, but our annual holiday tradition was not established until President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November, 1863 as Thanksgiving Day.
In 1939, a year that gave November five Thursdays, President Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up to the fourth. In 1940, when November had only four Thursdays, Roosevelt declared Thanksgiving on the third.
Congress, weary of the President’s holiday meddling, passed in 1941 a bill that compromised between Roosevelt’s desires and Lincoln’s precedent, declaring Thanksgiving will come on the fourth Thursday of November. Thus, we may now celebrate either on the fourth or final week of the month, depending on how the calendar falls.
President Roosevelt’s adjustments were made during the Great Depression. Challenged with a weak economy, Roosevelt sought to boost retailers by prolonging the holiday shopping season, thereby giving them an extra week to sell goods. As we celebrate Thanksgiving 2008 in the midst of our current recession, which has wrought a multitude of government bailouts, remember that this holiday itself is, to an extent, a stimulus program.
Unfortunately, this year’s November has only four Thursdays, which means the economy will not get as much stimulus as it would if there were an extra week of shopping. Fortunately, Congress, busy lending its guidance to the operation of failing enterprises, has not had time to consider adjusting the calendar, a superfluous exercise that displays the obvious fallacy of activist schemes.
Congress is, however, rapidly borrowing on the nation’s credit to rescue industries from their own incompetence; the level of which has led many of them to the point of near extinction. These bailouts breed more incompetence; since ineffective managers can now conduct business knowing Uncle Sam will bail them out.
So far, these bailouts have cost over $1 trillion. Additionally, President-elect Obama hopes to enact yet another stimulus at a cost of $500-$600 billion. The fiscal consequences of that stimulus will be much greater than FDR’s simple calendar adjustment. As these bills pile up, each American should be aware that the stimulus packages already enacted could have provided every American with $4,000. That would be something to be thankful for! But, because I have been blessed by a great God, to live with a great family, in a great country, our current recession is not going to prevent me from being thankful anyway.
That’s the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance. He is a student at Escambia County High School and can be reached at tsmith_90@

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