In 1932, WW1 veterans marched on Washington over a bonus promised them at a later date but needed now in the throes of the Great Depression. Congress refused to pay this bonus because of concerns over budget shortages and creating a moral hazard through this “free” money.

Documentary done with original footage

A quick history lesson

For a full history of the bonus army protest, see this documentary in four parts. Please watch all four parts (around 30 minutes).

Technically, the bonus army protest predates the creation of unemployment benefits. But, the idea of what the bonus army wanted — money to pay rent and buy groceries — is essentially what unemployment benefits were geared to provide. The response to the bonus army back then seems all too familiar with how government leaders are responding to the unemployment crisis today: phantom concerns over moral hazard and safeguarding a government budget.

More than a decade after these protesters were shot at and turned away, the solution for the bonus army was a GI Bill after WW2 to create a broad-based economic stimulus (though African-American service men were left out of large portions of the GI Bill).

I guess in this current pandemic we still have a long way to go.

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9.