08/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

To Effect Change Demand Answers - - Bring Back "The Pecora Commission"

Roosevelt historian David Woolner shines a light on today's issues with lessons from the past.

After trillions of dollars in losses on Wall Street, massive bailouts, the collapse of the American auto industry, rising unemployment and a mortgage foreclosure crisis not seen since the Great Depression, it hardly seems surprising that the American people want answers. They want to know why we find ourselves in this mess. They want to know how this crisis happened. They want to know which institutions and practices were to blame. They understand that the severe downturn in the real economy on Main Street is directly linked to the meltdown in the banking and financial sector on Wall Street. They are not fools. They want answers and they want real change, and their patience for equivocation is wearing thin.

Just over three quarters of a century ago, the mood in the country was not much different. The people wanted to know what caused the great crash on Wall Street; what brought on the Great Depression; why the banking system had collapsed; why they were out of a job; and most of all, how could we be sure this would never happen again.

To find the answers to these questions, Congress launched a formal inquiry under the direction of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency. The hearings began on March 4, 1932, and by the time FDR assumed office one year to the day after the hearing began, they were widely known as "The Pecora Commission," thanks to the relentless energy and zeal of the committee's chief counsel, Ferdinand Pecora.

You can read the rest of Roosevelt Historian David Woolner's piece at
New Deal 2.0.