What We Are Reading Today: American Default by Sebastian Edwards

Updated 27 September 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: American Default by Sebastian Edwards

  • In 1933, when in a bid to pull the US out of depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt depreciated the US dollar in relation to gold, effectively annulling all debt contracts
  • Revaluing the dollar imposed a hefty loss on investors and savers, many of them middle-class American families

JEDDAH: The American economy is strong in large part because nobody believes that America would ever default on its debt. Yet in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt did just that, when in a bid to pull the country out of depression, he depreciated the US dollar in relation to gold, effectively annulling all debt contracts. American Default is the story of this forgotten chapter in America’s history.

Sebastian Edwards provides a compelling account of the economic and legal drama that embroiled a nation already reeling from global financial collapse.

It began on April 5, 1933, when FDR ordered Americans to sell all their gold holdings to the government. This was followed by the abandonment of the gold standard, the unilateral and retroactive rewriting of contracts, and the devaluation of the dollar.

Anyone who held public and private debt suddenly saw its value reduced by nearly half, and debtors — including the US government — suddenly owed their creditors far less.

Revaluing the dollar imposed a hefty loss on investors and savers, many of them middle-class American families. The banks fought back, and a bitter battle for gold ensued. In early 1935, the case went to the Supreme Court. 

Edwards describes FDR’s rancorous clashes with conservative Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, a confrontation that threatened to finish the New Deal for good— and that led to FDR’s attempt to pack the court in 1937.

At a time when several major economies never approached the brink of default or devaluing or recalling currencies, American Default is a timely account of a little-known yet drastic experiment with these policies, the inevitable backlash, and the ultimate result.

 


Oscars 2019: Arab nominees at the 91st Academy Awards

Updated 33 min 38 sec ago
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Oscars 2019: Arab nominees at the 91st Academy Awards

DUBAI: The Oscars countdown is almost over - both fans and critics have already locked in their favorites over who will take home this year’s trophies.

It is a particularly exciting season for Arabs and Muslims, as a few Oscar contenders are set to make history for the region. 

Rami Malek for Best Actor

It would be a big upset if Rami Malek does not win the coveted Best Actor trophy on Feb. 24, as his epic transformation into rock legend Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been recognized in every awards show preceding the 91st Academy Awards: The Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and SAG.

Born to immigrant parents, the Egyptian American is poised to make history as the first actor of Arab descent to clinch the top acting prize at the Oscars, seen as one of the highest recognitions in the field. In 2016, he scored an Emmy for his performance in the hit TV show “Mr. Robot.”

Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor

A frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor, Mahershala Ali is heading strong into the Oscars with multiple wins on his resume for his role in the historical dramedy “Green Book.”

The 44-year-old made headlines in 2017 when he became the first Muslim to win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars in its 91-year history. Ali could replicate this success this year.

Capernaum for Best Foreign Film

Oprah Winfrey, a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has said Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum,” nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, is a must-see.

Ever since the Lebanese drama won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, more and more people, including colleagues in the film industry, have been praising Labaki’s work.

But it is going to be an uphill battle as her film competes with Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” which has won all foreign-language film recognitions ahead of the Oscars.

Of Father and Sons for Best Documentary Feature

Berlin-based Syrian director Talal Derki took it to a different level when he lived with a Daesh family to shoot his award-winning documentary “Of Father and Sons,” which depicts radicalization from a very personal viewpoint, and is nominated for Best Documentary Feature.

But the courageous Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner is up against a tough bunch, including fan favorite “RBG,” which documents the life of US Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a living legend in American law.

Critics have also placed their bets on “Free Solo,” a sports documentary that depicts the athletic feat of professional rock climber Alex Hammond.