Tag Archives: Great Depression

How the Heck Did We Get Here: Blame it on the Baby Boomers??

I am sitting in my office scratching my head about the upcoming election.  How did we get to this place where neither candidate is trusted or believed, and a large number of citizens are considering a third party candidate just to avoid voting for the two primary party candidates.  Our country has become a country of entitlements, political correctness, and media manipulation.  I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I think my generation contributed to this mess.

I am a baby boomer.  Most of the time, I am proud of being a ‘seasoned senior citizen.’  We baby boomers were born between the years of 1946 and 1964.  That would make the oldest of us 70 years old, and the youngest would be 52 years old.  In some respects, the younger generations would consider us ‘overly seasoned’ or perhaps, ‘fossilized.’

Our generation was the first that had a name.  We were those people born immediately after WWII. Take a bunch of war veterans and mix them with a bunch of women that haven’t had a real date in years, and BOOM, the world experienced an explosion of births.  Our parents were a tough bunch. They all lived through the Great Depression.  Then, as teenagers and 20 somethings, they fought and won WWII.   Tom Brokaw later referred to them as the ‘Greatest Generation.’  They knew of, and sometimes experienced the atrocities of WWII.  Immediately after WWII, we were back in Asia fighting a war in Korea.  It became apparent that not all countries wanted world-wide peace.  At the same time, numerous countries were conducting nuclear bomb tests.  That warm relationship between the US and Russia during WWII was not all that warm.  The possibility of a nuclear war hung over us for most of our childhood years.

This made our parents a rather tough bunch.  We were taught the difference between winning and losing.  We did not receive any ‘participation’ trophies.  We were instructed in ‘bomb drills,’ in the event of a nuclear attack.  Our teachers were always right and were always respected.  Any deviation from good behavior resulted in punishment.  In my case, I got spankings by my mom and five ‘beltings’ by big Daddy G.  I deserved every one of them.  This was not considered child abuse, it was considered parenting.  There was no pretense that our parents were going to be your ‘best friends.’  They were going to be disciplinarians, and they filled that role marvelously.  (My dad was not my friend until I was in my 30s.)  We were taught to be independent and to work hard.  Being blue collar was not a stigma.  It was instilled in us that if we wanted something bad enough, we could obtain it through hard work and diligence.  Anything was possible!

Every school day was started with the Pledge of Allegiance.  We sang our national anthem with fervor. Then, as we got older, we were called upon to represent our country in another war….the Viet Nam conflict.  Many volunteered or were drafted and performed their duty to fight in a war without a genuine purpose.  To this day, the best explanation for fighting this war was the ‘domino theory.’  That theory was the belief that if one country fell to Communism, then others will fall to Communism.  But Lyndon Johnson took this to the extreme by committing over 500K troops to Viet Nam.  He made Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) the 23rd largest American populated city in the world.  Over 57,000 Americans were killed in this war, with hundreds of thousands more suffering psychologically from what they had experienced and from the way they were treated once they returned home.  Americans believing they had served their country were now being spit upon and called ‘baby killers.’  Many lives were lost, and many more minds were destroyed because of this war.

So there you have it.  A very brief description of what formed and what affected the lives of the baby boomer generation.  What was my purpose for relating this information?  Well, because of the way we were reared, we, as a generation, decided not to be as strict and structured as our parents on our children and our grandchildren.  We became adherents of the ‘live and let live’ theory.  We became more concerned about ourselves and our families to the point of missing the gradual changes to our society.  And now, as I look back at the way our country has evolved since my childhood, I want to publicly apologize to Generation X, Generation Y (Millennials), and Generation Z as to how the Baby Boomers have failed you.

We Boomers need to apologize for the level of entertainment on our televisions and our movies. In our youth, all movies and TV programs were appropriate for all ages.  We did not need a rating system designating P, PG, R or anything else.  I am not a wilting flower, but it is difficult for me to believe the amount of profanity, sexual innuendo, sex, violence and gore that has permeated our entertainment.  Parents of today need to realize that your children are seeing this garbage and they are being affected by it.  How could they not see it?  It is on at prime time on numerous channels. Instead of having three good TV channels like when I was young, we now have hundreds of bad channels.  Look at how few good comedies we have today.  We had many while growing up.  Reality shows and cop shows seem to be the general format of TV today.   Garbage entertainment really began in the late 60s and early 70s.  TV was still somewhat regulated, but the movie industry had taken a definite turn for the worse.

Our Boomer generation invented the computer.  This led to the popularity of PC’s and laptops in every home. Technology is marvelous for all it can do.  But as one pundant has surmised, home computers have become a ‘pipeline for pornography.’  Do you think people are being affected by that?  Coupled up with violent video games, do you think our children are being affected by it?  I am not quite sure how we could have stopped this garbage, but I will apologize anyway.

I apologize that we appointed a Supreme Court that overturned term limits on federally elected officials.  Yes.  Legislation was actually passed during the Clinton administration limiting term limits, only to be overturned by the only organization without them…the Supreme Court.   Now we have career politicians and all the graft, corruption and personal enrichment that are a result of it. Decisions are being made every day by our elected officials for personal gain without regard for what is best for the country.

Our newspapers, magazines and TV news at least attempted to appear impartial during elections held in the past.  This year?  The gloves have come off with such notable organizations like the New York Times and the Washington Post not even attempting to hide their support of Hillary Clinton.  In previous elections, news organizations would show their support for a particular candidate in an editorial.  Not now.  They show their support by smearing their candidate’s opponent.  The latest is the release by the New York Times of Donald Trump’s 1995 tax returns which show a loss of over $900 million being carried into following years to reduce any future tax burden.  The crime here is not Trump’s taxes and carry-over as that is perfectly legal and by IRS statute allowed.  The real crime is the publishing of his taxes by the New York Times.  They claim that they received them in the mail. Yeah. Right.  Any CPA doing such a thing would lose their license to operate.  I believe the IRS themselves did it.  This is the same group that targeted conservative groups prior to the 2010 mid term election.  In particular, the Tea Party movement.  Who would investigate this matter?  Well, the FBI.  That same group that let Hillary off the hook for emails even though the FBI director’s brother provides legal services to the Clinton Foundation.  Sound fishy?

Isn’t it a shame that most of our printed media has reduced itself to the level of the National Enquirer?  In some instances, the National Enquirer is more believable.

Do you trust the government?  During the 60s, when the unemployment rate was reported, it actually meant the number of people who were without jobs that wanted them.  Today’s unemployment rate has been reported at less than 5%.  I assure you, this is for purely political purposes in an attempt to show how wonderful our economy is faring before this election.   In fact, the real unemployment rate is just under 10%.  Why?  Because so many people have quit attempting to find work.  But wait….there’s more.  Do you know how many households in America do not have anyone working?  Over 22%!  Yes.  Over 22% of the households do not have a breadwinner.  How are they surviving?  Working for cash?  Welfare?  How wonderful does our economic picture appear now?

Do you like our current policy of allowing anyone to use any bathroom depending on what sex they feel like on that particular day?

So, as I look back on my life, the goal I have always had is that I leave the world a better place than when I entered it.  My generation of Boomers has failed.  We have made mistakes.  We allowed the country to become so liberal, so politically correct, so dependent on the government and so militarily weak that it is not the same country of our youth.  We have taken free speech to such an extreme that we now have public disrespect for our flag and our national anthem being considered heroic. Yet, only 1% of our citizenry has served in the military to protect our country and our freedoms.  We now have groups of people attacking and killing our police because they think they are ‘entitled’ to do so. We have had deadly Islamic terrorist attacks on our people.  We allow people of unknown origin to enter this country every day without having any idea of their true purpose in coming here.  Many times, it is not to assimilate like previous immigrants.

I want to make a plea.  I know many people who are not enamored by either candidate.  For their personal beliefs, they are going to vote for a third party candidate.  That has been tried before with disastrous results.  Rather than giving George H.W. Bush a second term, Ross Perot siphoned off  enough conservative votes to give Bill Clinton the presidency without having received a plurality.  Do you want to vote for the Libertarian candidate who did not know what an ‘Aleppo’ is, or could not name his favorite foreign leader?  If you like the policies instituted by the present administration, by all means you should vote for Hillary Clinton.  If you truly believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction, then do not waste your vote on a third party candidate, hold your nose and vote for Donald Trump.

I am considerably older than those members of Gen X, Y, and Z and here I am apologizing for the direction our country has taken in the last 60 years.  My fervent hope is that in 30 or 40 years, you will not be writing a blog apologizing for the bad decisions your generation has made and suffering from the consequences of bad decisions.

Common Sense Applied to Campaign Promises. Are We On the Same Planet?

In the twentieth century, campaign slogans and campaign promises were much more simple than those of today.  In the 1900 presidential election, William McKinley used the slogan, ‘Four more years of the full dinner pail.’  How many millennials would even know what a dinner pail is?

In 1916, Woodrow Wilson’s big slogan was, ‘War in the east, peace in the west, thank God for Woodrow Wilson.’  Well, this slogan is interesting for two reasons: firstly, the US got involved with WWI one year later, and secondly, who today would include God in their campaign slogan?

The most famous campaign promise/slogan was used by Herbert Hoover in his 1928 election.  His famous slogan?  ‘A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.’  Now common sense would easily indicate that the Federal Government was not going to buy everyone a chicken and a car.  The gist of that slogan was that America would be so prosperous that everyone would be able to afford food and a car. It was still an era of self-sufficiency and independence in the US.   Well, like Wilson entering WWI, Hoover got thrown for a loop because of the stock market crash of 1929, less than a year after he took the oath of office.

Hoover lost the election to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932.  FDR’s biggest campaign promise was to provide a ‘New Deal.’  FDR quickly turned on another one of his campaign promises….balancing the budget.   According to one historian, FDR issued in a government that created a ‘firm desire on the part of the American people to use the government as an agency of human welfare.’  FDR determined that balancing the federal budget was outweighed by what he termed, ‘government activism.’

Now we get to some of the more recent campaign issues and promises.

Have you seen the Hillary Clinton TV ad stating that she would tax corporations and wealthy individuals, as it is time for them to pay their fair share of taxes?  I have seen this ad too many times already.  But be that as it may, one thing has become evident, no one from her staff knows how to use a computer for research, … only for sending classified emails.  Here are the most current statistics, easily found by anyone who is familiar with using google.  The United States pays the highest federal corporate taxes of the 34 industrial nations of the world. The maximum federal corporate tax rate is 39%.  In the worldly picture, the US is tied with Puerto Rico, and only behind the United Arab Emirates (55%) and Chad (40%).  The US federal tax rate is 16 percentage points higher that the worldwide average of 22.8%.  (For my info junkies, the federal tax rate in Mexico is 30%)

But, just like the TV commercial, there is more.  There are also state corporate taxes.  Would you like to guess which state has the highest corporate tax rate?  New York?  California?  New Jersey?  All good guesses but the state with the highest corporate tax rate at 12% is……………..Iowa!  Yup, those Hawkeyes finally got to be #1 at something.  Four states levy a maximum state corporate tax rate higher than 9%.  Those states are Pennsylvania (9.99%), District of Columbia (9.4%), Minnesota (9.84%) and Alaska (9.4%)  Ohio, Texas and Washington forego state corporate taxes but instead impose gross receipt taxes on businesses.  Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming levy neither corporate income nor gross receipts taxes.  All the other states have a maximum corporate tax rate.

Here is an example of why US corporations are moving their headquarters and facilities out of the US.  Medtronic is located in Minnesota.  They make sophisticated medical devices.  Let us imagine that Medtronic makes $100 million profit in a year.  According to our present taxing structure, they would pay $39 million to the federal government and almost $10 to the state of Minnesota.  In round numbers, they pay $49 million in taxes and get to keep $51 million of their profit.  But wait….Medtronic is moving their entire operation to Ireland.  Why?  The new corporate tax rate is going to be 18%, with no state corporate taxes.  Under this scenario, they pay $18 million in taxes to Ireland and get to keep $82 million of their $100 million profit.

And Hillary Clinton wants to tax corporations more?

Let us take this one step further.  Do you know what percentage of federal tax receipts are attributable to corporations and what percentage are attributable to individual income taxes?  Here is a simplified breakdown of where the federal government gets its money:  Social insurance (payroll) taxes are 33.9%, excise taxes are 3.1%, Miscellaneous taxes account for 6.3%, corporate income taxes account for 10.6%, and individual income taxes account for a whooping 46.2% of federal tax revenue.   Would it be common sense to lower corporate tax rates to keep more companies within the United States, thereby creating more jobs?  If we would cut the corporate tax rate in half, would we not create more jobs?  Jobs that would provide more federal income to make up and exceed the difference in lost corporate taxes?

But wait, what are we going to do with all those high income tax payers that are not paying their fair share of taxes?  Well, here again, all those computers at Hillary’s campaign headquarters must be on the blink.  Did you know that the top 1% of the top wage earners in the United States, those people having an adjusted gross income (AGI) higher than $428,713, contribute 37.8% of the personal income taxes paid to the federal government.  The top 5%, those with an AGI greater than $179,760, pay 58.55% of the personal income taxes paid to the federal government.  The top 50% of the US wage earners, with an AGI greater than $36,841 contribute 97.22% of all federal personal income taxes.  Those 50% that are below $36,841 contribute 2.78% to federal personal income taxes. That’s right, 50% of the US population only pays 2.78% of the total federal income tax revenues.  So who pays their fair share of taxes????  There may be tax loopholes that need to be addressed, but if Hillary wants the higher wage earners to contribute more is she advocating a flat tax for everyone?  I doubt that.  That would be too much common sense for today’s political climate. (Remember Mitt Romney being castigated by mentioning that 47% of the population does not pay taxes?  All true.)

How about that campaign promise of free college for everyone.  OK all you college bound students, who will ultimately pay for your education?  That would be all of us, even though there are other ways to pay for school.  I know this is out of vogue, but you could begin working part-time jobs and start saving money.  I had one year of college paid for before I started.  There are scholarships and grants.  There are, heaven forbid, jobs to do while in college.  I did that as well and graduated without a college debt.  You could go into the military and gain use of the GI bill.  Viet Nam prompted my generation to make early life decisions, but until you know what you exactly want to do, why waste your money and flounder in college.  A little maturity goes a long way when it comes to life decisions.

In 2013, the average cost of tuition and fees in private colleges was $32,405.  In state resident public schools, tuition and fees averaged $9,410.  For out of state residents attending a public college, the tuition and fees averaged $23,893.  None of these costs include living expenses.  This year, there will be 21 million students attending college.  If the government were to pick up the tab at an average of $20,000 per student, that would cost, if my math is correct, $420 billion a year.  That would be almost 15% of our $3 trillion annual budget.  It would match our defense budget.   Oh, don’t forget, our federal deficit is almost $20 trillion and we are expecting a $600 billion shortfall for the 2016 budget.  So, do you members of the ‘give me a trophy for participating’ generation and the ‘I can’t work, I’m going on spring break’ generation really think the government should pay for your school?

We will build a wall.  How many times have we heard that recently?  I am neither a proponent or an opponent of this particular campaign promise.  But, having said that I would like to ask a question, “Would you get on an airplane without seeing everyone going through security?”   Not in today’s environment.  The same procedures apply if you want to board a cruise ship.  Your bags are taken and examined as well as your carry-on baggage.  So if we would not board a plane or a ship without going through stringent security, why would we oppose stopping illegal aliens and drugs from entering this country.  I have no problem with work permits or temporary visas, but everyone needs to be vetted.  I would hope some smart people could come up with a quick efficient way of granting work permits and temporary visas.

There are many more campaign promises and slogans circulating during this election year.  I just selected some of the juicier ones for review in this blog.  The next time a candidate comes up with something that smells a little fishy, all in the hopes of buying votes, do a little research.  I am sure your computers work just fine.

Lions, Looters & Loonies – Oh My!

When I was growing up in our small farming community, participating in athletics was pretty darn simple.  We had football in the fall; we had basketball and wrestling in the winter.  There were baseball, track and field, and cross country running in the spring.  That was it!  Our school was not large enough to have a hockey team as well as the other winter sports.  There was absolutely no interest in soccer at that time. Instead, we played kickball and dodgeball during recess.

In most of our sports, we were always taught to ‘keep your eye on the ball.’    This was especially true if that ball was a baseball, basketball, football and, in our Midwestern community, a snowball!  Some of those snowballs really packed a wallop.  On occasion, a good snowball fight would get out of hand when someone would pack a piece of very hard ice into the snowball.  Those heated snowball fights would get out of hand frequently and body shots were replaced with intended head shots!  So…..I am not going to admit that I would ever pack a piece of ice in a snowball, but I will admit that one would learn quickly to ‘keep your eye on the ball.’

More people need to learn how to keep their eyes on the proverbial ball.  One such person would be Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.  She is the infamous mayor of Baltimore that proclaimed shortly after the Freddie Gray shooting that the looters should be able to loot, “because it is only property.”   She instructed her police chief to back off from the looters.  This little dalliance in shelving law and order in favor of discord and rioting has had a profound after-effect that the foolish mayor never anticipated.  This past July, Baltimore, a city of less than 622,000 people (with a declining population), broke a 43-year record for the most homicides in a month.  There were 43 such homicides.   There was a spike in non-fatal shootings as well.  Practically all were black on black crime.  Why?

Crime experts and residents of Baltimore’s most dangerous neighborhoods cite a confluence of factors:  mistrust of the police; generalized anger and hopelessness over a lack of opportunities for young black men; and competition among dealers of illegal drugs, bolstered by the looting of prescription pills from pharmacies during the riot.  Federal drug enforcement agents said gangs targeted 32 pharmacies in the city, taking roughly 300,000 doses of opiates, as the riots caused $9 million in property damages in the city.  A member of the Drug Enforcement Administration said the high homicide rate probably related directly to the stolen prescription drugs. (No fooling?  Even the citizens are saying everyone was wild on opiates!)   Now that the supply is likely exhausted, the drug turf wars will likely promote more violence.

What has the honorable Mayor Rawlings-Blake done?  Why she has replaced her police chief twice since the riots?  The results have been the same with each chief.  The situation is out of hand because of the mayor’s decision to allow the rioters to continue to loot.  Who should really be replaced?

The pitcher checks the sign.  He winds up and delivers a blistering fastball directly over the plate!  S-T-R-I-K-E  T-H-R-E-E!  Yyyyyoooouuuuu’rrrrreeee out!  The dejected batter, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake walks to the dugout.  She had her eyes closed while at bat!

Another group that needs to learn how to keep their eyes on the ball is………..the American public!

There are so many things that the citizenry of this country should be concerned about, but aren’t.  Our attention spans are about as long as the time it takes to pop popcorn in a microwave!  Do you remember fiscal cliff?  That was a large buzz word about 18 months ago.  Has it gone away?

How about the debt crisis?  Has that gone away?  Our national debt is at $18 trillion and climbing.  It appears that no one in Washington has the fortitude or determination to turn this around.  Everyone has seen the country of Greece go through all sorts of fiscal gyrations.  Greece is responsible for less than 2% of the world’s GDP.  Through its socialistic programs, it has dug a hole that may not be refilled.  My advice is to acquaint yourself with the specifics as to why Greece is in such economic trouble.  My reason for bringing this up?  We are rapidly greasing our skids in the United States to be in the same place as Greece with one exception….when we go, so will the world’s economy!  That would make the Great Depression look like the So-So Depression.

Four marines and one sailor were gunned down in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The public outrage lasted about 3 days.  After all, they were military personnel and they have volunteered to protect our country.  Isn’t death a part of the job description?  What outrageous event did manage to get the attention of most Americans?  Why, the death of Cecil the Lion!  Do you realize that people were picketing the office of the dentist that shot Cecil the Lion, calling for his execution!

I have come to the conclusion that most Americans now possess a reality show mentality.  Calling for the execution of the lion shooter is a little severe, don’t you think?  When I was young, my dad would go deer hunting.  He deer hunted because our family could really use the meat.  It was a sad day if he did not get a deer.  I hunted deer and was moderately successful.  We hunted in heavy coniferous forests not too far from the Canadian border.  It was not easy hunting.  It was extremely difficult hunting.   As I got older and my family became more financially successful, we really did not need the meat.  We continued to deer hunt, but more for the camaraderie, tradition and challenge of the hunt than for the need of the meat.  Don’t get me wrong, we ate every bit of everything we have ever hunted.

Then I was invited to hunt in Wyoming.  Hunting in Wyoming was on grassy plains with scrub brush close to rivers.  It was easy hunting because you could see game for miles and there was no shortage of game.  I am not exaggerating when I say I could have shot 15-20 deer each of the two years I hunted.  I lost the urge when the challenge wasn’t present.  I did not need the meat.  I gave up deer hunting before I was 35 years old.

Back to reality.  Our public is screaming for the execution, or at least the extradition of the lion killer to Zimbabwe.  We don’t have an extradition treaty with Zimbabwe.  Where is the furor over the killing of our military personnel in Chattanooga?  That’s something to roar about!  Why are we not calling for that shooter’s execution?  Oh, that’s right……….. he is a Muslim who was suffering from depression!  So we have had a slew of Muslims that have attacked and killed Americans right here in the good old U S of A!  Are they all suffering from depression?  Not a one of them has been executed.  Not a Muslim has been deported for abetting these killers as allowed by the Patriot Act.  Have Americans reached a point where the death of a lion is more serious than the killing of Americans in America by radical Muslims?

I mention reality show mindset.  I am convinced that more people follow the Kardashians than follow what is happening in this country politically.  I would give up bacon for a month if anyone can tell me what talents the Kardashians actually possess.  Can they act?  Can they sing?  Can they dance or perform in any appreciable way?  Why, oh why, are they getting more publicity than the killing of our military personnel in Chattanooga?  The Boston bomber?  The Fort Hood shooter?   Why are the Kardashians on television?   I don’t get it.  Didn’t we learn anything from Paris Hilton?

There is one event that I wish would die quickly and that is the transsexual reformation of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner.  Bruce/Caitlyn is slightly younger than I am.  I am a self-professed Olympics junkie.  I have watched the Olympics every year since they were in Rome in 1960.  It was a tradition for my late uncle and me to watch the Olympics together.  Most of these Olympics were conducted during the height of the Cold War.  Ah yes……. those were the good old days.  Eagle versus Bear.  Blue versus Red.  Democracy versus Communism.  We damn well knew who our enemies were, and they were those damn Ruskies!  Without having a ‘shooting war,’ the Olympics became the unofficial battleground of good versus evil…at least in the American minds.  In 1972, the Olympics were in Munich.  In those Olympics, the Americans lost medals to the Russians in three sports that we usually dominated:  basketball, 100-meter and decathlon.  The winner of the decathlon was considered the ‘World’s Greatest Athlete.’  And now the title was held by a Russian!  OMG!  At the time, this was considered a national crisis that garnered more attention than Cecil the Lion!

In 1976, the Olympics were held in Montreal.  By the time of the games, Bruce Jenner had broken the world decathlon record twice.  He broke it a third time at the Olympics and won the gold medal!  An American was again the ‘World’s Greatest Athlete.’  I remember Bruce Jenner very well.  I watched his outstanding Olympic performance with admiration.  I saw him on my Wheaties box for seven years, only to be later replaced by Mary Lou Retton.  I could paint his Wheaties box picture from memory, if only I were an artist.

I think I am suffering trauma and mental anguish from his highly publicized transformation!  Is there a government funded support group for me?  Am I entitled to some kind of payment for my anguish?  My point is this.  No doubt, Bruce/Caitlyn had/has issues that I will never understand.  What I do understand is that rather than making this a private decision and living his new life quietly, he has attempted to promote and publicize his sexual transformation as if it were as important as the World Trade Center bombing.  TV interviews to announce his decision.  Magazine covers.  Now a reality TV series?  Why?  I have a theory.  Bruce was never able to be extremely successful marketing himself after his Olympic accomplishments.  He has married into a family that has made millions without any appreciable attributes. Their accomplishments would pale in comparison to his accomplishments.  Could money and a reality-show-minded audience be at least partially responsible for his sexual transformation decision?

Look at how much publicity Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, the Kardashians and Cecil the Lion have received recently in relation to events that affect our lives.  With a presidential election coming up next year, America needs to quit buying the National Enquirer, Star and other gossip rags and begin paying attention to what our politicians and future candidates are doing and saying.  We need to be cognizant of world events.  In other words, we need to ‘keep our eye on the ball.’

PS.  Caitlyn has recently stated that she still prefers women.  That should make her the poster child of the LBGTQ group (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transsexual, queer group) as she now punches about every button.

Tomorrow Can Learn From Yesterday: A Lesson For Today’s Americans

Both my Houston ‘nefoo’ and my Cajun editor say they prefer my blogs which tie in my adolescent experiences with a current topic.  Considering what is happening in the world, I have decided to author a  blog that only relates to my experiences growing up as a Midwestern kid in the 1950s.

Here are the current world events trending as I am typing away:  ISIS is being bombed, a policeman was shot in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Americans are having their hats (this is a G rated blog, so I won’t say asses) handed to them in the Ryder Cup.  A volcano has just erupted in Japan, and a man has been arrested in Oklahoma for a beheading.  Egads!  After all of that, my recollections are not just a ray of sunshine, they are a beam of nostalgic bliss!

The biggest differences between today and the 1950s are undoubtedly the unbelievable technological advances in nearly all aspects of daily living.

I can still remember when neither of my sets of grandparents had electricity nor indoor plumbing.  One set of my grandparents remedied this shortfall before the end of the 50s.  My other pair of grandparents passed away in the late 70s, never having embraced these eventual neccesities in their home.  Those grandparents had both an outhouse and an outdoor pump-handled well.  Their illumination was made available with kerosene lamps, and their heat was obtained through use of a wood stove that was also used for cooking.  When my aunt needed to iron her clothes, she heated metal pieces on the stove that clipped into a handle.  It looked like a modern iron except that the business side of the iron was removable so it could be heated.  They had two or three of these removable ‘iron bottoms’ so that when one got cold, she placed it back on the stove and replaced it with a hot bottom.  You would only find these in an antique store today, and I admit I have not seen one for years.

I loved staying with those grandparents and I did so often.  They lived near the railroad, so many times in the middle of the night, my bed would tremble with the passing of a train.  I loved it!  There was nothing quite so comforting as feeling the house cooling in the winter as the stove fire was dying, while I was buried under a warm mountain of blankets and quilts.  I do have to admit that going to the outhouse was a challenge, especially in winter.  Not only did you face the prospect of wading through snow on a very cold, windy night, but then you had to put your butt down on a very cold piece of wood.

My grandmother was a magician with that wood stove.  The best pies, cakes, rolls and roasted meats came out of that oven.  She did everything on that stove that anyone could do with a modern stove.

Most people today could not fathom living in a house such as my grandparents had.  They lived there for decades and raised three children in that house.  They lived well in that cozy home and died happy and fulfilled.  It never occurred to them to live any other way.  I enjoyed staying in that house more than any other place outside my own childhood home.

Another big technological advancement was television.  We had a black and white 19″ console TV in 1952.  We were ahead of 90% of my hometown in that regard.  We had three channels which were the big three networks, ABC, CBS and NBC.  About 10 years later, we had a fourth independent channel.  That was huge!  It was particularly huge because we now could get American Bandstand on that channel hosted by Dick Clark and originating from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!  I was in my preteen years and if you did not watch American Bandstand with the music and the dancing, you were a nobody and a hick. (You did not want to be considered a hick in an agricultural community!)  At the time, I thought Philadelphia, wherever that was, had to be comparable to Oz!  I vowed I would one day go there.  It had to be beyond cool!  (I have yet to do so!)

In 1963 we got a 19″ color console TV.  We were the third family in town to own one!  It cost my dad $750 to buy that TV.  That was a princely sum and equaled about six weeks’ net pay for him.  I instantly became popular with my classmates.  The first shows we watched in color?  Bonanza and the Wonderful World of Disney.  Both were great family-oriented shows.

We got our first phone when I was in the third grade.  I can still remember how I proudly reported to my teacher that we now had a phone and that our phone number was 349-R2.  (Yes, this really was our first phone number!)   What does the R2 stand for?  We were on a party line.  Our neighbor, who had a phone before us, would  be notified of a phone call by the very personable operator with one ring.  We would be notified of a call with two rings.  Thus the party line.  Our neighbor could pick up the phone at any time and listen to our conversations.  We could do the same.

There is one advantage to not having every person in the US carrying a cell phone.  Parents would always know who their children were associating with, because they answered the phone.  “Ring-Ring.  Hello?   Is little Grandpa T at home?  Who may I say is calling?  It’s little Johnny, the local smoking and drinking teenager.  I’m sorry little Johnny, little Grandpa T is at his grandmother’s house, and they don’t have a phone.”  Of course, I am at home, but you get the picture.

I can remember reading in a Popular Mechanic’s magazine article, as a teenager, about the future use of automated teller machines that would dispense money in lieu of having to go into a bank to receive cash.  ‘Are you kidding me?  It will never happen!  Crooks will crack those machines like a cheap, defective walnut!’  Now we can’t live without ATMs, and we seldom go into our bank.

So much can be said for the technological advances between the 50s and today.  The differences are comparable to the difference between a kite and an airplane.

It appalls me that over 15% of Americans are dependent on food stamps.  Both of my grandmothers had gardens.  Both sets of my grandparents lived through the Great Depression.  Out of necessity, they both took gardening to a science.  My local grandmother, the one without electricity, had a garden at her house, and a bigger one on our farm.  We grew everything with everyone in our family contributing to the welfare of that garden.  Being that my grandmother had survived the Depression, it made for interesting eating habits.  For instance, peas mature and ripen for 2-3 weeks.  When they would ripen, you could expect to eat peas for two meals a day for those three weeks.  (My grandmother made our meals as my mother was working.)  The same thing happened with every vegetable that we raised.  Once it ripened, you could expect to be inundated with it until the growing season ended.  In the mind of a Depression survivor, nothing was to be wasted.  If it could not be canned or frozen, it was, by God, going to be eaten!  That garden regularly fed eleven members of our family and any friends or family that visited.

It does not take acres of land to plant a garden.  A 10′ x 12′ plot could supply lots of food for a family of four.  Carrots, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, peas, lettuce, radishes, cabbages and many other vegetables can all be grown with minimal space.  Some of those vegetables can be grown in pots, thus eliminating the need for any garden space.  Gardening has become a ‘lost science.’  It should be revived in light of the number of people dependent on food stamps.  Maybe we should have fewer food stamps distributed along with vegetable seeds.  If I were underfed or undernourished, you can be sure I would have a garden.  Let’s plant that idea amongst the hungry.

One of my grandparents had Polish heritage and the other had German heritage.  All four of my grandparents were born in the US, but most of my great-grandparents came from the ‘old country.’

My Polish grandparents would speak Polish in the house.  In particular, they would discuss what I would get for Christmas in Polish.  I eventually caught on, and eventually figured out what I was getting.  They never, ever spoke Polish outside the home.  They were Americans through and through.  My grandfather served in WWI, and his two sons served in WWII.

My other grandmother grew up in the US, speaking only German.  She did not learn English until she was 10 or 11 years old.  Once she became an adult, she never allowed German to be spoken in her house.  My mother and her siblings never learned any German because Grandma became all-American and wanted her children to be the same.  Grandma’s siblings felt the same way, and so I never heard any of them speak a word of German.

The purpose of this?  My relatives, all from European countries, could not wait to assimilate into American culture.  In their own minds, they could not assimilate quickly enough.  There was not going to be any ‘press 2 for Polish’ or ‘press 3 for German’ as far as they were concerned.  They would have been appalled and embarrassed by the suggestion.  Without question, all of my ancestors came here to be independent, to be free, and to have the opportunity to be a part of the great American society.  They embraced their country of residence and the future it offered both them.

Our education was also different than today.  We said the Pledge of Allegiance every day.  It was the first thing we did every morning from first grade through high school graduation.

Teachers had absolute authority.  If one of my teachers decided to ‘drop a dime’ about my behavior  to my dad, I could expect my dad to ‘drop a dollar’ on me.  My parents, like most parents, would do this without fail and without questioning the teacher.  This would not end well for me.  The husbands of three of my first six teachers worked with my dad.  He knew about everything I did.

Parent-teacher conferences occurred after the first nine weeks of school.  This was considered a social event in our small town.  I had 60 classmates.  All 60 of their mothers would attend these conferences.  Most of the mothers would buy a new dress for the occasion.  My mother attended all twelve in my childhood, even if she had to change her work schedule, which she had to do often.

All I can say about typical Baby Boomer education is that it was good enough to invent computers, mobile phones and all the technological advances that young people enjoy today.   Having said that, I want to point out that a select few of the Baby Boomer generation actually invented these items.  The rest of us are still trying to figure out how to use them.  Where are the grandkids when you need them?

Thanks for allowing me to reminisce.

PS:  On September 14, 2014, Common Sense by Grandpa T surpassed 100,000 unique hits. Grandpa T’s goal is to educate people on the value of common sense in our ever-changing world, one impressionable mind at a time.

Working at Reducing Unemployment

From 1948 until 2012, the average unemployment rate in the United States was 5.8% The highest unemployment rate was 10.8% in November 1982. The lowest unemployment rate was 2.5% in May 1952.

So how is the unemployment rate determined? The obvious simple answer, and the widely accepted answer, is that it is “the measure of the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labor force.” We need to keep that definition in mind, as it will appear later in this article.

Currently, for December of 2012, the unemployment rate in the US has been calculated at 7.8%. At the beginning of the year, the average unemployment rate in the US was 8.5%. As an aside, the state with the lowest unemployment rate in 2012 was North Dakota at 3.2%.  That is relatively easy to understand.  Small state – newfound oil.  But the two states in a tie for the highest unemployment rate in 2012 were….. Nevada (understandable) and………….Rhode Island! I have not a clue as to why Rhode Island has a high unemployment rate of 10.2%.  Who would have guessed?

In the United States, unemployment benefits are usually called unemployment compensation. Benefits are generally paid by state governments, funded in large part by the federal government to workers who have become unemployed through no fault of their own. This compensation is classified as a type of social welfare benefit. According to the IRS Code, these types of benefits are to be included in a taxpayer’s gross income.

The idea of unemployment insurance in the US began in Wisconsin in 1932. Through the Social Security Act of 1935, the federal government effectively encouraged the individual states to adopt unemployment plans. To facilitate the program, Congress passed the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) which authorizes the IRS to collect an annual federal employer tax used to fund state workforce agencies.

Here is a thumbnail sketch of how the federal-state unemployment benefit works. The jobless generally receive up to 26 weeks of state benefits and then shift to federal emergency unemployment compensation, which is broken into four tiers and lasts up to 47 weeks. There is a separate federal extended benefits program, which provides up to 20 weeks, but only New Yorkers are eligible for it at this time. (Really?  How did New York vote in the last presidential election?)

The federal government has spent far more on unemployment insurance in recent years that it had in previous economic downturns because of the unprecendented response to the Great Recession (Not to be confused with the Great Depression). Federal benefits were extended to a record 99 weeks in November 2009. That safety net was extended multiple times until late 2012, when Congress extended the deadline to file, but shortened the duration for which the jobless can receive checks.

How much does all of this cost us? Over the last five years, state and federal unemployment insurance programs have cost roughly $520 billion, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released in late November of last year. That is over a half a trillion dollars!  When it comes to our government, trillions are “in” and billions are “passe.”  That money is spent over and above the monies collected from the working labor force through the collection of unemployment taxes.

This is not the first time this has happened. The “Greatest Generation” also lived through the “Great Depression.”  Common sense tells me that the federal goverment had better programs in the 1930s than it has today.

The Great Depression was a worldwide horrific event. A combination of unemployment, inflation, political instability and climatic conditions all converged at one time and lasted approximately 12 years in the US.  Oddly enough, World War II was primarily responsible for breaking the stranglehold of the Great Depression.  I am by no means advocating WW III to turn our current misfortunes around.

Here is what our government did in response to getting people working during the Great Depression:

Civilian Conservation Corps

The CCC was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1943 in the US for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families. These men were ages 18-25. As a part of the New Deal initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it provided unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments. Maximum enrollment at any one time was 300,000.  In nine years, 2.5 million young men participated in the CCC, which provided them with shelter, clothing, and food, together with a small monthly wage of $30 a month, $25 of which had to be sent to their families. The principal benefits of an individual’s enrollment in the CCC included improved physical condition, heightened morale, and increased employability. During the program’s tenure, volunteers planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide, upgraded most state parks, updated forest firefighting methods, and built a network of service buildings and public roadways in remote areas.

Some of the notable alumnae of the CCC program were:

Hyman G. Rickover, 4-star Admiral, former Corps Area Commander
Raymond Burr, actor (noted mostly for Perry Mason)
Archie Moore, the Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World
Robert Mitchum, actor
Chuck Yeager, test pilot (first human to break the sound barrier)
Walter Matthau, actor
Stan Musial, baseball player

Now aren’t you glad you read my blog?

Civil Works Administration

This program was also a part of the New Deal, and was created in November 1933 to rapidly create manual labor jobs for millions of unemployed workers. The jobs were merely temporary for the duration of the hard winter. The CWA created construction jobs, mainly improving or constructing buildings and bridges. It ended on March 31, 1934, after spending $200 million a month and giving jobs to 4 million people. The CWA’s workers laid 12 million feet of sewer pipe and built or improved 255,000 miles of roads, 40,000 schools, 3,700 playgrounds, and nearly 1,000 airports (not to mention building 250,000 outhouses still badly needed in rural America).

Works Progress Administration

The WPA was another larger New Deal program that began in April 1935.  It employed millions of unemployed people to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. Almost every community in the US had a new park, bridge, or school constructed by the agency. The WPA’s initial appropriation was $4.9 billion, which was about 6.7% of the 1935 GDP. In total, the program cost $13.4 billion.  From 1935 until 1943, the WPA provided almost eight million jobs. The goal of the program was not for full employment, but to provide a paid job for the breadwinner suffering from long-term unemployment.  In my home town of Soft Rock, two parks and our high school athletic field were all constructed by workers of the WPA. That was pretty big for a town that had a population of less than 700 at the time.

Do not get the impression that these programs did not have their detractors. These programs were under fire and under scrutiny, because opposing politicians thought the projects selected were rewards for some while attempting to buy political support from others. But the end result was that many people, sorely in need of a job, received a job. And the upside as compared to today? The communities, states and the federal government all received something in return for the employment dollars spent on the programs. Now common sense tells me that they had better programs in the 1930s, than we do today. What did the taxpayers receive in return for the half trillion dollars spent on unemployment in the last 5 years. The answer? Butkas. Nada. Zero. Nothing.

So now we get to that sticky point where I comment, “Should we continue with unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks and continue to expect nothing in return?”  Why can’t we have programs like they did in the 30s? Have we become such a nation that manual labor is considered beneath our dignity?

Our country has become a fairly well-educated country. The following statistics are for the educational attainment in the United States for persons aged 25 and over:

High school graduate 87.58%
Some college 56.86%
Associate/and or Bachelor’s degree 39.89%
Bachelor’s degree 30.44%
Master’s degree 7.95%
Doctorate or professional degree 3.00%

It makes complete sense to me, that our highly educated and, hopefully, evolved elected officials could institute a more modernized version of the 1930s programs.  They can surely make better use of the vast amount of college-educated, experienced, highly qualified people who are currently collecting unemployment compensation.  What a waste of talent!   Many of those 1930s programs were headed by reserve component officers or military men. That would not fly today, but someone, somewhere should have the organizational skills to put these people to productive use in exchange for an unemployment check.

How about this?  We give everyone the 26 weeks unemployment compension and if they cannot find a job, then we give them a job and their pay is the unemployment. Of course, you would want these people to have opportunities to continue to apply for other work. What if we stick them with companies that can use their skills at the government’s expense? They would get 12 weeks with each company, and then move to another. They could possibly be hired by a company once they have shown their capabilities. That would be a win for the government, and a win for the hiring company.

I am a firm believer that everyone is not cut out for college. I also believe that we are missing the boat by not providing technical/vocational training to our high school students. Even though our schools are tailoring their curriculum toward college prep, only 40% of the people have a Bachelor’s or higher degree. We must prepare our students for other vocations.

The government could assist in lowering unemployment by repealing Obamacare. Why?  Because when the act was passed, companies began downsizing to allow for the anticipated 20-25% increase in their total payroll costs.  After all, as mentioned in a previous post, companies are not in business to lose money.  But they did reduce their work forces in anticipation of the implementation of Obamacare, thus fueling the fire of an already bad economic situation.

So now for my more studious readers, I am going to pose this question. If we could magically lower the unemployment rate to zero, would all capable Americans be employed?  The answer?  Not even close! The definition for the unemployment rate in the second paragraph says it is determined by “people actively looking for a job.” We have just under 5% of our country on welfare. They are not looking for a job. So if you were to add that 5% to the 7.8%, the true number of capable people not working is over 12%.  If you think unemployment is expensive, wait until my next blog about welfare.