Saturday, July 23, 2011

By Necessity


FDR reassuring the people
during Fireside talk. 

I wouldn’t dare inflict history lessons on you would I? Of course, I wouldn’t! I do understand that there is a popular opinion that history is a useless study and that what is over is over and we should focus on moving forward.

Yet there comes a time when you wonder “Wot happened?” Then you may take a moment to look back. That’s what last year’s political turmoil did for me.

We know, or should know, that our nation was founded by hard working people with ambitions of bettering themselves and being free of laws that hindered their rights. When unreasonable restriction followed them to their new world, they fought and died to maintain those rights and upon winning that war, highly intelligent and fair-minded men devised a system of government in our Constitution to assure that the beliefs that had been fought for would continue to rule the nation.

The country grew and with growth came changes. The pre-depression days were far from perfect.  The poverty of many people was severe. The abuses in the workplace, especially of women and children, were terrible. Corruption among the powerful and in the government was commonplace and despite our ancestor’s dreams and skillful framing of our method of government, our society had become a sad reflection of those original dreams.

The stock market crash of ’29 and the following Great Depression capped a period of opportunity for many and misery for some and with at least 13 million workers unemployed it was a  time of desperation for most of the nation. President Hoover’s policies were blamed; his failure to correct the situation was cursed and a new President was duly elected.

As mentioned in a previous blog, FDR’s first 100 days were busy ones as he used his great political skills to create programs to get our country on the move again.  All were created to boost the country out of its deep depression and to remedy many other destructive problems that had developed. These laws and regulations were spoken of as “the first New Deal. At that time, the words, “New Deal,” were often spoken in the same tone of voice as some of the worst of curse words. Some of today’s programs suffer the same fate.

Regardless of opposition, President Roosevelt moved forward with his agenda, In addition to the Civilian Conservation Corp and the Public Work Program, the Emergency Farm Mortgage Act was created and was of great benefit to the large number of farmers who had loss their farms in foreclosures after the stock market crash.  Under the Farm Act, only small down payments were required to purchase a farm, and if the entire bi-annual payment could not be made, the smaller amount of interest due was accepted, postponing the payment on the principal. Under this program many families who had been eking out a living as tenant farmers, were able to make a fresh start with farms of their own, although farm life remained hard and many mortgages were not paid off until WWII.
Besides the previously discussed programs, the Tennessee Valley Authority  (TVA) was created, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were created, all programs that are beneficial today.

In 1935, after the economy had begun to recover, our beleaguered Social Security program came into being under Roosevelt’s  “Second New Deal “ which covered many areas such as labor, women in the work force, the arts and many others.

Social Security or Old-Age and Survivor’s Insurance (OASI) came into being at this time with a carefully planned system, calculated to make it self-supportive with its trust fund.  According to charts, its fund showed its first deficit in 1975. There are interesting charts and graphs showing the income and outgo of the program over the years and many versions of the outcome, some frightening, some reassuring. It is a political hot topic because it affects everyone.

Over the years, there have been numerous changes in the government’s accounting procedures, giving rise to a few erroneous tales about Social Security. However, it appears that it is true that the government is allowed to borrow from the fund, backing its debt with Treasury notes and bonds. Then, when there is a need, the government honors its bonds and the fund is again viable. I am sure there are a variety of opinions on the feasibility of this arrangement.

There is no denying that the Social Security program has been a great benefit to thousands of elderly parents and grandparents. That also translates in to being beneficial to their offspring who would have otherwise been bearing the burden of their care.

There were numerous other helpful programs for the nation’s suffering citizens Surplus food and subsidies made nutritious school lunches available for five cents each and surplus food was made available for the public. Other practically unknown programs assisted the needy populace. One, for high school students, paid for various jobs, such as janitorial or library duty, within the schools. I had library duty and that small dollar amount on my government check looked rather large in those days.

President Roosevelt had many ambitious plans for helping the country recover. Some were declared unconstitutional, some were discontinued when WWII broke out, and wrangling and jealousies within the administration destroyed some.

CCC history pamphlets state that infighting among a few of Roosevelt’s cabinet members that signaled that program’s end. Another program, the National Recovery Act, or NRA, placed a certain amount of price and wage control over businesses and those participating displayed a NRA symbol of a blue eagle in their windows.  I remember seeing these signs displayed in store windows, for not to show that the store was participating, brought a risk of being boycotted. This law was one that was ruled unconstitutional. Many citizens claimed this symbol signified evil and was a “sign of the devil.”  I seem to remember that some folks felt it had something to do with biblical predictions. That was long ago, early in FDR’s administration and I was rather young.

Other programs that were disliked intensely were created in hope of raising and stabilizing prices for agricultural products. They placed controls over the amount of acreage planted in various crops thus causing many acres to lay barren.  Especially disliked was the slaughtering of cattle and the law that the meat had to be destroyed. With people starving throughout the country, this and the plowing under of crops were contrary to all that farmers and cattlemen believed in but they dutifully obeyed the law.

Undoubtedly, there were long titles and initialed acronyms for dozens of addition acts, but those discussed here are the most memorable and perhaps the most noteworthy and beneficial ones of the FDR administrations.

Roosevelt’s policies are still being debated and the effects of many of them still linger. At the time they were generally extremely helpful for our troubled nation but there is little doubt that this period can be considered the beginning of many, sometimes unwelcome, government controls.

      More to come after we all rest.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Golden Years


Are we who have accumulated an excessive number of years, the only group to have so many humorous saying about our predicament?

Small children laugh at the darnest things but their humor isn’t selectively pointed at their age group.

As for teenagers, how many jokes do you hear about not being given extra money to buy the latest electronic gadget or not being allowed to have the car for a spin around town?

Are their parents laughing at their own peculiar ways?  Of course not. If they’re still coping with teenagers they’re thankful they’re not crouched in a corner muttering gibberish; if those years are behind them, they are not yet able to see humor in their lives.

So it is we who have moved over that invisible line, who see humor in all our foibles.  The cardinal rule is that you must be one of us.  This is surely a happy time in our lives for there is humor in all that we do.

We laugh about our frequent naps; we laugh at our relief when adorable but whiney grandkids have gone home, we even laugh at the days our own children were in their teens. Above all, we laugh at our forgetfulness, as in such daily occurrences as hunting your sunshades (which are perched on you head), or that favorite shirt which is hanging in plain sight but somehow invisible.

Then there are the trips to a room and upon getting there, you stand looking around and wondering why you are there. This is very scary if you’re driving and best not mentioned even as a joke, foe one’s precious  liberties might be sharply curtailed. Watch this closely for we’re talking a potentially serious problem!

On the fun side, here are some old favorites:

~You Forget names .... But it's OK because other people forgot they Even knew you!!! 
~You miss the days when everything worked with just an "  ON"  and "  OFF"   Switch.
 ~You tend to use more 4 letter words ....  "   what?"  ....."  when?"... ??? 
~Now that your husband has retired .... You'd give anything if he'd find a job!

Old is good in some things: Old songs, Old movies, even the Good Old days when quality was appreciated, Good morals were respected and Going Out was fun.


 ATD -at the doctor. BFF -best friend fell. BTW -bring the wheelchair. BYOT -bring your own teeth. FWIW -forgot where I was. GGPBL -gotta go, pacemaker battery low. GHA -got heartburn again. IMHO -is my hearing aid on? LMDO -laughing my dentures out. OMMR -on my massage recliner. ROFLACGU -rolling on floor laughing and can't get up. TTML -talk to me louder! Share a laugh xx

Have a chuckle along with us!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

BeenThere Already

I have just now received this little item from a friend, and as an old-timer, I found it both amusing and informative about our changing times and associated problems.

The Green Thing
In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.  

The woman apologized to him and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."
The clerk responded, "That's our problem today.  Your generation did not care enough to save our environment."

He was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day. 

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.  So they really were recycled. 

But we didn't have the green thing back in our day. 

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. 

But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day. 

Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw-away kind.  We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry the clothes.  Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; we didn't have the green thing back in our day. 

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. 
In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. 
When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. 
Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.  We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. 

But she's right; we didn't have the green thing back then.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. 
We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. 

But we didn't have the green thing back then. 

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. 
We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.  And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint. 
The current philosopy is that generations of the past have been poor custodians of our resoources and I expect that may be partly true, but consider the changes that we are now experiencing to get a better understanding of the scope of  our present day environmental problems.

Thanks, MA for the forwarded piece!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Looking Back

I was not old and had no immediate plans for arriving at that state until the day I began meditating about the general discontent that was sweeping across our nation.  On that day, I began to wonder what had been happening while I had been busying myself being a homemaker and raising our children the best that I could.

It was apparent that although I had been dutifully voting in all elections, I had been oblivious to much that had happened afterwards. Over the years a very large number of people had become very unhappy with taxes and what they considered increasing infringement on their freedom of choices. Were they justified in their feelings, I wondered? If so how had it happened? 
Why had such unrest suddenly erupted? Was it the proverbial straw that had broken the camel’s back? Obviously a large group of citizens had had enough, already.
      At this point, my thoughts meandered back to my childhood when I had listened to my father rave and rant about the government’s city slickers telling him how he had to conduct his business, which was farming.

      Now this couldn’t have been too terribly long ago, could it? I remember it all so very clearly. So, I thought back to those days and went a step farther…I counted the presidential administrations  of my lifetime and suddenly I became old.  No, that is not correct: I became ancient!  I counted fifteen of these. I counted again and then I made a list. The total did not change. I wondered if the ones I did not remember clearly, counted, but of course they did. One must be honest about such unavoidable issues, especially since others can also count. Of course, I have only made it through a portion of the present Obama administration, so I guess one could more accurately say I have lived through fourteen administrations, Sounds better, somehow.

In fairness, or to diminish, to my suddenly advanced years, I do not remember Calvin Coolidge or Herbert Hoover. In fact, I seem to be continually referring to my list to remind myself of their names.

Now Franklin Delano Roosevelt is entirely another issue. He was a person of impressive presence. He conveyed confidence and assurance to a nation floundering in desperation. When he spoke, his voice rolled out from the radio in a distinctive tone and an accent that could never be confused with that of a Texan. Not only did one listen because it was the President of the United States speaking, his was an enthralling voice commanding attention.Surely as FDR campaigned for office he was aware of the scope of the problems he would face if elected, for there were daily dreary news updates, and from the countryside to the large cities, there was desolation.

What type of man would voluntarily campaign for the position of leading a country with so many people practically starving, with no jobs, no homes and no hope? It took a very confident man; a man with great vision and determination. He may have had private doubts but he never hesitated as he proceeded to put our nation back on its feet. In the first 100 days of his administration he managed to get 15 legislative proposals passed into law.  Private interests were subordinated to public policy, and the federal government took on the mission of doing what no other interest could do on its own. The role of government was transformed.

From his first proposals, to today’s reviews of his administration, there has been controversy about Roosevelt’s actions. Historians still debate whether FDR’s programs were helpful in ending the Depression, or whether it was WWII that lifted the economy out of its slump.
It's also become clear to researchers, that FDR fundamentally expanded the reach and power of the federal government, a role which most Americans now accept, especially in times of crisis. And that marked a monumental change in American life.

This was confirmation of a suspicion of mine that the Roosevelt years had marked the beginning of the larger role of the government in the lives of the American people. From this administration forward, Government has continued assuming more and more authority over more and more areas, in what we can hope has been a well-meaning attempt to better our lives. Were these actions the first straws to be laid on the backs of the people?

To be fair in our assessment of those years, FDRs famous statement of “all we have to fear is fear itself” and his declaration of a “Bank Holiday“ which closed banks for three days, staving off a panicky run on the banks, were master strokes.

Perhaps the most valuable actions for future generations were the conservation measures that went into effect. At that time, there was little understanding by those using our land, of the means or value of being good custodians. This attitude, combined with a period of unseasonable winds and droughts, delivered a double-whammy to a nation already in bad trouble from the 1929 stock market crash . Fortunately for the nation, Roosevelt, or his advisors, knew the answer to that problem.

Although they may have been surprised that they could not provide the needed rain, they immediately set about salvaging what was left of our soil.
This was good, for the blinding dust storms were sending a frightening amount of our nation toward the oceans.

Farming practices that are now considered the normal and sensible way were generally unheard of until the Roosevelt policies went into effect. Terracing and contour planting stopped the terrible erosion that was scaring our farmland with head-deep ditches that were getting deeper with every rain. Cover crops were planted to hold the remaining soil in place despite the strong winds. Soil enriching crops were planted and crop rotation was encouraged.

Today, I can drive by my old home place and look at level fields where once there were once deep intersecting ditches showing layers of red clay, scarring the land. And I can mentally vision the young surveyor laying out the contours the terraces needed to follow. I can see my father with his horse-drawn scraper or scoop, moving dirt across low places to stop the flow of water or with a team and plow going back and forth, gradually making a ridge of soil that formed the terraces that also controlled the runoff. In particular, I can remember heavy rains that filled a terraced low place to the top with muddy water and then breaking through, leaving an impressive gap three or four feet deep and at least five feet wide, that had to be rebuilt.

How would our landscape appear today had President Roosevelt not instigated the programs to save our land. In those efforts we can see the value of caring for our environment. Without that wonderful top soil which was disappearing at an alarming rate, what would have happened to our food supply?

 Other programs of the FDR administration proved extremely successful.
A Civilian Conservation Corp or CCCs was created for young men to enter. They were paid about $21 per month, with the biggest part of that amount being sent home to assist their families. The young men, some mere boys, kept a small amount for their personal use.

CCC camps were established across the nation with barracks and tents for housing. The training and discipline were thorough and strict and usually administrated by army sergeants according to army standards. Many kinds of training prepared these groups to do environmental work where needed or to build community centers and other facilities for towns in need. They established many of the parks we are presently enjoying, much of their masonry work still available for use.

       In recent years, the Parks and Recreation Department has held reunions of CCC members, to show their appreciation for the great work they did. In chatting with one old fellow (well, he appeared to be a few years older than I), he reflected the view of most of the attendees: they were the ones who appreciated the help the program gave to their families, and the discipline and training that they received. There is no doubt that we who appreciate the preservation of the special places that have become our state and national parks, have these men and the  CCC program to be grateful for.

Another work day 
The CCC s were not the only family relief program. There were soup kitchens and food subsidies for a starving people and work programs were created. One, the WPA, provided work at various projects, at the government’s expense. I remember seeing participants carpooling on their way to work, while my dad went about his independent ways, harnessing his team for ad pay the mortgage and buy a pair of shoes for a growing child.

Ah, that father of mine; honest and law-abiding in all ways, but with an independence and confidence in his own ability to provide for himself and his family that after years of hard work, finally paid off.

He continued fuming at the Roosevelt polices, often in colorful language, until the attack on Pearl Harbor. With the president’s words, in his unforgettable voice, “We are at war,” my dad turned to me saying, “You’ve heard me cussing this man and you know how I feel, but we are at war and he is our Commander-in-Chief and you won’t hear me say another word.”
And he didn’t!

Fourteen years of varying political shenanagins cannot be covered in a single posting. The Roosevelt years, alone, are worth another post. As my beginning words indicated, my interest in the discontent of so many citizens, led me to delving into what actions (or lack of action) of past administrations had brought this about. Surely we must have been asleep at the wheel.  Unfortunately, those years of sleep, have brought about sudden awaking to a world that is causing a great amount of  political  unrest. 

The question is: will it be to little too late, or will good things happen because of this unrestThe first 100 days