Tag Archive | "FDR"

The Great Debate

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On Thursday, August 11, 2011, Republican Presidential hopefuls gathered in Ames, Iowa in anticipation of this weekend’s straw poll, an important  barometer of early support in the state that traditionally hosts the nation’s first event of the primary season, the Iowa Caucuses.  To make their views and distinctions known to potential voters, the formally declared candidates participated in a debate.  The gala event was sponsored by Fox News and hosted by Brett Baier and a panel of Fox News contributors


The eight hopefuls present were:


1. Tim Pawlenty

2. Michele Bachmann

3. Mitt Romney

4. Jon Huntsman

5. Ron Paul

6. Newt Gingrich

7. Rick Santorum

8. Herman Cain


During this two-hour long debate, the candidates were asked questions on subjects ranging from dog food to gotcha, questions for which any good politician could provide some type of gobbedygook answer.  While some took offense at the nature of questions and answers, they were all pretty standard political fare.  As the old saying goes, “if the shoe fits wear it.”  The only thing missing was a Barack Obama pinata and a wooden stick.


Provided an allotted time for their answers, all the candidates did their best to distinguish themselves from their competitors and frequently ran overtime to the sound of bells ringing to alert them to their digression from the rules.  Some chose to attack other candidates, to smear a perceived front-runner and elevate their statuses in the eyes of the debate’s viewers.  Of course, for those attacked by others, time was permitted for rebuttal.


This was democracy in action like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington without the filibuster.  But, of all the questions asked, none of them, in my opinion, got to the heart of issues that touch the American electorate.


Were I permitted to pose questions, I would have asked the candidates to outline their positions on the following:


1. establishing Term Limits for members of the House of Representatives and Senate

2. reducing the self-endowed entitlements in the form of salary, pensions, and healthcare received by members of Congress

3. the means by which our electoral process may be changed so a poor man or woman might run for office

4. the means by which we can fix Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid so that they will be available to those requiring their benefits in the future

5. the reasons for which each believe that he or she should be elected to the highest office in our land


These are the types of questions that I believe should have been asked.  As a nation, we need to find people exhibiting vision, innovation, honesty, integrity, and patriotism to lead us into a new and better future.  Too often, debate questions are simply designed to demonstrate the self-perceived intelligence of the questioner, create some type of dramatic tension between the candidates, or generate sound bytes for future examination by political commentators – all in the hopes of producing higher ratings for the cable and network news telecasts.


America today stands at a crossroad.  Will we continue on our current path toward a slow demise as the world’s economic and military superpower, or will we seize this moment and initiate the changes we need to restore our past greatness?


Without true leadership, I do not see how we can reverse the path on which we, as a nation, travel.  A true leader would be the equivalent of a benevolent dictator who would place the needs of his people first, assuring that their needs and desires are fulfilled.  Expecting this type of leadership, however, would be a fairy tale.  In the real world, most political power-seekers are concerned first and foremost with their own personal enrichment.


In my opinion, the closest our nation has ever come to a leader in the likeness of a benevolent dictator was in the person of FDR.  He had a vision for a society that, in the words of another of our former Presidents, would be “kinder and gentler.”  In FDR’s vision, senior citizens would be provided a security net enabling them to enjoy their Golden Years in relative worry-free comfort.


During this most recent debate, one candidate iterated that future recipients now paying into the Social Security system should have to pass annual means tests to remain eligible for continuing benefits.  That candidate’s reasoning was that the original plan never took into consideration the longer lifespans enjoyed by many today.


In response, I would have asked the following:  whatever became of the contributed funds of members who did not reach retirement age (65)?  Why are these funds not being used to pay to those who live longer?  Or perhaps, our representatives should consider mandatory Hari-kari for those of us living to the age of 70 as a means to save the system!


Our next Presidential election is perhaps the most important since the Great Depression.  Will we continue to slip and slide toward third-world status?  Or, will we rediscover the exceptionalism and pioneering spirit that made us great?  You will decide.


Who’s Getting Hosed?

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An Open Letter to Bill O’Reilly (Fox News)


The burgeoning file of viewer responses to Bill O’Reilly’s recent “Who’s Getting Hosed” program, is about to gain another addition; namely, my considered opinion.  


In case you missed the program, Bill’s discussion with Ms. Sarah Palin touched upon entitlement reform.  As an 85-year-old survivor of the Great Depression and World War II — in other words, as someone who has seen “the best of times” and “the worst of times” — I believe that my perspective is both relevant and valid.


I remember when FDR (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) mandated Social Security as part of the New Deal (National Recovery Act).  After the crash on Wall Street and the resultant demise of too many American banks, FDR also ushered in other safeguards to protect the American people from another financial disaster.  He based his actions upon the theory that the economy depended upon the purchasing power of its people.  It was a theory that seemed to make a lot of sense.


By implementing shovel ready jobs (the WPA) and restoring trust to financial institutions, our nation slowly moved forward.  FDR also encouraged the growth of the Labor Movement as a tool to compel industry to raise the wages of workers by 93%.  Whether the implementation of this plan would have accomplished recovery, we will never know, because WWII intervened.


The war, as it turned out, solved the unemployment problem; by 1942, the New Deal had been repealed, with one exception.  That exception was Social Security.  In the years that followed the war, our economy grew by leaps and bounds. Enterprising homebuilders, such as Levitt, launched a campaign to supply modest dwellings in suburbia.


The housing boom gave birth to increased sales of household goods and automobiles.  The advent of television and televised commercials elevated consumer demand for these products and thus, further heightened the employment rate.  Wall Street experienced phenomenal growth in the decade spanning 1950 to 1960.  The economy was humming along nicely.  Could it be that FDR was correct in his assumption about the spending power of our citizens?


The Cold War with Russia and the resultant Race to Space added to our economic growth.  Larger paychecks produced record sales.  Merchants invested in shopping malls and thus was coined the phrase, “Shop til you drop.”  It seemed as if, to paraphrase an old song, happy days were here again.


In the midst of this explosive growth, labor unions were riding high.  Collective bargaining agreements produced wage increases that did not translate in terms of dollars in the workers’ paychecks for their 40-hour workweek.   However, these increases paid for fringe benefits: time and a half or double time for working weekends and/or holidays, healthcare insurance, paid sick leave, paid vacations, and paid holidays as well as paid time off for a death in the family.  These benefits were agreed upon by both employer and unions.   Might you call this, “Sharing the wealth?”


Today, these fringe benefits have been removed from the bargaining table.  Unions find themselves giving back hard-won gains in order to keep their members employed.  Through automation and outsourcing, American industry has created the atmosphere ripe to kill the goose that laid the golden egg (Social Security).


Personally, I feel that President Roosevelt was on the right path to national recovery by increasing the purchasing power of our people.  But, his dream died as we decided to become involved in a global society; the same society that has outsourced manufacturing, IT, and so many other jobs overseas.   Social Security emerged from the need to address the American worker once he or she left the workforce.  Call it Socialism or Social Engineering, the bottom line now is, how, as a nation, do we address this problem?


In listening to some of the proposed plans, I have to wonder about the pitch coming from former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.  He wants to have the credit card companies invent a foolproof Green Card for guest workers.  I have to wonder what planet he lives on, given the fact that consumers are in the throes of the greatest period of unemployment since the Great Depression.


As I listen to the rhetoric about reforming Social Security by grandfathering a portion of the recipients and offering bailouts to those that do not qualify, I cannot help but feel that this is a most callous approach proposed by our leaders.   To put this into perspective, how do you think the average person would feel if the insurance provider he endorsed welched on him?  Suppose that provider announced that it could no longer afford to pay out settlements genuinely due him?


Social Security funds have been used and abused by our government to balance budgets and wage wars.  The so-called “lock box” brought to light by the global warming expert, Al Gore, is filled with IOUs.


As our concerned leaders of this nation and representatives of media continue to expound upon the dire straits of our economy, I have not and probably will not hear that similar reforms be enacted upon the endowments/entitlements of our elected officials.  With their hefty pensions, terrific healthcare coverage, and campaign war chests, no wonder our governmental officials die in office.  It doesn’t pay, literally, to die anywhere else!


There is a message circulating on the Internet via Representative Ted Poe (Republican, Texas).  It concerns the squandering of American taxpayers’ money and how the squandering was authorized by the Congress of the United States.  A picture paints a thousand words.  So if you want to see your government in action, play the video below:



 


In answer to Mr. O’Reilly’s question, “Who is getting hosed?”, the answer is, “We the people!


He Had a Dream

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After World War I, America experienced a period of time when the country was riding high.  It was called the Roaring Twenties. Prohibition had been enacted, drying up the source of liquor to the general populace.  To the rescue came the bootleggers to fill the void.  Fast money and fast women were on the rise.  Even the stock market expanded its sales by allowing small investors to buy on margin and thus attempt to achieve financial wealth.  This period of plenty lasted more than a decade, until October 1928.  On that fateful October day, Wall Street experienced a financial disaster.


Investors woke up one morning to find that their financial gains had gone with the wind. This was the cataclysm that sent America into the Great Depression.  The President Elect, Herbert Hoover, tried to quell the panic by treating the crash as a market correction.  He did not intervene in the process, but as time passed, the situation worsened.


Ordinary Americans found themselves not able to meet the demands of everyday life.  They looked to government to supply the answers, causing general unrest in the population, which then selected Franklin D. Roosevelt to replace Hoover in the next Presidential election.


When FDR assumed Presidential power, he knew he had the tiger by the tail and could not let go.  A Wall street market correction was not the answer.  A change in governmental policy was imminent.  To address the nation’s problems on a systemic basis, FDR consulted with leading economists as to the cause of our financial collapse.  In addition, he and his advisors had to institute preventive measures to restore the trust of the populace in a system that aspired to restore order in the country.


In FDR’s first few years in office, the country had witnessed massive unemployment.  Industrial production had declined by 45%, homebuilding sank by 80%, and more than 1 million families lost their farms. On the corporate front, profits declined by 10%.  11,000 of the country’s 25,000 banks failed, wiping out 9 million savings accounts.  At the same time, approximately 2 million people were migrating throughout the country, desperately searching for work on the remaining farms.


In 1933, Roosevelt’s administration initiated The New Deal or NRA, bringing sweeping changes to the workforce as well as banking and financial institutions.  Wage and price controls and the FDIC restored the nation’s trust in banking.  That trust was bolstered by the installation of the SEC as the governmental watchdog of the banking industry.  These were the moves that we needed to re-establish the order and move forward.


The President was a firm believer in the principle that the economy was based upon the spending power of its people.  With that in mind, he instituted the WPA to bring “shovel-ready” jobs to the unemployed.  These jobs, in turn, supplied consumer money to encourage entrepreneurs and business to expand their horizons.


The NRA that ended in 1939 ushered in:


1.       The mandating of maximums on prices and wages, and competitive conditions in all industries

2.       Encouragement of unions to raise the wages of working class by 93%

3.       A decrease in farm production, thus escalating consumer demand and causing higher prices to make

          farming more profitable


In the later years of the Depression (1934 to 1936), the Second New Deal added Social Security.  This was a pension fund established by a Federal directive and paid for by the American workforce.


The economy slowly recovered until 1937, when it had a downturn caused by the Federal Reserve tightening the money supply.  The Administration’s response was to ignore balancing the budget and launch a $5 billion spending program to increase mass purchasing power in the spring of 1938.


This program came without the consent of the Republican conservatives. Meanwhile, under the direction of Adolph Hitler, Germany decided to expand its borders.  This decision on the part of that madman sparked World War II.  With the defeat and occupation of France, European Allies looked to America to supply the materials needed to wage war.  This need created a job market that spurred on our the suffering economy.


With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II.  Able bodied men aged 18 to 45 were conscripted into the armed services, leaving women to step in and assume the jobs of the men sent off to war, ’til Johnny came marching home.  From 1941 through 1945, America had drafted 17 million men.


During the war years, government invested in cost-plus contracts with  employers, to stimulate development of on the job training of unskilled workers.  By 1942, the New Deal no longer existed.  With the exception of Social Security, which was saved by the conservative Southern Democrats, the NRA laws were repealed.


Today, historians still debate the pros and cons of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Despite the criticism of socialism, his legacy led America through the Great Depression and World War II, and endeared him to the hearts of most American workers.


During his four elected terms of office, he used the media to talk to the American people in what he called Fireside Chats.  His was the calming voice in the depths of the Great Depression.  His was the rallying voice when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  And his was the reverent voice when he called our nation to prayer on June 6th 1944 as our sons crossed the English Channel to establish a beachhead on France’s Normandy coast, leading to the liberation of France and the destruction of Hitler’s Europe.


On April 12th 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away, not knowing that victory was but a few short months off into the future.  However, his dream still lingers on, the dream of a vibrant society empowered by the spending power of its people to keep the engines of industry regenerating.


To many of the children that lived through the Great Depression and later fought and won World War II, that era still holds fond memories of peaceful days spent enjoying family and friends. It was a time when a penny purchased two pretzels with mustard from a street vendor.  To echo the words of former President George H. Bush, “Life was simpler and kinder then.” 

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

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The title of this story reflects a popular song that emerged during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  It was Tin Pan Alley’s way of advertising the plight of the American people during times of intense hardship.


In 1932, composer Jay Gorney and lyricist E.Y. Harburg combined their creative forces to deliver a song that struck at the heart of every man, woman, and child.  Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? became the heartbeat of the nation.  When the Stock Market crashed, many people lost their jobs, initiating a domino effect.  Without money, everything — like the old South — was gone with the wind.  Americans were devastated.  They lost faith in the government as well as the banks that had collapsed and taken depositors’ hard-earned money with them.  A lot of human suffering occurred with no safety net for the future, until President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected.


Succeeding President Herbert Hoover, FDR was burdened with the monumental task of restoring the country to solvency and resurrecting the nation’s faith in its lawmakers and banking institutions.  He began with by creating the NRA (National Recovery Act).  When that was declared unconstitutional, he replaced it with The New Deal.  Understanding that the economy hinged upon the spending power of the people, the President then organized the WPA (Works Projects Administration – originally named Works Progress Administration) to bring jobs back to the rapidly sinking economy. He also instituted the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), a paramilitary organization that took young men off the streets and employed them to restore public works.


To revive faith in the banking system, he introduced the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), which insured depositor monies up to $100,000 dollars.  As a failsafe, he established the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) to monitor and regulate the financial markets and financial activity that had spawned the Great Depression.


In addition, FDR introduced the Social Security system, mandating the age of retirement as 65. By allowing younger people to fill the jobs of the retirees, the nation was assured of continuous source of employment.  Social Security would later become the model retirement system because it had the lowest administrative costs in the world.  After all his diligence, the Great Depression ended with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.


The fly in Social Security’s ointment, however, was this.  The monies collected for Social Security from the paychecks of future retirees, and intended to sustain people through their retirement, was placed into a general fund.  Into this fund, the government dipped its greedy hands again and again.  How many times have you heard present-day politicians say that there is no money in the fund, only IOUs.  Who do you think “borrowed” this money?  FDR must be turning over in his grave.


In retrospect, the differences between the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession begun in 2008 are that, in the ’30s:


1.  There was no government bailout of Wall Street.

2.  The Gold Standard regulated the amount of money that could be printed.

3.  Banks were more stringent in their lending policies.

4.  There was no credit card system to create escalating debt.

5.  Few people had health insurance.

6.  There was no charge for listening to the radio.

7.  Movie houses provided incentives, such as dishware, to increase patronage.

8.  There was no air conditioning in homes.

9.  Telephone service existed only through the local drugstore, at pay phones.


Overall, money was tight and life was simpler.  People used public transportation to travel.  Those of us who remember the Great Depression survived it and became stronger for it.


The old Depression songs, Brother, Can you spare a dime?,  Ain’t We Got Fun, and No More Money in the Bank still ring in my ears.  It was a time when chivalry, faith, hope, and charity still existed, and the pleasures of life were found not in fancy cars or expensive vacations, but in the company of family and friends.  No wonder we call them “the good old times.”


 

 

 

Shovel Ready

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Adopted by individual voters and political groups alike, the term “shovel ready” graphically illustrates our national chomping at the bit to get off the unemployment line and start earning decent wages again.  Widely used during our most recent primary elections, the phrase actually was coined during our previous Great Depression, under FDR’s administration. 


After the collapse of Wall Street, in 1932, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the National Rcovery Act to resurrect employment.  Considered un-Constitutional, one year later, the act was renamed The New Deal and included the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) and the WPA (Works Project Administration).  Established to produce jobs and put money back into taxpayer’ pockets, both entities were formed to repair the nation’s physical infrastructure: roads, bridges, parks, and highways.


The CCC was a para-military organization designed to take young men off the street and keep them out of trouble by employing them for projects such as Virginia’s Skyline Drive.  As in the Army, the workers lived in barracks and were fed three meals a day.  The WPA provided employment for older, married men via labor for governmental projects.  When the media inquired as to their exact duties, workers were quoted as saying, “I lean on a shovel.”  In other words, these jobs did little or nothing to resolve the unemployment crisis.  And if rampant unemployment wasn’t a big enough cross to bear, Mother Nature added to our national misery with droughts and dust storms.


Perceiving the Great Depression as Biblical peoples must have viewed the plagues, some Americans deemed our fate “the wrath of God.”  They’d assumed that we were reaping Divine retribution for the indulgences of the Roaring Twenty’s.


Nearly seventy years later, President Obama atempted to tear a page out of FDR’s book with his economic stimulus plan.   He also sent up a hue and cry for “shovel ready jobs.”  Our fearless leader was referring to jobs in which workers could be employed immediately, as opposed to being assigned to projects that are bogged down in planning, design, or legal red tape.


As well-intentioned as Mr. Obama may be, there remain some glaring differences between the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the Great Recession (Depression?) of 2008.   When Wall Street crumbled in 1929, the government did not — unlike Mr. Obama’s adminstration — bail out the financial institutions to the tune of $710 billion.  In fact, the governnment gave these institutions not one red cent.


In the 1930’s, there were also more shovel ready jobs — a lot more.  A road gang could easily have consisted of 300 or more workers, simply because technology was not as advanced as it is today.  Nowadays, it takes a virtual skeleton crew using state-of-the-art machinery to produce quality roadways more quickly and cheaply.  As automation continues to replace human labor, what are our children’s and grandchildren’s places in the American workforce?  Will our descendents compete with machines and slave labor in a global society?  We need answers to these questions before this or the next administration crafts another stimulus program.


Parents should seriously consider the best investments in their children’s education.  Should tuition money be paid to colleges and universities, or should it be paid to vocational schools?  Our current government seems willing to make our children common laborers by way of shovel ready jobs. I suppose this strategy is more expedient than creating jobs that require real skill and intelligence, jobs that can make them self-sufficient and in turn, restore America to a state of prosperity.


A common laborer does not require a college education.  All he or she needs is a strong back and some muscle.  In pondering this, let us not forget the wise motto of the United Negro College Fund, which can and should be applied to citizens of all races:  “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” 

Rewriting History

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The Constitution of the United States of America was composed after much consideration and strife with our mother country, England.   It was written to elucidate and safeguard the truths our founding fathers deemed self-evident; these were the rights granted to every man, woman, and child by the grace of God. In creating the Constitution, James Madison, Ben Franklin, and their worthy colleagues sought to craft a document that would stand the passage of time.


Although the document emphasized centralization (federalization) of our new government, it included provisions to safeguard the rights of the individual States and for the separation of Church and State: a condition that guaranteed American citizens the right to practice their religion without fear of persecution.  This freedom distinguished our nation from others and became a beacon of hope to those experiencing religious oppression in their own countries.


From the moment of our nation’s birth, George Washington and every successive leader has made reference to God in governing and protecting our land.  Religious symbols and terminology were always invoked in swearing parties into public office and demanding that witnesses speak the truth in courts of law.  Every denomination of our currency carries the words, “In God We Trust.”   These things echoed the underlying tenets of the Constitution:  that every citizen and lawmaker is held to a higher authority.


The Constitution was designed to be shaped, interpreted, and modified to protect our citizens against threats both within and without our borders.  Yet, our Founding Fathers could not have foreseen the magnitude of change we have experienced as a nation evolving over more than two hundred years.  Now, interpretation of the Constitution is left to the best or perhaps the most powerful (i.e., moneyed) legal minds in the nation, also known as the Supreme Court.  Their decisions are final.  The phrase “Who died and made you God?” is particularly apt, for God has ceased being the Higher Authority in this nation.  Indeed, He has ceased to be, because right or wrong, We the People have to live with the decisions handed down by the Supreme Court. 


Did our Founding Fathers gaze into a crystal ball when crafting the Constitution?  Could they have envisioned the issue of abortion when they sought to separate Church from State?  Did they prophesize the tug of war fought to display/not display religious symbols on public property?  Or, did they mean to simply guarantee religious freedom to our citizens?  You do not have to be a Supreme Court Judge to answer these questions.


In defending our country from its enemies, we find God being written out of our history. Although engraved onto the World War II National Memorial, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Day speech has been politically corrected.  Many current references to this speech eliminate FDR’s heartfelt words, “So help us God.”


Christ has been removed from Christmas, for Christmas has been amended to The Holiday Season, Happy Holidays, or Winter Break.  Religious symbols are verboten in governmental structures; prayer was banned in public schools in the early 1960’s.  All of this was done under the guise of separating Church from State.  So, how does religious freedom fit in a Godless country that still professes to be the greatest democracy in the world?


The Bible states that God set forth a set of laws by which man was compelled to live.  The Ten Commandments were handed down to Moses on two stone tablets.  Containing not a single amendment, they serve as the basis of our own laws (“Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” etc.).  Whereas our legal system is convoluted and often confusing, God managed to cover all the bases with but Ten Commandments.  I guess that’s why we call Him God!


Do you want to continue to write God out of our history and ensure that he is omitted for future generations?  If not, contact your Congressman or Congresswoman to demand that God is re-instituted.  While you’re at it, say a prayer.  Ask God’s help to give our leaders the wisdom they need to lead us properly through a society that worships The Almighty Dollar instead of a truly Higher Authority. 

D-Day: A Day I Will Never Forget

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It’s hard to believe that the most famous battles of World War II took place on June 6th, sixty-six years ago.  I was 17 years old that day, and contributing to the war effort.  A tad too young to see active duty, I served as an electrician’s helper at the Philadelphia Naval shipyard, where I constructed and repaired ships for the U.S. Navy.  After the battleship Wisconsin, the aircraft carrier Antietam, and six destroyer escorts were built and launched, Uncle Sam called me to duty.  Although drafted, I never fired a single shot.  I became part of a peacekeeping/stabilizing mission in Japan once that nation had surrendered to the Allied Forces.  What took place on D-Day turned the tide in the Allies’ favor and kept me safe from harm.  You can understand, then, why the facts surrounding this celebrated battle remain fresh in my mind after so many years.


For more than a year leading up to D-Day, American troops were gathering in England.  On a tiny island bulging with men and machines of war, our forces prepared to open a second front in Europe.  By then, Hitler’s armies had conquered most of Western Europe, including France; they were spreading east, eying Moscow will ill intent.  Anticipating an attack by the Allies but not knowing exactly when we would strike, Hitler directed his forces to build the Atlantic Wall.  The leader of the Third Reich was convinced that the Allies would take the shortest route across the English Channel, via the Pas-de-Calais. Vigorously, Hitler’s men shored up for the onslaught with backup infantry and armored forces.


Aware of the enemy’s plan as well as his logical assumption concerning Pas-de-Calais, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces, selected a different route in order to surprise Hitler.  Ike chose to send the Allied troops through Normandy, France, but severe weather postponed the attack several times.  Finally, Eisenhower’s key meteorologist, Group Captain J. M. Stagg, discovered that there would be a brief improvement in the weather on June 6, 1944; quickly, he informed General Eisenhower.  Although not every military leader involved in the invasion agreed, Ike determined to strike during that small window of opportunity.  He took full responsibility in launching an attack the like of which the world had never seen.


Before dawn, on June 6, 1944, 5,000 thousand ships, 11,000 airplanes, and more than 150,000 troops crossed the English Channel. The greatest armada ever assembled landed on the beaches of Normandy, France to engage in heavy battle.  Over 4,000 Allied soldiers died that day and another 10,000 were wounded, but the rest soldiered on bravely.  Finally, the Allies secured a beachhead on Fortress Europe.  Less than a year later, on May 7th, 1945 Hitler’s Germany surrendered unconditionally.  On May 8th, victory in Europe was declared.


Beloved Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only U.S. President to serve four terms in office, died three short weeks before Hitler’s surrender.  He never experienced the victory in Europe, but he left a legacy that few presidents have matched.


His first term took place from 1933 to 1937.  Television had yet to be invented to lure in the masses, but FDR drew millions of people time and again to gather around their radios.  During his Fireside Chats, his was the voice that calmed and uplifted a nation suffering through the Great Depression.


His second term spanned 1937 to 1941.  On December 7, 1941, FDR’s voice once again rallied the nation when he declared that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7th, 1941.


During his third term (1941 to 1945), he summoned America reverently with his D-Day Prayer on June 6th, 1944.


Serving his fourth term and suffering from hypertension and cardiac disease, God called Franklin Delano Roosevelt home.  On April 12, 1945, the voice that had weathered both national and personal crises was silenced.  Involved in politics more than two decades earlier, FDR had contracted polio, but few Americans were aware of this, for the future 32nd President of the United States had conscripted the press into a conspiracy.  He had asked to the press to photograph him only from the waist up to disguise his wheelchair, and to maintain their silence as to the illness that had put him there.  Once he had achieved Presidency, he continued this policy in order to appear strong for the nation that had relied so heavily upon his wisdom and leadership.


Understanding that heavy casualties were expected on that Normandy beach, FDR prepared a D-Day prayer to help ease the pain of those about to lose their loved ones.   He entitled it, Let Our Hearts Be Stout.


As I recall this prayer, I feel that President Roosevelt wrote it not only for the families of the soldiers who perished at Normandy but for a world that, sixty-six years later, has still not learned to resolve its differences peacefully.


Using the broadcast media of his day, radio, FDR stated “Last night when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the English Channel.  It has come to pass with success thus far, and so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer.”

  

What followed was the text of FDR’s prayer:


“Almighty God, our sons, the pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, to set free a suffering humanity.

 

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness to their faith.

 

They will need Thy blessings.  They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest until the victory is won.  The darkness will be rent by noise and flame.  Men’s souls will be shaken with the violence of war, for these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace.

 

They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate.  They fight to let justice arise, and for tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people.  They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

 

Some will never return.  Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

 

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

 

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

 

Amen.”

Solving Unemployment

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In September of 2008, the United States of America experienced a financial meltdown, resulting in massive, escalating unemployment.  Government stepped in to fill the gap, using $710 billion in taxpayer’s money in an attempt to resolve the situation.  The money was allocated to keep the “big boys” on Wall Street and in the insurance industry afloat, and ostensibly, to save jobs.  Lo and behold, the financial market has recovered to some degree, but the unemployment rate remains high.  Why?


Like most businesses, the financial and insurance industries are interested primarily in profits, and not what benefits the country-at-large.  The difference, however, between finance and insurance, and other industries, is that the first two are heavily regulated by the government, and for good reason.  The mandates exist largely to protect taxpayers from fraud and theft.  Knowing that their you-know-whats’ were hauled out of the fire by the taxpayer bailout, for the express purpose of maintaining and creating jobs, why have those industries not responded in this way?  President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, “The economy of the country depends on the spending power of its people.”  How right he was!  FDR tried to jumpstart the economy during the Great Depression by creating jobs though government-run programs such as WPA and CCC.  Because these jobs did not originate from the private sector, he did not achieve this goal.


Our capitalistic system demands that employment must be profitable.  How, then, do we fulfill this demand in this terrifying economy?   The first step is to achieve a meeting of the minds between government and the private sector as to which will be the source of employment.  When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and plunged us into World War II, meetings such as this took place, and were successfully concluded, to organize the nation into a smoothly running machine capable of winning the war.  Once faced with a common enemy, it did not take long for both parties to offer viable solutions, including changes in the products, machinery, and workforce complexion of manufacturing.


As a nation, we must take a page out of that book to resolve today’s economic and employment problems.  Both parties, government and industry, must realize that there has to be give and take, not a rape of the American public by taking advantage of a crisis situation.  Now bolstered with $710 billion, the private sector must begin to recall employees it had downsized in response to the 2008 stock market crash.


In turn, the government must make business more profitable by facilitating this period of transition and growth through a reduction in taxes and by supplying work to industry.  Simultaneously, entrepreneurs and small businesses should be allowed to invest in the job market by easing the restrictions that pose problems to the operation and, by association, profitability of their businesses.  The final goal should be to employ more than 95% of the nation’s workforce, thus reducing the current 10 percent rate of unemployment. With more workers contributing to social programs via automatic payroll deductions, those programs would become solvent and self-sustaining.


A renewed workforce equates to money in the pockets of consumers.  With disposable incomes, consumers will stimulate the economy on all levels: they will be able to patronize a broad range of providers of products and services.  The economy would blossom. Both government and business would profit, and Americans would not be losing their homes, going hungry, and forced to learn Chinese and Arabic in the hopes of landing jobs in foreign lands.


If all of this could be accomplished, the next step would be to transform government to run in a business-like manner.  Citizens should be viewed as clients; every business creates and maintains a client base, or the business does not exist.   This strategy would make government more fiscally accountable while providing needed services to its citizens.  By abolishing earmarks and lobbying, we’d dramatically reduce corruption of our elected officials and make government more responsive to the needs of its clients, us.


Next, let’s merge Social Security and a Federal pension plan into one viable program for every citizen.  Laws must mandate that elected officials have the same programs as regular citizens, not special concessions.  Money collected for social programs (Social Security, etc.) should not be placed into a general fund, but allocated for the purposes for which they were intended (i.e., solvency of senior citizens upon their retirement).  The U.S. Treasury Department should place the funds into separate, low-risk, interest bearing accounts to be managed by financial professionals.  These professionals must demonstrate ethics and business practices that will be held to the highest scrutiny, via meticulous, unannounced external audits.  All finances must be reconciled; no secret slush funds for those seeking to rip off “the little guy.”


This plan may not be the cure-all for our country’s woes, but it is a start in the right direction!  When you consider the cold reality, what is the shortest road to national success?  Is it healthcare?  Housing?  The financial market? Or jobs?  Which one of these choices relates to President Roosevelt’s declaration that the economy of the country depends on the spending power of the people?  The answer to that question, obviously, is “jobs.” Without consumer confidence and resultant spending, our nation would be reduced to “banana republic” third world status.  Yes, I said “third world” and not “emerging nation.”  Let’s call it what it is, shall we?  Know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.


The recipe for success will lie in the hands of the three parts of our Federal system.  Every citizen, therefore, should be extremely well informed and painstakingly selective when voting for our representatives in 2010 and the future.  And if this article has offended you in any manner, you may very well be a part of the problem and not the solution. 

The Coming Storm

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In the James Hilton novel, Lost Horizon, the High Lama reveals to his predecessor that a great storm is coming to engulf the world.  At the storm’s conclusion, the treasures of Shangri-La (heaven-on-Earth) were promised to emerge, thereby restoring a ravaged world.  In his prognostications, the spiritual leader also echoed Jesus Christ in predicting that the meek would inherit the Earth.


Unfortunately, Lost Horizon is a work of pure fiction.  The truth of the matter is, it will not be a happy ending after the great storm in America subsides.  The storm in question is, of course, the collapse of our financial institutions and, fittingly, the government that allowed it to happen. Although our present administration pontificates that our “recovery” in the wake of the $710 billion bailout is working and the future looks brighter, this storm has been brewing for quite a while now, and no hurricane hunter’s device tossed into its eye is going to deflate it.


California’s Governor has announced that his State can no longer fund itself, and has requested that the Federal government bail it out.  If the former mighty “Conan the Barbarian” can be felled by such a storm, what shelter exists for the common man and woman?  And, California is just the tip of the iceberg, as more States totter on the edge of financial ruin.  How many bailouts can the taxpayers afford?


Despite the rape and pillage of our economy by big business buying off elected officials, there has been no fiscal restraint in Washington or even at the State level. Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul is a strategy that does not work when our President asks citizens to tighten the belt even further as he uses that belt to strangle taxpayers with the costs linked to a proposed national healthcare system.


Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Americans had enjoyed an increasingly prosperous economy from the time that World War II ended, until President Bush, Senior, marched us into Saudi Arabia, thus sending interest rates skyrocketing.  The post-WWII boom began with an exploding housing industry, the advent of technology, and the race to space, which we won.  Considering that a relative blink of an eye earlier, our people were hurling themselves out of buildings due to the Stock Market crash, our fiscal rebound was an amazing accomplishment on a national level!  We pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps following the Great Depression, thanks largely to the institution of FDR’s social programs (including Social Security and Medicare).  Once the war ended, peace and prosperity reigned.


Now deeming these programs “entitlements,” our government claims that their wells of funding are running dry and cannot be sustained. I don’t know about you, but when I hear our Congressmen and media reps talk about “entitlements,” as if it is a dirty world, it makes my blood boil.  If the perks given to our so-called leaders of industry and government are not entitlements, then what is?


The difference between their entitlements and ours is that we average, law abiding, hard-working slobs actually contributed to our programs with our hard-earned dollars, the same as we do when we buy any insurance policy!  There is no doubt in my mind that the program funds were mismanaged, misappropriated, and (oh, why don’t I just come out and say it?) stolen, period, for purposes other than their original intent, which was to support the common workingman and woman!


When the government decides that it is time to take fiscal responsibility and make the first cut in spending, what will be cut?  Will we as a nation reduce aid to foreign countries (a calculated ploy to buy their friendship)?  Will we cut future bailouts to institutions whose CEO’s still crisscross the country in private jets and give immense bonuses to their higher-ups, even as they plead for the handouts?  Will we continue to reward corporations who export American jobs?  My guess is, we will, and thereby will escalate the screwing over of the taxpayers!


If we all manage to survive somehow until 2012, the results of the Presidential election will herald the path that America will take. I portend that fiscal responsibility will not come without pain to America’s citizens.  Cutting spending is akin to attempting to break a bad habit, without being armed with the necessary resources.  Hopefully, wise men and women will step forward to suggest a solution that will ease the suffering while we go through an even bigger withdrawal: the separation from our earnings and the social programs into which we have paid.


Perhaps, in the end, the meek will not inherit the earth.  Perhaps, in the end, only those robust taxpaying souls strong enough and resilient enough will survive yet another national crisis.

How “Great” Is This Recession?

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Great Depression

History has a habit of repeating itself, maybe in not exactly the same sequence. Today’s fiscal woes are a reflection of the Great Depression of the twentieth century.  An economic tailspin ending in financial disaster and many suicides, the Depression began with the collapse of Wall Street in 1929 as a result of greed and speculative trading.  Overnight, millionaires became paupers and America’s lifestyle altered drastically.  President Herbert Hoover turned a blind eye to the situation, erroneously treating it as a market change that would correct itself:  an entire decade would pass before the market rebounded.

 

Wall Street’s collapse impacted the banking industry, which was short on cash. As rumors of a banking failure ran rampant, depositors rushed to retrieve their savings.  It was like that scene from the film It’s a Wonderful Life, where everyone in the small town demanded to pull their money out of George Bailey’s Savings and Loan — except that the 1929 reality was driven by millions of depositors.  Their actions created a domino effect, toppling banking institutions nationwide and causing the economy to hit rock bottom.

 

Unemployment skyrocketed as businesses struggled to stay afloat.  With no income, the housing market took a nosedive; thousands of people lost their homes and farms to foreclosures.  Mother Nature added to the havoc, bringing drought and dust storms that plagued America’s farmlands.  Fearing that all this horror was the wrath of God, people all across the country prayed for forgiveness.  Most of all, they prayed for deliverance.

 

The difference between the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the Great Recession of 2008-09 was that the government did not extend bailouts during the earlier crash.  In addition, insured savings accounts, unemployment insurance, credit cards, and Social Security did not exist.  The future looked bleak in the ’30’s for those who had not jumped out of windows.

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt succeeded Hoover as our nation’s President, inheriting the daunting task of national recovery.  Roosevelt realized the answer to solving the problem lay in the spending power of the people.  To stimulate their spending, he passed the NRA (National Recovery Act), the WPA (Works Project Administration), and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps).  He also instituted the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) and the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).  Roosevelt charged these organizations with the following tasks:

 

The WPA – Getting Americans back into the workforce and earning incomes.

 

The CCC – Taking young, indigent men off the streets to work on public projects.

 

The SEC – Overseeing financial institutions to ensure that they did not engage in fraudulent practices.

 

The FDIC – To bring trust back to the banking industry, so that depositors would reopen their savings accounts.

 

FDR also set up food banks to put food on the table of many starving and undernourished Americans.  He used the radio to broadcast his “Fireside Chats” and thus became a calming and authoritative voice during hard times.

 

As time passed, the President also enacted Social Security. This was a mandatory savings plan designed to enable those who retired at age 65 to enjoy their twilight in dignity.  All of these were the legacy of FDR, the only President in the history of the United States to be elected for four terms.

 

Despite his best efforts to jump-start economy, the Great Depression dragged on.  Its only solution was World War ll.  With the enactment of the draft and the demand for equipment and supplies needed to fight the war, the economy boomed.  Happy days were here again!

 

I lived through the Great Depression and witnessed men begging for food on the streets on cold wintry nights.   I remember how my mother made them sandwiches and hot drinks, and allowed them to sit in the entryway of our row house, out of the biting wind to enjoy the small offerings that must have seemed like manna to them.

 

The saying goes that “out of something bad comes something good.”  The Great Depression brought families together to enjoy each other’s company.  Holidays were anticipated with relish because it meant sitting around the dining room table for a good meal with several generations of our families.  In some respects, we may be a bit better off today with this current recession.  But in others, such as family intimacy and expressions of gratitude for what we still have, we are lacking. 

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