Friday, November 4, 2011

4 November 1957 “1957 or 1937: The Modern World Encroaches into the Past”

First of all, let me thank all of you for such wonderful birthday wishes. It felt so wonderful to get such warm wishes from so many. Thank you again, all of you.


50sfamily2 Today I wonder if I am thinking more of the 1950’s family of plenty or the 1930’s family of want?depressionfamily

For the most part, I only access current information online through various sources. We don’t watch TV and don’t have access to modern cable. Which is fine for me, because whenever I see any ‘news’ programs on at friends homes I just have to laugh. It is more entertainment and speculation and heresy than news. I suppose when one has to keep up a 24 hour news cycle anything can be news and even speculation or what ‘he said’ gets air time. Something Walter Cronkite would have never stood for, but I digress.

What I have noticed when I research various things for future posts is more and more similarities showing up that pin the modern day more to 1937 than my usual research into 1957. Before I go on, let me just say to anyone that I am NOT saying today is as bad as the Depression. But, we must also remember that it has not yet got as bad as the Depressions years because the Social reforms which we now have came OUT of the Depression. So we are going into our current bad state with many things in place, such as unemployment, food stamps, various welfare, Social Security and so on. What is frightening to me, of course, is with these schemes firmly in place we still see a bumpy road ahead.

I also cannot help but see parallels in images such as thesedepressionprotest1.depressionprotest2with these of today.modernprotestsSurely today we see less “I want a job” sign (though we do see those as well) because our government reforms of the 1930’s are still in place as of now. But, we see that while we once were upset by the financial world into no jobs and lost homes and farms, we see now that the financial ruin of 2008 has left us wondering why so much went to those with so much who were indeed the cause of the current melt down.


moderndustbowlEven this image of a modern day farmer in the South West here on his farm with the dustbowl storm stirring up. It certainly has its twin in the Depression Dust Bowl Days.30sdustbow2In both situations we act as if there is a variety of reasons for the storms. When the simple fact was after the land was given out during the 1860’s, you farm five acres you keep it, the very nature of the land changed. What was once endless grassland prairies became increasingly large farms from 1900 through 1920s. The land had been set up to keep its top soil by the very nature of the densely planted wild grasses and wind breaks of hedgerows and forest interspersed. As these were cleared more and more and more area with no wind breaks and loosened top soil were formed, the same wind we always had simply gained speed and swept through taking with it the topsoil needed for both growing and holding down the substrate of sand!

30sdustbowlthen and nowmoderndustbowl2

What is amazing to me is, we may not have known then to not farm that way (Though if we simply recalled our ancestry farming in England and Europe, we would have kept hedgerows and multi-crop rotations, as it wasn’t a ‘new’ idea.) However, after the Depression we DID know why it had happened. Even simple things as plowing a certain type of furrow helps maintain topsoil, but after WWII we were inundated with chemicals from the wartime. These industry wanted to find new ways to sell  their product. And today we are again faced with dust bowls. This time, again, we have cleared TOO much to form TOO LARGE vast areas of farming. And today that same topsoil problem is solved with endless chemicals. Chemicals that require farmers to wear masks when spreading, so now this gets mixed in with the ‘dust bowl storms’ and who knows where it shall spread?

Even the drought aren’t simply an ‘act of God’, but as wetlands were removed to make more land to plant less water is available to go up into the atmosphere and make rain and then collect up to do it again. It is simple land science one would have learned in their McGuffey reader, yet we act as if we can’t understand why these things are happening. When really we are simply TOLD a variety of things so as not to try and figure the real problem and then we can argue amongst ourselves rather than fix the problem. Leaving, of course, the solution to large corporate farms and new chemical products to ‘save’ us.

Once, even farms were more part of the ‘small mans’ domain. A local farmer grew a variety of crops and could make a business for his sons or daughters to inherit.

What is interesting is as the farms grew larger, and smaller farmers were forced out until we have what we have today: a very small percentage compared with the 1930s, we were told it was because it allowed the greater populace as a whole to spend less of their income on food. We are seeing that today, that is no longer in the case. If one wants to buy cheap fast food, perhaps it is cheaper, but much of what we consume is not even grown in our country anymore. And those jobs of farm laborers and helpers to farmers are now mainly done by cheap labor from other countries. Thus, we can see how the increase in farm size and decrease in farm labor adds greatly to more job and career loss for the population at large. As well as less actual control over the environment to grow food ourselves if we so chose as a business model.

 usfarmworkdata Today, many small farmers have to have off-farm jobs to supplement their income. We can see here that in 1930 only 30 % of farmers worked off farm, while today 93 percent do.

Another interesting point is that during the Depression many farm subsidizes started. It was to help sustain the dying land and farmers. Today, however, many such ‘farmers’ are simply corporations run by a few hard pressed farmers. These farms still receive money for over growing products such as corn for corn syrup which, as a food crop, is inedible unless processed into that sugar substitute.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture distributes between $10 billion and $30 billion in cash subsidies to farmers and owners of farmland each year.

More than 800,000 farmers and landowners receive subsidies, but the payments are heavily tilted toward the largest producers.” INFO HERE.

indymac Another parallel I found was the odd scenes of people standing in line at banks to close out accounts. Here we see people this July in line at the closing of Indymac Bank:

The closing of IndyMac in July, the third-biggest U.S. bank failure, may cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s fund $4 billion to $8 billion, in addition to an estimated $1.16 billion for seven closures through Aug. 1. Premiums for insuring deposits will likely rise, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said in a July 30 interview.

The major difference being that today the FDIC exists because of what happened in the 1930s. However, because the FDIC exists to back up the accounts of individuals in failing banks still means that money has to come from our tax payer money rather than from the bank itself as its failure to handle our money give to them.

``It's going to be a bloody, expensive mess for the banking industry,'' said Bert Ely, president of Ely & Co. Inc., a bank consulting firm based in Alexandria, Virginia. ``Healthy banks are paying for the mistakes made by failed banks.''

The potential $9.16 billion in withdrawals would be the highest since the insurance account was created in 1933, said Diane Ellis, the FDIC's associate director of financial-risk management.”

A situation more akin to the 1930’s was the recent lines at Bank of America, when customers wanted to close their accounts due to a hike in monthly debit card holder fees. One can understand such anger by their customers when we consider that Bank of America received 50 billion of the bailout money as well as 118 billion in Federal guarantees against futures financial woes. And, many customers were literally barred at the door by police from closing out their own accounts, despite the fact that the Bank is a healthy solvent bank which had no claim to stop individuals from claiming their own money.

And a similar situation happened in NY when customers in Citibank were locked into the building and refused to be allowed to close their accounts. One woman on the street waiting to get in for regular Banking business was arrested. Today, however, with the easy access to video phones we are more aware of such injustice, so it begs to see what sort of result such protests and militant actions on the part of the big banks will result in.

I am immediately drawn to the scene in “Its a Wonderful Life” when Jimmy Stewart’s character has to stop a run on his families small lending organization. When he explains the money is lent out to the neighbors of those trying to get their money and he willingly gives up his own honeymoon money to tide people over, it warms our hearts.

I watched that movie recently with a friend. We had not seen it in years and we felt ‘Christmassy’. I was taken by how differently I now view that ‘evil character’ Mr. Potter. At once I thought he was simply a Plot device to embody the evil of the time, but now watching it, in our current climate, he seems almost mild in comparison to the various people and ‘corporate people’ in the guise of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and so on. It made we wish, even more, that our TRUE Capitalism could be in the hands of the free people. Small business in small communities helping one another for profit for THAT community and its inhabitants.

Today, how can we say we have a ‘free market’ when a bank far too large to have failed was indeed GOING to fail and therefore got money from the government to help it. What small mom and pop, when Wal-Mart rolled into town, received Government money from the ‘Free’ market to save it? I fear that we have found ourselves in the world that Jimmy Stewart found after his guardian angel made him never been born. His small town became Potters-ville and was owned by one man, one corporation. And with that, very fittingly, we see more seedy areas such as the old bar owned by the character Martini turned into a dive to survive.

I have been a small business owner and I can tell you there was no one there to bail me out as the larger ‘too big too fail’ multi chains rolled in offering everything super cheap. Why have we let it all get out of our hands? I heard a quote from some woman, I can’t recall her name, but she said in defense of ‘millionaires’ that we need them for jobs. “Who” asked she, “Has ever been hired by someone who isn’t a millionaire”.

I found that such a scary lie to spread. There were once MANY people hired by simple middle class people. A few years back, when I owned a shop, I hired people and had three designers and two drivers on my payroll of my little shop. I was NOT a millionaire. In fact I struggled to keep my little business afloat but I paid people OVER minimum wage and I was simply ‘one of them’. Towns and even cities were once filled with employers who were not millionaires providing jobs for others in their community. Such a concept only shows the sickness of our times. That Advertising seems to be the utmost import to any political or news movement. It is very scary. I am frightened for many people who simply have to be lead by whichever ‘side’ they choose. Because, in all honesty, they are both the same side. One has only to look and see that Democrats Big Government and Republicans Big Business are two sides of the same coin. They work in tandem to continue to warp and change our world into one further and further our of the hands of the majority. Small towns are all but gone, there is little chance for individuals to start small business or small manufacturing to provide jobs for their own area as most manufacturing was made huge by a few and priced out of our country by moving overseas. I don’t know why we allowed it all except that we were simply to passive. We were allowed to become to ‘relaxed’ in all the wonder of our ‘retail therapy’.

And there is another glaring difference from the Depression to our Recession. At the time people did not have guaranteed money coming in to tide them over and to then use to go buy i-pods or the latest cell phone to text their friends. There were not endless knit tops on sale racks for 3$ at local big box stores to make one feel they ‘have things’, while their credit card debt piles up and one more local clothing shop has to shut down to compete and one more future homemaker can’t even fathom sewing their own clothes.

The levels to which our current world has infiltrated our abilities to truly live is immense. There are MANY things in the modern world that I am glad of. Medicine being one of the main and even the technology that allows us to communicate like this. But, I wonder have we even the power to go against any of it? I am scared that even those who now protest will simply get co-opted somehow by some talking head or some political party or some corporate power to shift the tides to simply lead us to another level of less freedom in our country. MORE regulations in our daily lives?

Even when we begin to see that it is the banks and the money that controls the world and that the Government is simply made up of and appointed by those same financial institutions and kept interest in by their lobbyists, one is frozen. What can we, the little people, really do?

All I can do, as a homemaker, is to plan. Being a homemaker, that very career path, is based in planning, preparation and lists. Therefore I feel it the duty of any homemaker to be up on what ‘may’ be coming and to plan for it. I know already that my food bill is such that when I shopped two weeks ago using an old 1955 list I had which cost me then $40 (this was 2009 now remember) cost me $72 today! In three years that is the increase in foods for me in my area. So, all along I have been altering my shopping list.

Recently to get back to $40, which is quite a challenge, I have an even more early 1950’s menu in that we don’t eat big cuts of meat all week long. I can’t afford it, so it is spread out through the week in casseroles and various bakes while the big meal dinner of chicken or beef happens on a Sunday. We are fine with that, but it does beg the question, what will it be in the next three years? Will $40 not buy me even enough to get by? Now, I am able to have hubby’s lunch be carved out of the weekly food and my own at home luncheon has become much more crumbs of this or that to keep the flour and sugar supplies down. It might help my waistline in the end!

I know this has been a rather lengthy post and I don’t want it to be political but merely to point out where we are. Because as a homemaker knowing what you have to work with is the cornerstone of successfully running your home. When we have to work with less (Such as ingredients such as flour which has doubled in price for me since three years ago) you learn to stretch what you do have. However, along with the prices rising, incomes seem to be stagnant.

This has often left me wondering should I try and return to the outside the home job market? Am I foolish to not begin to gather up as much extra cash as we can? I have gone back and forth with this with myself and with hubby. It is a tough decision. First off, there are less jobs available, so there is no guarantee that I could even get one. But, thus far, I have decided against it. We feel if we continue to make adjustments and live with what we currently have, we can still plan for the future. My skill set keeps improving our ability to live with less as the bad times continue.

I think I am going to do a few posts about the 1930’s and today and begin to look at more frugal ways to live now. I think our role as homemaker, rather it is our full time job or not, is even more important at a time like this. Prices rise, income stays the same or simply goes away due to layoffs, we need to know how to feed, clothe and shelter ourselves. I only hope we aren’t heading down a road to any great war. But, if that does happen, as many homemakers before us did, we shall persevere and we shall overcome.

Happy Homemaking.

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