Letters

Letters 10-20-2014

Doctor Dan? After several email conversations with Rep. Benishek, he has confirmed that he doesn’t have a clue of what he does. Here’s why...

In Favor Of Our Parks [Traverse] City Proposal 1 is a creative way to improve our city parks without using our tax dollars. By using a small portion of our oil and gas royalties from the Brown Bridge Trust Fund, our parks can be improved for our children and grandchildren.

From January 1970 Popular Mechanics: “Drastic climate changes will occur within the next 50 years if the use of fossil fuels keeps rising at current rates.” That warning comes from Eugene K. Peterson of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

Newcomers Might Leave: Recently we had guests from India who came over as students with the plan to stay in America. He has a master’s degree in engineering and she is doing her residency in Chicago and plans to specialize in oncology. They talked very candidly about American politics and said that after observing...

Someone Is You: On Sept 21, I joined the 400,000 who took to the streets of New York in the People’s Climate March, followed by a UN Climate Summit and many speeches. On October 13, the Pentagon issued a report calling climate change a significant threat to national security requiring immediate action. How do we move from marches, speeches and reports to meaningful work on this problem? In NYC I read a sign with a simple answer...

Necessary To Pay: Last fall, Grand Traverse voters authorized a new tax to fix roads. It is good, it is necessary.

The Real Reasons for Wolf Hunt: I have really been surprised that no one has been commenting on the true reason for the wolf hunt. All this effort has not been expended so 23 wolves can be killed each year. Instead this manufactured controversy about the wolf hunt has been very carefully crafted to get Proposal 14-2 passed.

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · Back to the Basics
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Back to the Basics

Robert Downes - August 29th, 2011
Back to the Basics
My dad worked on his father’s farm outside Rockford until he was in his early 30s, just as countless sons had done for thousands of years before him.
He started out plowing the fields with a team of horses, tilling up the arrowheads of the Ottawa and Pottawatomi that my brother and I still own today. Later came a tractor, but not much in the way of a paycheck. Yet with his food and board covered by the farm, Dad was able to throw nearly every cent he earned into savings because there was no greater virtue in our family than thrift.
Dad’s family had survived the Great Depression by dint of the fact that they were able to grow their own food. Their one misadventure was when some desperate people stole a pile of newly-harvested beans.
Mom had lived the dirt-poor life on a farm too. By the time I came along, my parents were what would be considered the “working poor” today. Dad had saved enough to buy a Ford (no car payments, of course) and our family lived in a succession of run-down rental homes.
It wasn’t until the Eisenhower administration launched the massive public works project of building the freeways of America that my parents had any hope of buying a home and becoming middle class.
President Eisenhower had witnessed firsthand the inadequate roads of Europe and North Africa during World War II and decreed that the United States needed to build freeways as a matter of national defense. Thus came the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, a freeway network of 46,876 miles which took 35 years to construct. Millions of Americans were employed -- directly and indirectly --- during the 1950s through the ‘70s on what would probably be called a “socialist“ endeavor today. My father was one of those who benefited, serving as a highway inspector on I-696 and later the freeways of Detroit.
This colossal, federal project catapulted my parents into the middle class. At the age of 40, Dad was able to buy their first home, and it was smooth sailing from then on.
But they never forgot the benefits of saving, and I don’t believe that Mom and Dad ever bought a car on credit -- they saved until they had enough money to buy their cars outright. They put their money into stocks and bonds, following a pay-as-you-go plan through life. This strategy led them from dirt-poor farmers to a net worth of more than $1 million by the time they passed away.
That is an aspect of the American way that we’ve somehow lost. We‘ve lost a government that serves its people in their time of need, but also a people who show responsibility by not getting neck deep in debt.
If President Obama has a lick of sense, he will propose a sweeping jobs bill that will put millions back to work, building or renovating our freeways, bridges, subways, train system and parks. He could stand on the shoulders of Republican President Eisenhower and Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt and make a pitch for jobs that America is eager to hear. His own job depends on taking dramatic action now.
Do it!
Where might these funds come from at a time when America is deep in debt with a reluctance to borrow?
For starters, we could wrap up the wars we‘re fighting (covertly and otherwise) in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Columbia and let someone else play World Policeman while we get our own house in order. A recent report claims that the U.S. spent $698 billion on our military last year -- nearly twice the amount spent in 2001. Those billions could be better spent lifting Americans out of poverty and rescuing the middle class.
But if and when prosperity returns to America, one suspects that the new economy will look rather different than the one we knew. As one pundit has noted, “the new norm“ in the world is that of extremely slow economic growth -- possibly for years to come.
For my parents, “economy” went back to the traditional sense of the word: saving money, living within their means, deferring gratification. They never considered buying a lavish home or cars that were far beyond their means.
By contrast, since the 1980s, our economy has been dependent on the principle of “borrow and spend” to the point of exhaustion. Credit cards with 20% interest rates, million dollar homes bought with no money down, the endless cycle of debt that comes with an auto purchase... We’ve seen where that approach has taken us.

Downes‘ ebook: Planet Backpacker: The Good Life Bumming Around the World, is available on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks, illustrated with 75 photos from around the world.
 
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