Archive for November, 2017

Thanksgiving

Well, Thanksgiving day is over, church followed by good company with an excellent dinner at our daughter’s across the street. So, what is there to be thankful for? To start, I took our car to the body shop expecting it to be there for four or five days and I got it back the following one. Not only that, I got a note from the manager hoping that their work was satisfactory. My wife and I are still up and doing-me mostly up and she doing as she always has, particularly in her garden. Our church still has the same great rector. Our cat considers himself as an equal member of the family and inserts himself into every activity. My retirement checks come regularly. Our wonderful daughters keep tabs on us. We have been with our primary care physician since he entered practice and he has good ideas about our ailments.

I could go on, but these examples convey the idea that we are full of gratitude for our lives and looking forward to another year. I hope you have the same prospect.

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New World

Understanding the world you live in depends upon the time when you were born. In my case, my understanding goes back into the late 19th century when my grandparents were born. They lived through the final stages of railroad development that made travel and shipping long distance possible. But, as you know, development continued. From the automobile on, machine development transformed farming and city development and machines unimaginable. World War II broadened, speeded up and involved more of the population. Following the war, the industrial and management capacity were at the level where growth in these two areas, plus educational levels, produced a society that was the basis for economic growth.

As we passed through the later 1900s industrial development pretty much reached its limits. We have followed through into a stage that is different from what I have lived in and I do not completely understand. Computers have given us a capacity for technical development that demands higher levels of education. Today, farming, making things, construction all require less human labor than I would have ever imagined. While I don’t understand where we will be taken technically and socially, I know it will be more intellectually involved than the life I have lived.

 

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The Election

Well, the election is over and the Democrats seem to have done better than the Republicans. How this will work out for next year looks more favorable for the Democrats than their opponents, but that is not always true. The mass of information put out in the media about elections, issues, people, becomes (to me) confusing.

It’s too early to start talking about who the Democrats will select as their candidate for the presidency. For the Republicans, the choice has to be Donald Trump if he decides to run. I think this will be a crucial election. Trump and the Republicans are committed to reducing the size of the federal government by reducing the size of the welfare operations.

My first two presidents were Roosevelt and Truman, both of whom had to fight through wars at the same time they were trying to provide more opportunities for Americans to live better lives. Roosevelt was faced with starving people and no economic growth. Working with Congress, they stopped starvation and began public works projects, Hoover Dam for example. When we were faced with World War II sixteen million young men were taken out of the labor market. This provided work for a variety of minority groups which at that time included women and our total black population. The war over, a variety of projects provided veterans with education through college and, for some, health care. Before these benefits could run out, we were faced with another war in Korea.

It seems to me that these two events led to the assumption that the Federal Government could/should deal with the needs of our population. There were those who raised questions about the expansion of benefits, but politicians found that supporting something that benefitted more of the population was a good way to win elections in most districts. This past election was the first time the winners were those who said the end had come.

People who wanted to cut spending won the last national election. However, they are finding that it is not “my” benefits that should go.

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Harry Truman

By my count, I have lived under thirteen different United States Presidents, beginning with the politically brilliant Franklin Roosevelt to the present slightly unhinged Donald Trump. My favorite, however, is Roosevelt’s successor, Harry Truman. He was the last president who could get out and do things informally. He took morning walks in neighborhoods around the White House. I saw him several times walking through the GWU campus (“You aren’t learning anything sitting around out here, get inside and start studying”), walking to the Riggs bank across the street from the White House. When the White House was being renovated, he walked to and from Blair House across the street. He stood at the intersections waiting for the light to change, engaging in conversation with other walkers. Unfortunately, an attempt by two men to shoot their way into Blair House brought that informality to an end.

I have recently started re-reading his autobiography and I am reminded of why I thought so much of him. His opinions/judgements were very straight forward. One example was his reaction to establishing a permanent intelligence gathering operation. At the conclusion of a discussion about what such an organization should be, he said “I am very much against building up a Gestapo.” It would have been very difficult to engage in further discussion of whatever was being proposed.  (Apparently, that response brought further work as the CIA was established in 1947.)

Another thing that struck me was his reaction to a proposal for the federal government to build a network of airports from coast to coast. The proposition was that flying was to become an addition to railroads as a means of public transportation. He opposed this action because he saw it as pork barrel legislation with federal funds. As air traffic grew, major cities could build and support their own airports when they saw a need.

He followed a man whose ideas about what government should do emerged from a mind that never gave a straight forward approach to anything. Truman’s ideas were very similar to Roosevelt’s, but his approach to implementation was a real difference. I came to see again the man who impressed me when I was setting my character. Listening, discussing, keeping my values in mind and then moving to action has served me well.

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