Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Where Did It All Go...


The real chant at every government meeting should be “Show me the jobs, show me the jobs”.

· My brother’s, uncles and grandfathers worked in the logging industry. They cut and hauled trees. They worked on replanting teams and they handled timber in the mills to make lumber, pulp and wood chips.

· My aunts and grandmother worked in the mills that turned the timber base products into paper and furniture.

· People worked in mines hauling out coal and rock for steel and in mills spinning cloth and canning produce. This country MADE THINGS and INVENTED THINGS and people built houses, bought cars and no one had a credit card.

· If you didn’t have the cash you went to the bank and set across the desk from someone who was dressed in a clean white shirt and talked about how responsible you were and about borrowing money.

The term white collar and blue collar worker was real. Blue collar workers made good money and worked with their hands, mostly in mines, logging, mills, steel, manufacturing and construction. White collar worker (bankers, teachers, insurance men, salesmen) usually made less money but the trade off was they had a clean desk job.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s we were involved in wars. People were fighting for our country and for a better world and in some cases for what they believed was the future of humanity. Families wanted better for future generations and worked hard toward that goal. There were long full days of work and in some cases nights. Education was a stepping stone up for your children and families sacrificed to be sure their children had it whenever possible.

Children made choices early. I can remember entering junior high (7th grade) and being asked if I wanted to go to college or be trained for a future job. You were either college track or it was automotives, typing, cooking and sewing skills. Children were focused on moving up at a young age and colleges expanded and campuses grew.

In the 1960’s (the age of enlightenment, some would say, the age of decadence for others) students at collages started talking about saving the whales, legalizing marihuana and protecting the environment. The students burned bras, marched down streets chanting about a one community world. They dreamed drug smoke clouded dreams of a pure earth as they kicked back under blue, white puffy clouded skies. Everyone would live in harmony, roaming around barefoot in long white robes while singing culturally approved folk songs. Everyone did the “is the universe, as we know it, really a speck of dust on the head of a pin”. It was a new way of thinking and some had the time, or the job opportunities to take and run with it. If you wanted to be hip or ‘with it’ you mouthed the words, thought the thoughts and dreamed the dreams.

By the 1070’s those students were teaching in schools, publishing books and becoming news men. They started living the dreams they had developed during those college years. A wedge started to appear between the blue and while collar workers who worked an eight to ten hour day in a local business, read the local news in the daily paper, sent their kids to local schools and thought buying a decent home a new car and raising a good family was a goal.

A new group of worker began to appear. A group that was based in the education, entertainment and new publication systems across the United States. They didn’t see themselves as blue or white collar workers. They were smarter, they were well educated, they were special. They sometimes continued to go to school as they worked. They were often well traveled, thanks to their jobs and government and local grant programs that were developing. They were aware of international issues talking to others who lived in the same environments across the world. Local issues were boring, unless they impacted them personally. The whole world was opening before them.

Hollywood and the movies and new magazines began to reflect these changes. Televisions were common and brought these world wide images into every home.

· Save the whale, clean air, park spaces, save the world; how could we refuse, so the money poured into newly developed environmental organizations and they become bigger and stronger.
· Help the poor, protect children, medical care, housing and food for the needy; how could we refuse, so the money poured into newly developed social service organizations and they become bigger and stronger.

A new culture and business was developed. We didn’t know it would destroy the world as we knew it as we sent off our dollars for each new important cause. We were just good people, doing good work one dollar at a time.

By the 1980’s time was moving faster. Television was old since we now had the world of computers. All the money we had poured into education, social services and to support saving the environment and endangered species was huge business. These programs had to perform to expand and marchers ranks were added to by a new group of carefully indoctrinated college students and the voices became louder and stronger.

The colleges reached out through computers into local homes and spread the word, college was a right for everyone and if you couldn’t afford it there was money for the poor, funds for the talented in sports and of course the wealthy were accepted. The middle class (remember the blue and white collar families) took out loans, mortgaged their homes and spent their retirements. They were programmed; children had to have collage, didn’t they?

The carefully taught students became the new computer nerds. They were the leaders in the technology revolution. Many of them had time and money, lots of money. They had wealth, a voice and a carefully developed agenda. They were a force to be reckoned with.

Blue collar jobs became dirty jobs. You were destroying the environment, wasting your children’s future. Businesses were taxed for pollution, destroying the world, spiting on the sidewalk. Owners and stockholders watched the money being made in the ‘clean’ tech centers and wanted the same performance results. Blue collar workers wanted the same benefits and wages through their unions. Manufacturing plants closed and began to move to other states. States were competing against each other for the blue collar money jobs.
As jobs began to be lost the cries for more money became louder from the education, environmental and social services agencies. They had to grow to survive.

By the 1990’s manufacturing plants were closing, legislation was started to encourage world wide trade, and jobs were moving to other countries. Television and computers brought the world to our finger tips and we had instant gratification through role playing games and observing the wealthy. Everyone wanted it “all” now and the credit business boomed. The government declared “everyone” was entitled to certain things like housing and we started to become a nation of peeping toms through the development of reality television.

Through television and educational systems our children were taught they were entitled to certain things and reinforced the mantra that we were bad parents if we didn’t provide it. Anyone who was a good parent would want and had to provide the best of everything for their children. Parents no longer determined what was “best” it was determined through television and social networking groups. Cell phones were a must have and there was a new thing being developed that would be texting.

As jobs began to be lost the cries for more money became louder from the education, environmental and social services agencies. They had to grow to survive and the government began to aide them through community grants and special funding, carefully explaining they were necessary. What the average person didn’t see was that while we were working it became those agencies job to lobby, wine, dine and pay politicians for more and more. We worked and they played and grew on our dollars.

Education, insurance and social service business became the new jobs. Of course they had lower pay and benefits. So contributions to support saving the environment and endangered species tightened up. It was a loud voice which had to all be funded so they also turned to the government through lower public schools, community colleges, and through social networking they gathered up more public money which they used to make their voices louder and stronger, bringing in even more public money.

By 2000 the blue collar worker in the United States was almost gone. The work had been sent to countries, with lower, or no taxes, no penalties for pollution and cheap labor. Almost everything was imported with no or little penalties for outside the US production, while what little we still produced had to meet a growing list of environmental requirements and was taxed as it entered other countries.

We were beginning to have little to sell that other countries really wanted (most were already producing it) and money was tightening. We were borrowing more and living off of loans from other governments. We were still trying to support the growing social services, medical and educational programs that were sucking down in some states over half of their budgets.

What I just outlined is simplistic and of course there were other things happening. There were wars, equal rights, social demonstrations, politics, a huge flood of undocumented workers, endangered species to defend and tech toys to develop for other countries to produce. We have worked hard over almost a half a century to eliminate jobs and destroy the incomes, culture and pride of a large percentage of people in this country.

It all goes back to one need for the average citizen. If you offer me a good job, with decent benefits, I will work hard and raise my family well. I don’t mind sharing some with others, but it’s my decision to do that, not yours.

When I was growing up, we had ‘real’ jobs. I worked some of those real jobs in the 60’s and 70’s, we will never bring back the baseline, where people value themselves and their work, until the jobs come back and the creation of those jobs has to be a focus for this country to move forward.

To get to those jobs we may have to set aside some of our half century of ‘social consciences’ and get down to what matters for life today. OUCH, did I really say that, well yes I did and unfortunately I mean it too. I think it’s more important we have jobs than parks. If we have jobs the parks will come.

I think we are an inventive country and we will figure out how to clean it up and do it right, but I also believe we also have to DO IT. “Show me the jobs”.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Home Sweet Home

My husband and I have worked hard all of our lives. We have saved, invested and planned, for our future. This included retirement, burial, and maybe a little something for our children. We worked eight-hour days, never drew unemployment and took classes. We advanced in our jobs, saved money and eventually bought a house, which we sold to buy a bigger house.

We mow our lawn, plant flowers, clean and take care of maintenance to protect our main investment, which is our home.

Out of five children, three have their own homes (they are still paying on them I assume). We all completed tons of paperwork, made huge down payments that we scrapped together, and waited weeks to go through the home ownership process.

Now we have discovered one of the major problems with the economic down turn was people being allowed to purchase homes they could not afford, with nothing down.

Considering what we went through to purchase a house, I want to know how that could happen.

Evidently we have three sets of rules in the housing finance market.
· One for the very rich;
· One for the average middle class worker; and
· One for the poor.

The very rich can purchase anything, because of course they will pay. It’s not always a “true” assumption, but it seems to work out most of the time so it’s probably a valid belief. There are a lot of million dollar homes on the market so maybe it needs to be reevaluated, but it’s a different league than I play in so I really can’t speak to how they manage to finance a three or four million dollar house.

BUT, when I look at the figures I have to wonder how it actually works based on our experience. Our house payment was based on being no more than one third of our income and a payment on a four million dollar house should be about forty thousand a month (depending on taxes). The purchaser should have not only a sizeable down payment but a sustainable salary of over a million a year to be able to even walk into a bank and talk about such a purchase.

As to how the rules for the poor work, I remember we had to show Form W2’s for two years and prove our continuing income status before someone would even talk to us. This means I also find it hard to understand how someone could get a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar house based on one pay stub and a handshake.

While I can understand having a home is the “American Dream” a dream many people work all of their lives for and value, something clearly went wrong?

· Who looked at the forms people were filing;
· Who did the credit checks;
· Who reviewed the employment verifications and job references; and
· Who called for proofs of employment?

Those are the people I would like to have the names of, those are the people who should no longer be employed, who should not be working in the housing field. (This would free up some jobs.) No one has been taken to court that I know of for filling out forms incorrectly so someone had to look at these bad loans and made the decision to allow them. I would like to know when the investigation starts and the where the buck stops.

Someone allowed and signed for thousands of mortgages that were clearly bad. Who is that person? Where are the investigators, the auditors? Who set the rules that allowed this and more important “what was THIS”?

Monday, November 2, 2009

About me.

I am a daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Above all I am a proud citizen of the United States of American and I love this country; warts and all.

What I am seeing happening to this country today concerns me; and since I am seeing people put their thoughts (some of them inane) into blogs I decided to do the same.

Luckily I have a daughter who is helping me; since while I can program a simple COBOL program the configuration of this process is something I just don’t have the time to learn and with her assistance I also don’t have too.

Lately I have had my children contacting me about their concerns for the future. It’s been hard for me to give them much advice or assistance, because I have a lot of concerns myself. The biggest concern is about their future and mine.

· I have told them to hunker down, hang onto their money, pay their bills, honor their debts.

· I have told them to be careful of banks, credit cards and strangers.

· I know this advice isn’t good for the economy. That we need to spend and spend to make everything work. We also need to have stable jobs to make everything work.

· The promise I have told them to make is “when the government takes care of the one (jobs), we will take care of the other (spending)”.