In October 2006, the Democratic Party seemed likely to win control of
the US Congress for the first time in around 15 years. They constantly
referred to their desire to increase the Minimum Wage rate. They had
been frustrated that the controlling Republican Party had stopped many
attempts by the Democrats to raise the Minimum Wage during those years. They
also often pointed out that the Republican Congress had given THEMSELVES
around eight major pay increases during that time, up to a final of about
$170,000/year for Senators.|
It seemed really obvious to me that the Democrats had an incredible opportunity available to them!
I was aware that virtually ALL of the people in Congress are relatively wealthy. They essentially NEEDED to be in order to get elected in the first place! And I was aware that hundreds of millions of dollars is spent during a Presidential election campaign.
My thought? It was that one or more Democrats, IMMEDIATELY AFTER winning the November 2006 election, would hold a Press Conference. Since it seemed clear to me at the time that Barack Obama was likely to soon declare his intention to run for the Presidency, and given his personality, I thought then that he would have been an ideal Spokesperson for however many Democrats would choose to do this action. The action would be to inform the Paymaster for Congress that that INDIVIDUAL (Democratic) Congressman or Senator was CHOOSING to only accept MINIMUM WAGE paychecks UNTIL Congress would pass the Bill raising the Minimum Wage rate!
The point was to let tens of millions of workers KNOW that the Democrats that chose to do this CARED, and that they WANTED TO SHARE IN THE SUFFERING (at least until the Minimum Wage rate was raised.)
Think about how PRACTICAL this idea was! Yes, someone like Barack Obama would have given up some money, in going from $170,000 per year down to around $10,000 per year. In the two years until the November 2008 election, that would total around $320,000 that he would have given up. But we have seen that the 2008 election is going to cost a total of over a BILLION dollars in advertising!
And, guess what? Wouldn't all those Reporters ask the Republican candidates about that subject as well? And what could they say???
Self-Sufficiency - Many Suggestions|
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In fact, try to imaging seeing a "political commercial" that showed Michelle Obama calling Barack and the kids to the kitchen for dinner. Like in all other families, they ask "What's for dinner?" and she says "Macaroni and Cheese" And they all say in unison "Again?"
And then Barack says to Michelle "You know that I like mac and cheese, but we have it so often! Can't you give us more variety in meals? Can't we have steaks?" And Michelle says "Well, get your Senator buddies and the Representatives to pass the Law raising the Minimum Wage rate. THEN we can go back to our normal budget, and you and the kids can have your steaks! But as long as we are living on Minimum Wage, this is about the best food we can hope for, so get used to it!"
Why would ANY voter not vote for him for President? Why would ANY voter vote for any Republican who tried to run against any Democrat who chose to do this? The result would certainly have been the biggest landslide that has ever occurred, and it might have even ended the viability of the Republican Party! I suspect that at least some of the Democrats would win with more than 90% of the votes!
Not bad for just giving up around $300,000, for people who ALL have many millions!
And in any Debates, how could any Republican (still receiving the $170,000 each year), possibly compete against the Democrat where EVERY voter would already know about the "living on Minimum Wage"? In fact, the Moderator of such Debates would certainly choose to bring up the subject, and the Republican could not possibly avoid looking like a selfish jerk who does not care about the voters!
I actually had a number of other "populist" type of ideas that I shared with Obama and Dean and the many other known Democrats, late in 2006. One of my favorites is also described in that note (which is linked just above). Some politicians like to claim that WE own all the parts of our government. But their actions rarely give that any credibility! It seemed to me that there was a way to magnify that claim! Late in 2006, I attempted to estimate the TOTAL surface area of all the walls of the Capitol Building, and I divided that area by the total population of the United States. I got a number that seemed to me to represent the actual area of that Building that would be (technically) actually OWNED by each Citizen! It turned out to be fairly small, about the size of a postage stamp! But still!
I had even started to think about "assigning" different rooms of the Capitol to different States, and I found that it would be fairly easy to make what scientists call a conformal map! Each property lot would have an easily assigned (by computer, actually) location on a wall or ceiling or floor of some room in the Capitol Building, and that location could (easily) be presented in a web-site about this project. Any Citizen could then go to a web-site (which does not yet actually exist!), type in his address and name, and a photo of some wall or ceiling or floor of the Capitol would appear, with a little red rectangle shown outlined on it!
I thought it would be a pretty cool thing to do! Along the lines of reassuring American Citizens that their importance had not been forgotten (or was being now remembered!) And, yes, the conformal map would assign larger areas for high-rise apartment buildings, where each resident would still be able to see their outlined area!
And, yes, places like bathrooms and storage rooms would not be included! Each person (family) might then GO TO WASHINGTON, having their own red laser pointer with them, to VISIT their spot on the wall or floor or ceiling. (Of course, my suggestion included a comment where government employees would maintain their spot, so the Citizens had no responsibility to be washing or painting or otherwise maintaining their area!)
An assortment of such small and simple "events" (ten of them) were outlined in notes I sent to leading Democrats, late in 2006. They were all along the same vein as the Capitol ownership theme, of telling the American public in assorted ways that "someone really cares" and "someone is really listening.". Like Senators and Representatives secretly making arrangements with "average Citizens" about spending an evening or a night or a day with their family. Secretly, for security reasons. But as they were LEAVING, all the Reporters would be alerted and the family and the Congressperson would have a photo moment. I felt that such events might help Congress to escape from their Ivory Tower environment, where they might actually KNOW the daily lives of their Constituents. And the news coverage would aid Citizens in having confidence that that Congressperson seemed to really care!
You might note that each of those suggestions of mine involve extremely little cost to the government, usually none at all. And very little money or cost in any form, even to a Campaign. Again, the theme of "relating to the public and awareness of costs of things."
However, there WAS a rather darkly amusing detail! In JUNE 2007, (SEVEN MONTHS LATER), I received FIVE Form Letters from each of Obama's Offices (virtually all on the same day). The (same) Form Letter "thanked me for caring" and asked me to contribute money to his election campaign! The Form Letter also apologized for the delay, saying that Barack gets a lot of mail! But the Form Letters made it crystal clear that NO ONE had actually read my suggestions! Other than using my letters to add more names to the Mailing List for the election campaign, I wonder if any of them even opened my envelopes?
Hmmmmm! Did it inspire confidence in me regarding Obama? Where NO ONE really cared to read my comments? Where it took them seven months to simply send me a Form Letter? What kind of President would that imply that he would be?
So I decided to send E-MAILS to Obama again. They seemed to not have any idea how to confront Palin in the campaign, and she has therefore been freely making the most extreme and vicious attacks on Obama with no response whatever! So it occurred to me that the Obama campaign could make a number of TV ads which centered on the FACT that McCain HAD ONLY EVER EVEN MET PALIN ONCE BEFORE offering her the Vice Presidency!
It seems to me that that incident clearly shows that McCain makes rash and irrational decisions. I thought that proposed ads would ask viewers whether they would have Married their Spouse after only once having met before, for a few minutes!
What I thought was excellent about this was that it did NOT make any attacks or allegations on Palin, but instead pointed out the aberrant decision making of McCain!
Around two weeks later (amazingly fast for them, I suppose), I even received an e-mail response! But the writer was some very minor Secretary working for Obama, and even THAT person never actually read my note! But he/she DID see the name Palin, and so the response (which might have been a form letter) thanked me for caring, told me that they did not intend to attack Palin, and then got to the IMPORTANT part where they asked me to give a donation!
You can probably imagine that these attempts at helping caused me to become on mailing lists which have been incredibly difficult to get removed from. Someone removes my name, but then someone else finds it and puts my name back on!
I suppose that I have another suggestion for the Obama campaign of the rest of this year (2012). It is actually an idea that I had tried to suggest for the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton last year. For the marriage, I wanted someone to find a nice photo of the Queen and William and Kate, and make it into an electronic file. Each pixel of the resulting file would then be defined as a color, identified by the six-character RGB code for that pixel. I proposed that each of the million school children in the British Commonwealth would have the opportunity to make a small square or rectangle (maybe like a 3x5 index card size), with the correct color on one side, and the child's name, address, and age on the back, along with a POSITION CODE number as well (which identified the exact location of that pixel. The premise was that Britain would receive the many millions of mailed in letters containing the colored cards, and in an airport hangar, workers would mount the cards in the correct places on twenty-foot-square panels of plywood. The various plywood panels would be laid out on the hangar floor to create a huge picture of the Queen and the Couple! (it would all be waterproofed in case of rain, but then during the night before the Wedding, the plywood panels would be transported to a large building wall to assemble for the world to see. The INVOLVEMENT of all the children of the British Commonwealth was the point, a sort of grass-roots aspect for an event where Royalty commonly ignored normal people.
Please realize the SCALE of what I proposed! Ten 3x5 cards is about one square foot, so that photo could have been 100,000 square feet, or about a 300-foot-square total picture!
So the suggestion now is to ask several hundred thousand American students to do the same, toward a giant image that would have been a centerpiece of the Democratic Convention in the Fall. Not the Queen, but certainly an American Eagle, a flag, an apple pie, mom, the Obama family, and workers in a factory. Or any better image that might be appropriate.
Of course, like in 2008, no one involved with the Obama campaign would ever read this web-page. But the idea is that ANYTHING that strengthened the bond between Middle Class and Lower Middle Class Americans and Obama, might be good.
For the record, I am not a Democrat. However, I have watched Romney make many amazing statements during the Primaries in order to woo Extreme Conservative Republicans, and I am fearful for the Nation if the bizarre Republican House of Representatives had a Republican President that would sign into law anything they dream up. I see Mr. Obama as very intelligent and very thoughtful, and would probably prefer seeing our future in his hands rather than in Romney's.
Did you realize that YOUR family just gave $10,000 to that bailout for Wall Street? It was $700 billion, and there are around 70 million families in the US. We each will therefore eventually provide another $10,000 for those giant Corporations!
The saddest part is that it WILL have a positive effect, but only a very small one! The CONFIDENCE of Wall Street and some bankers will be better for at least a few weeks (until after the Election!) but any actual benefit is expected to only BEGIN after two or three months! And even though the Government again decided to throw huge amounts of our Taxpayer money at a problem (remember the $100 billion that Bush threw at the Hurricane Katrina damage, where it was later documented that only around ONE billion (1%) of it actually went to productive use [and much of New Orleans STILL has piles of debris from Katrina, now, four years later!]), they entirely missed the CENTRAL problem and simply SAW the Wall Street part of it.
They seem to insist that there will be SIMPLE solutions and EASY ones where Americans could continue to believe they are in prosperity (just like when Bush invaded Iraq, it became the FIRST war ever where Americans did NOT have higher taxes and major personal sacrifices, another sign that no one really understands how enormous this problem really is.)
For at least 20 years, the MAJORITY of Americans have SPENT more than they could possibly afford (mostly due to the existence of credit cards) and the whole CONCEPT of SAVING is something that few modern Americans seem to comprehend! In other words, some REALLY charismatic leader will need to TAKE CHARGE and LEADERSHIP (like Lincoln or FDR or TR or Kennedy or Reagan did) and somehow CONVINCE Americans that they now need to LEARN to live WITHOUT many of the things that they have insisted on having! Maybe FDR or George Washington could have done it, but I do not see ANY current leader capable of that. Is ANYONE going to give up their cel-phone that they pay close to $1,000 each year for? Or their cable TV for which they also pay around $1,000 each year? Or buying and throwing away EVERYTHING very quickly?
The fact that the American people are NOT going to tolerate such changes in their lifestyles is going to force the bad times to last at least another year or two, beyond the couple years that all Economists seem to think. It will ONLY be AFTER most Americans CONCEDE that the good times are over and we will each need to re-evaluate EVERYTHING in our lives. And I am not really sure that a SERVICE ECONOMY will fit in with that very well! Are people who are having trouble finding enough money for food really going to keep paying Lawn Maintenance companies $1,000 each year to mow their lawns? (A thousand other Service businesses could be inserted in that sentence.)
COULD the US ever LEARN to be a manufacturing country again? I actually doubt it! I used to listen to some neighbors who worked for General Motors in a Union job COMPLAINING about the fact that they ONLY were being paid around $70/hour (for essentially WATCHING robot machines actually do the job they used to do). And I knew at the time that there were many people in other countries who were receiving the equivalent of $0.25/hour for similar or harder work! After NAFTA and GATT were enacted around 1992, American workers have now needed to COMPETE with workers throughout the world. And so virtually EVERY manufacturing factory has moved to other countries to have such people do the work. So ARE American workers going to agree to being paid $1/hour, so that the manufacturing Executives would find it attractive to move their factories back to the US? Yeah, right! Of course, WE have Minimum Wage anyway, so even if American workers were WILLING to do that, no Manufacturer would be allowed to pay them such low rates. So it seems to me that all those manufacturing jobs are PERMANENTLY lost from the US.
So what will people be doing in five years to try to earn enough money for food on the table? How high did the Unemployment rate get in the Great Depression of the 1930s? Around 25% of all (male) adults were unemployed in 1933. Even seven years later, the Unemployment Rate was still around 18%. I just heard John McLaughlin say on his TV show that he thinks the current (2008) Unemployment of around 6% will be at least 11% NEXT YEAR (2009). I concur, and suspect that by about 2010, the Unemployment rate figures to start to match that of the Great Depression (and quite possibly, far exceed it, partly because the number of jobs is finite and now the workforce includes nearly twice as many people, men and women.)
Around 1918, Germany went through such a situation, and their government started printing money as fast as they could. Postage stamps of that era soon had face values of BILLIONS of pfennigs, at a time when US stamps were just a penny or two. A loaf of bread required a wheelbarrow-full of money to buy!
So, exactly HOW is the US going to avoid such a situation? Absolutely NO ONE does any thinking about FUTURE problems! They simply CONFRONT each problem as they become aware of it (and throw billions of dollars at it!) Bush's War in Iraq and his Administration's wild spending (while insisting on tax cuts for all Americans, which eliminated much of the possible source of funds) has gotten our country to a point where there ARE situations where it could RUN OUT OF MONEY! Before 2010, it seems certain that it will! But with printing presses, they can just make a lot more (paper) money, which will have the effect of DEVALUATING the almighty dollar. My guess is that by 2010 or 2011, there will be one or more devaluations where the dollar then will be worth about HALF what it is now. I do not see how this could be avoided, and the consequences will be incredibly bad, for everyone, personally and for each country and society.
People who are working will (eventually) THINK they are making a lot, because they will (eventually) be paid a lot. But if a gallon of milk is then $10 and a gallon of gasoline is $30, they may THINK that they have a lot of money but it will not BUY very much.
I am a fairly smart person, but even I do not see ANY way that such things could be avoided. No one else seems to have even THOUGHT about such things, which seem to me virtually CERTAIN to occur WITHIN FIVE YEARS or so. They seem to only be interested in thinking about whatever disaster happened TODAY or THIS WEEK!
Maybe they HAVE thought about these things but realize that if the public even THINKS that something like this is coming, there would be total panic and possibly even anarchy. So maybe leaders who have actually contemplated these matters simply CHOOSE to stay silent, for having no good ideas to express. Do we Americans really want to be kept in the dark about horrific economic things that seem certain to be our future? Maybe most do, to avoid becoming scared. For me, I prefer to KNOW such things, such that I might try to learn how to grow my own vegetables and fruits and otherwise try to become self-sufficient as much as possible. Without being given such dire information, it seems to me that countless millions of Americans will very suddenly be confronted with totally hopeless situations, for which they will have to make sudden and rash decisions. That CANNOT be good!
There is a REALLY bad part of this current situation, which did not exist in the 1930s! OK! So SOMEHOW, YOU scrimp enough to actually be able to put food on your table five years from now, at a time when 25% of American adults are unemployed and not being able to. That IS SUPPOSED to be an example of the American Dream, of working hard and saving and all the rest, and getting ahead. But there is a NEW part of modern life. There are MORE guns in the US than there are people! I read somewhere that about 1/4 of all guns that exist are attack weapons like the famous AK-47. A HUNDRED starving families near you will quickly realize that YOU have food! And a LOT of them have lots of guns! YOU will either need to buy and use an AK-47 attack weapon and kill hundreds of people who will attack your house and family, or you will be the victims of such people when they decide to TAKE what you have. Since I am a person who already has devices to provide heat and water and electricity and some food crops, I see myself being an early target for such behavior! And since I cannot imagine myself gunning down starving people, I do NOT see what I would do in such situations! (Therefore, I have a 100% expectation to permanently move to New Zealand, hopefully prior to any of that happening to me!)
I do NOT see how there could be enough Police to deal with hundreds of thousands of such attacks every day.
Now, I admit that this is a REALLY dark viewpoint! And I HOPE that such a situation will never happen. But should we really WAIT and sit and trust our leaders to protect us, until we see such things happening to our neighbors? So these thoughts are (currently) intended as potentially prophylactic, of simply THINKING about such possibilities to see how we might deal with them. In the 1950s and early 1960s, many people built Bomb Shelters under their houses, IN THE EVENT that there might be a nuclear war. Were they stupid for doing so? Maybe. But what if an American President or a Soviet Premier had a bad day and decided to launch an attack? Since NO ONE knows what the future will actually be, it seems prudent to at least CONSIDER as many contingencies as possible, to try to think of what our reactions might be.
So I HOPE that Wall Street and the Banks and the American public are all able to get back to their rampant prosperity. This is one time that I truly hope that my dark thoughts above are all totally wrong! And I am not a betting person, but I wonder if we even have a 50-50 chance of seeing that prosperity in five years.
Actually, my presenting many of the "self sufficiency concept" web-pages (of simple and economical ways of providing warmth and water and even food), for free, are meant to possibly become well enough known that IF we wind up in such desperate situations, individuals MIGHT be able to improve their lives. I AM aware that very few people will really use many of those concepts while prosperity still seems to be the norm. Only tree-huggers are currently really likely to use them now!
Again, I actually HOPE that all of our lives will remain very comfortable and prosperous, where very few people even NEED to use my various concepts and devices in these web-pages. But, just in case ...
However ... I found a description of the Depression of the 1930s in the 1992 Grolier Encyclopedia and it seems to me to be terrifyingly familiar-sounding today! Here is an excerpt. I have highlighted some of the text:
The economic depression that beset the United States and other
countries in the 1930s was unique in its magnitude and its
consequences. At the depth of the depression, in 1933, one
American worker in every four was out of a job. In other countries
unemployment ranged between 15 percent and 25 percent of the labor
force. The great industrial slump continued throughout the 1930s,
shaking the foundations of Western capitalism and the society based
President Calvin COOLIDGE had said during the long prosperity of the
1920s that "The business of America is business." Despite the
seeming business prosperity of the 1920s, however, there were serious
economic weak spots, a chief one being a depression in the
agricultural sector. Also depressed were such industries as coal
mining, railroads, and textiles. Throughout the 1920s, U. S. banks
had failed--an average of 600 per year--as had thousands of other
business firms. By 1928 the construction boom was over.
The spectacular rise in prices on the Stock Market from 1924 to 1929
bore little relation to actual economic conditions. In fact, the
boom in the stock market and in real estate, along with the expansion
in credit (created, in part, by low-paid workers buying on credit)
and high profits for a few industries, concealed basic problems.
Thus the U. S. stock market crash that occurred in October 1929,
with huge losses, was not the fundamental cause of the Great
Depression, although the crash sparked, and certainly marked the
beginning of, the most traumatic economic period of modern times.
By 1930, the slump was apparent, but few people expected it to
continue; previous financial panics and depressions had reversed
in a year or two. The usual forces of economic expansion had
vanished, however. Technology had eliminated more industrial
jobs than it had created; the supply of goods continued to exceed
demand; the world market system was basically unsound. The
high tariffs of the Smoot-Hawley Act (1930) exacerbated the
downturn. As business failures increased and unemployment
soared--and as people with dwindling incomes nonetheless had to pay
their creditors--it was apparent that the United States was in
the grip of economic breakdown. (Most European countries were
hit even harder, because they had not yet fully recovered from the
ravages of World War I.) The deepening depression essentially
coincided with the term in office (1929-33) of President Herbert
Hoover. The stark statistics scarcely convey the distress of the
millions of people who lost jobs, savings, and homes. From
1930 to 1933 industrial stocks lost 80% of their value. In the
four years from 1929 to 1932 approximately 11,000 U. S. banks
failed (44% of the 1929 total), and about $2 billion in deposits
evaporated. The gross national product (GNP), which for years
had grown at an average annual rate of 3.5%, declined at a rate
of over 10% annually, on average, from 1929 to 1932. Agricultural
distress was intense: farm prices fell by 53% from 1929 to 1932.
President Hoover opposed government intervention to ease the mounting
economic distress. His one major action, creation (1932) of the
Reconstruction Finance Corporation to lend money to ailing
corporations, was seen as inadequate.
President Calvin COOLIDGE had said during the long prosperity of the 1920s that "The business of America is business." Despite the seeming business prosperity of the 1920s, however, there were serious economic weak spots, a chief one being a depression in the agricultural sector. Also depressed were such industries as coal mining, railroads, and textiles. Throughout the 1920s, U. S. banks had failed--an average of 600 per year--as had thousands of other business firms. By 1928 the construction boom was over. The spectacular rise in prices on the Stock Market from 1924 to 1929 bore little relation to actual economic conditions. In fact, the boom in the stock market and in real estate, along with the expansion in credit (created, in part, by low-paid workers buying on credit) and high profits for a few industries, concealed basic problems. Thus the U. S. stock market crash that occurred in October 1929, with huge losses, was not the fundamental cause of the Great Depression, although the crash sparked, and certainly marked the beginning of, the most traumatic economic period of modern times. By 1930, the slump was apparent, but few people expected it to continue; previous financial panics and depressions had reversed in a year or two. The usual forces of economic expansion had vanished, however. Technology had eliminated more industrial jobs than it had created; the supply of goods continued to exceed demand; the world market system was basically unsound. The high tariffs of the Smoot-Hawley Act (1930) exacerbated the downturn. As business failures increased and unemployment soared--and as people with dwindling incomes nonetheless had to pay their creditors--it was apparent that the United States was in the grip of economic breakdown. (Most European countries were hit even harder, because they had not yet fully recovered from the ravages of World War I.) The deepening depression essentially coincided with the term in office (1929-33) of President Herbert Hoover. The stark statistics scarcely convey the distress of the millions of people who lost jobs, savings, and homes. From 1930 to 1933 industrial stocks lost 80% of their value. In the four years from 1929 to 1932 approximately 11,000 U. S. banks failed (44% of the 1929 total), and about $2 billion in deposits evaporated. The gross national product (GNP), which for years had grown at an average annual rate of 3.5%, declined at a rate of over 10% annually, on average, from 1929 to 1932. Agricultural distress was intense: farm prices fell by 53% from 1929 to 1932. President Hoover opposed government intervention to ease the mounting economic distress. His one major action, creation (1932) of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to lend money to ailing corporations, was seen as inadequate.
Interesting! And rather scarily familiar-sounding!
An Illinois Resident