77.55 Stray

A Rambling IBM* Walk

Constant reinvention is a curse that gets harder and harder with each passing year.  Age is a big part, but so is no longer having tolerance for bullshit.  As IBMs*, we have been present and have helped shape many changes in America.  Mostly good.  Some not so much.

Making changes to our lives is the Stoic plan, and many of us are caught in personal, family, and social circumstances which make us willing prisoners at a time in our lives when there is no excuse for not living the lives we want.  For whatever reason, we have entered our cells and shut the doors behind us.

I don’t speak for anyone but myself.  I believe my experiences over 65 years have value that I hope to pass on to anyone who may benefit.  I’m what I call an IBM* (Introvert Boomer Male).  Born with XY chromosomes in 1953 (Baby Boomers - 1946 to 1964) and introverted by nature.  We were the pig in the python, the largest generation in American history.

No more.  The Millenials have finally passed us.  Too many baby boomers are dying off.  We would have ceased to be the largest generation a decade ago if not for immigration.

My concern is mostly at the personal level.  Politics has failed.  I’m not a conservative, but damn, identity politics is the most divisive, stupidest shit I have ever seen.  In the late 60s and early 70s, we marched on Washington because our so called leaders were drafting us to go 7,000 miles away to kill people who never did anything to us.

While not baby boomers, Muhammad Ali (born 1942) and Bruce Lee (born 1940) are two of our “elders” we have much to learn from.

And of course, Millennials’ music sucks.  

Every generation believes their music was better than what came before.  But what if it’s true.  I think it is.  Thank god for Pandora so we can listen to what we want without waiting for the right tunes to come up on the radio.

As I get older, I find myself listening not only to music from the 60s but older blues and bluegrass music.  Back in the 20s and 30s, everyone from Leadbelly to Woody Guthrie to Lightnin' Hopkins really knew what blues and hard times were about.  Later on, Doc Watson is one often forgotten master of bluegrass, folk, country, blues, and gospel music.

Have we come full circle?  Are we back to “interesting times” as the Chinese curse goes?

On the macro level, two events help destroy our American economy that are little known or just plain ignored today.  The first was FDR making Americans turn in their gold coins for paper money.  The second was Nixon shutting the gold window in and no longer paying for U.S. debts in gold.

During the 1930s, the elite of that time created a wealth disparity that looks much like the one today.  The top 10% of the country earned 45% of annual income (50% today) and owned 85% of the wealth (75% today).  Is there any wonder that socialism is making a comeback even among Members of Congress?

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (FDR) Executive Order 6102 in 1933 required Americans to surrender much of their gold to the government.

“Confiscation” implies seizure without compensation. Owners were paid $20.67 per troy ounce, so technically it was not total confiscation.  I remember my grandfather telling me about it, and how most people tried to hand onto a couple of gold coins even if just for sentimental reasons.  I even remember seeing those original gold certificates which looked cool no matter how lame the exchange was.

While E.O. 6102 required much of the gold held by Americans to be surrendered to the government, one might argue the price paid by the government was too low.

Banks were closed for 4 days, and citizens were ordered to “voluntarily” surrender their gold.  Immediately following the surrender period, the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 raised the price of gold to $35.00 per ounce making an immediate profit of $14.33 for the government for each ounce of gold collected, and wiping out 69% of the wealth and savings of the people.

Nevertheless, apologists for FDR claim people were compensated at the official price under the gold standard, and that the vast majority of the gold obtained by the government was voluntarily surrendered by the public, not confiscated.  If you are required to do it, it’s not voluntary.  

“A year earlier, in 1933, Executive Order 6102 had made it a criminal offense for U.S. citizens to own or trade gold anywhere in the world, with exceptions for some jewelry and collector's coins.” - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Reserve_Act

This is the same fiction that paying income taxes is voluntary.  Just owe the government money, don’t pay, and tell those men who show up at your front door with guns that you didn’t volunteer.  Say hello to your new roommates for me in federal prison.

People aren’t stupid.  Many private contracts called for repayment of debt in gold at the discretion of the creditor.  With gold coins in circulation, or silver dollars, it didn’t much matter.  Repayment of debts was made with sound money.

FDR also eliminated the “Gold Clause”  in all contracts, loans, bonds, and other financial instruments.

The United States Gold Reserve Act of January 30, 1934 required that all gold and gold certificates held by the Federal Reserve be surrendered and vested in the sole title of the United States Department of the Treasury.

When Roosevelt revoked the gold clause, he essentially stole billions from the American people.  Wealth evaporated in bonds, bank accounts, and insurance contracts.

Investors sued, and lost 5-4 in the Supreme Court, even though FDR had stated that he would ignore any ruling had it gone against him.

What Roosevelt had accomplished was a Jewish Debt Jubilee.

According to Leviticus, slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.  Originally this was once every for 49 or 50 years, but has not been observed for centuries.  As I will get into later, Nixon had our second American “jubilee”, and a third is coming.

The idea behind the Jubilee is noble.  Slaves are not slaves forever.  If you get into debt that you can never repay, it gets forgiven.  Future generations are not saddled with your mistakes.

The problem with the FDR Jubilee was that the government benefited, not the people.  Savers were robbed, and the value of money crippled.  Think about it.  This was when workers rose up and embraced communism, socialism, and trade unions.  Is it any wonder that we are seeing it again with Millenials?

In the 30s until the end of WWII, workers fought hard and many died for a living wage and safe working conditions.  We forget, but Communists were featured among many early union leaders and organizers.  Communists prevailed in Russia during the time of WWI, and allied with us in WWII.  It wasn’t yet the dirty word it is today.

That changed after VE and VJ Days.  

Uncle Joe as taking over Eastern Europe and imposing harsh Communist realities.  It was obvious that the Soviet Union and the United States had conflicting visions of empire, though neither one would use that term.  Democracy v. Communism.

The second event was passage of Taft-Hartley in the U.S. in 1947.  

“As a response to the rising union movement and Cold War hostilities, the bill could be seen as a response by business to the post–World War II labor upsurge of 1946. During the year after V-J Day, more than five million American workers were involved in strikes, which lasted on average four times longer than those during the war.”[7]

The Taft–Hartley Act was seen as a means of demobilizing the labor movement by imposing limits on labor's ability to strike and by prohibiting radicals from their leadership.[8] The law was promoted by large business lobbies including the National Association of Manufacturers.”[9]

~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taft%E2%80%93Hartley_Act

Taft-Hartley was used by Truman to crush the labor movement as well as ban Communists from leadership positions in labor movements.  Men who had risked their lives, and the women who worked the factories and farms in their absence, were not about to take austerity.  

Amendments to Taft-Hartley required union leaders to file affidavits with the United States Department of Labor declaring that they were not supporters of the Communist Party, and had no relationship with any organization seeking the "overthrow of the United States government by force or by any illegal or unconstitutional means".  

In the year after Taft–Hartley passed, 81,000 union officers from nearly 120 unions filed the required affidavits.  The Supreme Court later held that this provision was an unconstitutional bill of attainder, but the removal of Communists from the labor movement was essentially complete.

Previously, under FDR, some unfair labor practices were imposed on employers, mostly to end child labor and dangerously long work days and work weeks.  As bad as slavery was, working in a steel mill or coal mine was way more hazardous to a worker’s health.  Workers were now commodities.

Under Taft-Hartley, workers rights were restricted, I’m guessing under some guise for the good of the country.  Read elites.  

Jurisdictional strikes, outlawed by Taft–Hartley, are where a union strikes in order to assign particular work to the employees it represents. This is where closed shops were taken apart.

When I was in college, I worked one summer in the shipyard in my hometown of Newport News,Virginia.  Then called Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, it’s since been bought and sold a number of times.

Taft-Hartley outlawed closed shops where contractual agreements required an employer to hire only labor union members. Union shops, still permitted, required new recruits to join the union within a certain amount of time.

By the time I was painting submarines, you were not required to join the union, but if they negotiated better pay or benefits, you still received them whether a member or not.  I remember thinking why would I give up money from my summer job when there was no direct benefit to me.

This was the beginning of the end for labor unions.

Individual states could now outlaw union security clauses (such as the union shop) entirely in their jurisdictions by passing right-to-work laws.

A right-to-work law, under Section 14B of Taft–Hartley, prevents unions from negotiating contracts requiring companies to fire workers who refuse to join the union. All of the states in the Deep South and a number of states in the Midwest, Great Plains, and Rocky Mountains have right-to-work laws, with six states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, and Oklahoma —including right-to-work laws in their states' constitutions.

For those who never had the pleasure of living in a right-to-work state, a worker can be fired for any reason not prohibited by government anti-discrimination laws which address certain protected groups.

Anti-discrimination laws are designed to protect against both discrimination committed by individuals, and from social discrimination from policies or procedures that disadvantage certain groups.  

Anti-discrimination laws may include protections for groups based on sex, age, race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, mental illness or ability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, sex characteristics, religious, creed, or individual political opinions, and can vary by jurisdiction to give more protections.  These days, that might include same sex marriage and transgender bathrooms.

Also outlawed were secondary strikes, common location pickets, and boycotts, what I would call sympathy strikes, where unions picket, strike, or refuse to handle the goods of a business with which they have no primary dispute but which is associated with a targeted business.

For IBMs* (our generation), things started getting bad again in the 60s.  Much of our history can be explained by demographics, and the baby boom was something new.  The world had been left in near total economic devastation, with only the U.S. left largely unscathed as to industry and manufacturing, and boomers as pampered beneficiaries.

Only with relative prosperity can a society address all of the ingrained inequities.  The Civil Rights Movement gained momentum for black Americans who had made modest gains over 100 years.  

When I hear claims of racism bandied about by every micro identifying moron today, I think back to real discrimination.  The n-word was used by many, and not just in the hood.

Schools were “separate, but equal”.  Right.  In some ways, black students may have been educated better in our day, but that’s no justification for discrimination.

For people who didn’t grow up in the South, you may not remember separate bathrooms, drinking fountains, or lunch counters.  (Woolworth’s used to be a big deal at lunch.)  

As a child, I remember spending time in my father’s hometown of Wilson, NC.  We would get sent there for a week or so in the summer to give my parents a break.  

At that time, Wilson was known for massive tobacco warehouses and auctions.  My grandmother would sometimes work at harvest time grading tobacco and letting us tag along.  I don’t smoke, but the smell of tons and tons of cured tobacco is hard to beat.

For us, the best feature of Wilson was Parker’s Barbeque.  It’s still there, and looks roughly the same.  I’m vegan now, but I sure did love that Eastern North Carolina barbeque.  As a disclosure, I think some of my relatives are owners.

At the movies, blacks were required to sit in the balcony.  I thought they were the cool seats and was pissed that we could not sit up there.  I guess it was more like Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, where college students were locked in the balcony so they couldn’t sneak out during services.

What I’m saying is, even though there are some racist elements out there, minorities have it easier than their parents and grandparents.  Where they have difficulty is in the sheer number of groups claiming they need protection.  I don’t want to minimize anyone’s pain or victimhood, but it’s a lot easier to understand Black Panthers than sensitive snowflakes needing a college safe zone.

People forget how bad it was for the people and politicians.  Lyndon Johnson pushed through civil rights legislation in the mid 60s and then decided not to run for reelection in 1968. Radio stations banned Motown songs like “Dancing in the Streets” as being too provocative and leading to civil unrest.

Cities across America burned.

Mayor Daley’s police busted heads in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention.

“The convention was held during a year of violence, political turbulence, and civil unrest, particularly riots in more than 100 cities[3] following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4.[4] The convention also followed the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5.[5] Both Kennedy and Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota had been running for the Democratic nomination at the time.”

~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Democratic_National_Convention

After Nixon took office, the costs of Vietnam along with efforts to fix social inequities led to huge debts.  At the time, all currency had to be backed 25% in gold, so politicians and the Fed could not create trillions of dollars out of thin air.

So Nixon did his own Jubilee in 1971.  First, he eliminated the requirement that each dollar be backed by 25 cents of gold.  And then, he reneged on the promise of the United States to repay debts held by foreigners in gold, or to redeem any dollars they held for gold.

Tricky Dick wiped the slate clean.

No one could redeem dollars for gold which freed the Federal Reserve to invent ways to print money with few constraints.  In the 70s, inflation doubled, and the dollar lost 30% of its value.  The stock market fell 48% in one two-year period.

I remember car loans through the roof.  My first new car purchase came at an interest rate of 19%, and that was not the worst one out there.

It’s been 48 years, and we are getting close to a next Debt Jubilee.  Where it will come from, I’m not sure.  Some people want to wipe out student loan debt which now exceeds credit cards.  This may happen because Millennials now outnumber Baby Boomers.  Most of us got through college without debt.  We had well-paying summer jobs.  They have debts they can’t repay because those old middle management jobs and salaries have evaporated.

IBMs*:  Ask yourself one question

If we have some sort of debt jubilee, whose ox is going to be gored?  The baby boomers and what’s left of our parents have the wealth.  Where else can it be stolen from?

I love AOC.  She’s bat shit crazy economically, but she gives you a deep look into the Millennial mindset.  I can’t blame the kids either.  They have been sold a bill of goods.  They majored in bullshit subjects like anything + “studies” which have no value in the world.  STEM majors and the tool school are sitting fat.

For the bottom 60% of Americans, debt is not manageable, and wages are stagnant.  Real wages have not risen for white men since I graduated from college in 1975.  Anyone who believes the rosy economic reports knows they are based on wishful thinking.  We all know the house of cards will collapse, but not when.

Life is stagnant or getting worse for many Americans.  Much of this is our own fault.  We have little for retirement.  And what we do have is about to be stolen to reimburse the banks for useless B.A.s.

This is a bit different than the real estate crash in 2009.  Even though the mortgage crisis was a worldwide mess, loans were secured with property.  Student loans are backed by air - a promise of a better job to repay the debt when you enter the workforce.

How can Millennials use subpar income to get married, buy a house and car, and educate their children when they are stymied by a big student loan payment before they even have a decent job?

The answer is the same.