77 Years Later and Little Has Changed

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Lately to alleviate the stress of being grossly underemployed and behind on all my obligations, the very first time I’ve had credit since 1980, I have been tuning into Turner Movie Classics. Some of the movies are a nice walk down memory lane.  A time when I was optimistic about the future of my life and my country.

 

Last night I watched Grapes of Wrath, released in 1940 based upon John Steinbeck’s 1939 book with the same title, starring a very young Henry Fonda.  For those who don’t remember the story in based during the Depression and revolved around the Joads, a sharecropper family pushed from their meager farm by then “big agriculture.”  The entire extended family loads up the truck bound from Oklahoma to California where they believe is the opportunity for work that pays a living wage.  Along the way the grandparents die while the family is subject to constant hate solely because they are poor and desperate.  When they get to California they find nothing more than predatory capitalism taking advantage of their difficult plight.

 

The first and only time I’d watched this movie was a senior in high school for a humanities class that was required for college prep.  Growing up as a kid from an upper middle class income the characters just came across as a bunch of down on their luck hillbillies.  That was the Depression, never will happen again. How could I know that 40 years later I would have more in common with the Joad family than the Romey family I grew up in?

 

Watching The Grapes of Wrath for a second time so many years later I realize now the movie was really about was income inequality, lack of opportunity, predatory capitalism and the lack of dignity for older Americans and the young.  Both were forced into the back breaking labor of the field for less than survival wages.

 

Here we are more than three quarters of a century later and the Joads are back.  No longer sharecroppers but displaced from full employment nonetheless. Again, we have income inequality, lack of opportunity, unfair hiring practices, lack of respect for human beings in the workplace; all of what was exposed in the Grapes of Wrath.

 

It’s mindboggling indeed.  In those more than 75 years the United States beat two super powers in a world war, built a massive transportation system, put men on the moon, sent millions and millions to college, created advanced and sophisticated technologies and communication systems, and vastly improved medicine.  Yet somehow, someway, we are back to 1940 in a 2017 manner.

 

If this seems troubling to you, good.  If you believe that our capitalistic system has lost all sense of human values, you are right.  If you think we no longer respect the dignity of young Americans trying to start a new life and older Americans desiring to provide for a safe and secure retirement, you are correct.

 

What’s happen to us as a people?  I think it’s time we do some serious soul searching.  Ending back with the Joads is not where we should be.

 

Comments

Kaushik Venkatasubramaniyan Added Feb 11, 2017 - 6:47pm
George,
 
Look up Ray Dalio on the Debt Super Cycle 
Dr. Rupert Green Added Feb 11, 2017 - 7:55pm
Things must not be that bad. There is no one on the streets asking for bread or the head of the king. Surely, if things were that bad, would the ones who feel it most not be up in arms? What is the implication of the use of food stamp? What is the reason for the record number of homeless in the streets of New York?  is it that they have been so conditioned into learned helplessness that they lay down on the freezing sidewalk than to lift a finger to represent their standing up in protest? 
Kaushik Venkatasubramaniyan Added Feb 11, 2017 - 8:10pm
We're just coming out of a depression George. The Debt Super Cycle seems to have ended in 2007/08 leading to the depression/stagnation. The last time this happened the British Empire ended freeing the colonies and the US became the unchallenged world power only to be challenged within a decade by the Soviet Union. If China is the new Us who is the new Soviet Union? Perhaps US is now US mark II and China/Russia combine the new Soviet Union.
Thomas Sutrina Added Feb 11, 2017 - 8:26pm
The Democratic party in the last 84 yrs has control a house of congress or the White house for 80 yrs.  That means they are responsible for the government present today.  They are responsible for the state of the courts, universities, welfare, housing, crime in the cities, etc.  Democrats had unrestricted control for 32 yrs compared to the Republicans for 4 yrs and again starting with Trump for at least 2 yrs.  The full control let them put a lot of programs in place and just controlling one of the three the Democrats can prevent the repeal of those programs. 
 
So why has nothing change in the last 77 yrs or at least returned to a similar situation as you George clearly pointed out.  One obvious conclusion is that the underlying goal of the Democratic Party is the  same.  So what happened in 1932.  FDR used the depression relief programs to cause the black vote flip from block voting for Republicans to block voting for Democrats.  Since 1960 the change in migration laws from a Democratic government, yes during a few of those 32 yrs, that created chain migration and anchor babies, and open borders, thus a rash of illegal immigrants have again change the demographics that add voters to the Democratic Party.   So one underlying goal is control of the government at all levels.  
 
Welfare and segregated housing rules created a voting block and later Democratic administrations have maintained it.   Black ghettos is the direct result of the combination of those two major FDR stated programs.  
 
The next fundamental underlying goal of the Democratic Party is the creation of a class society that reaches back to the creation of the nation.  Slavery is a class society and the industrial revolution, Robber Barons and Corporation America, also see the advantages of a class society.  However, it is in direct opposition to the principle of the Declaration of Independence which is blended into the Constitution and Bill of Rights Amendments.  So the combination of Democrats and industrialist has result education that has purged the teaching of the philosophy that the founders used to argue for first the Revolutionary War and then the formation of this country under the Constitution.  And what has replace is all around us today.  The fake media, political correctness, removal of Christianity, riots, etc..
Dr. Rupert Green Added Feb 12, 2017 - 6:22am
Excellent point George. The Black voting pattern is a fact, the use of projects to warehouse and control Blacks is a fact.  Do not make light the Article of Confederacy excluded the Bill of Rights and it was protests from the Antifederalists who ensured it was included.
 
What does it say regarding the motive of the founding fathers and the necessity of protests, as democrats are doing now?  I am one who has shunned the current Voodoo politics advanced by so-called Black leaders who invoke in Blacks the notion they are born to be democrats?  
Thomas Sutrina Added Feb 12, 2017 - 8:38am
The founding fathers Dr. Rupert are a mixed bag of those that thought slavery was an abomination and those that thought God ordained blacks to be lesser, slaves.  I am grouping them to make my answer simple but the founders even on this issue were not 'black or white' and they country or colonies were not 'black or white.'  
 
We do know that Democratic Party of today has roots to one of the original parties and they were the party that thought slavery was natural and ordained by God.  Jefferson was personally a mixed bag in that he thought slavery was an abomination but felt stronger about federalism, states power, to lead the initial Democratic Party and as the first of the parties presidents allowed slavery in the Louisiana territory.   This decision resulted in the Civil War.  Jefferson also prevented slave ships from bring new slaves, mixed bag.  
 
Washington another slave owner was prevented by Virginia law to free his slaves.  But found a loop hole and decreed in his will that they be set free.  That loop hole was closed when Jefferson died so we do not know Jefferson's final thoughts.  Would he have freed his slaves?
 
The Declaration of Independence today applies to all humans but that may not have been the interpretation in 1776 by all the signers since their were men with the two beliefs defined above attending for their colony the convention.
Dr. Rupert Green Added Feb 12, 2017 - 12:46pm
@ Thomas. Yes, it was the Christians' blessing from Spain that declared Blacks were lesser than animals that solved the dissonance of enslaving Christians, resulting in the sanctioning of slavery. Jefferson was further conflicted because he was enjoying the sweetness of Hemming's pussy (getting a number of children from it), while attesting to the swarthy oder of Black women.
 
"FDR used the depression relief programs to cause the black vote flip from block voting for Republicans to block voting for Democrats."
 
FDR, with his comely approach, flipped everyone.  The nation was in dire strait.  He also drained the swamps and reforested the land, providing jobs for many Blacks and other men. You can understand why he served four terms.
 
 
George N Romey Added Feb 12, 2017 - 1:51pm
FDR alleviated some but not all of the national pain. Some men like my grandfather were put to work.  He worked for the Coast Guard repairing and painting ships.  With 13 mouths to feed he was lucky. 
 
FDR did quite a bit wrong too. He was a very stubborn man that had his own demons.  But unlike the Obamas and Hillary Clintons of the world he was fully ready to fight anyone for what he believed in.  He even got many Republicans and corporatists to his side. 
 
His biggest mistake was running for a 4th term.  The neoliberal Democrats at the time forced Truman upon him instead of his original VP pick Henry Wallace.  FDR was too sick and tired to fight them.  Truman for his gross unpreparedness ended up doing a fairly decent job as President but never pushed FDR's agenda. 
Thomas Sutrina Added Feb 12, 2017 - 7:26pm
Dr. Green, British ships delivered slaves to the American colonies.  The slave were supplied by Africans including blacks and the primary regions of Africa were in the hands of Muslims.  Slavery continues through out Islamic Africa as we graphically see with ISIS.  Pres. Jefferson sent in the marines to end enslaving Americans.  So you again choose to skew the facts and he got a law passed to end the slave trade importation.  
 
Jefferson/Adams campaign was very contentious.  The unsubstantiated claim of Jefferson fathering children can not be supported by facts.  The closes by using DNA has identified another Jefferson that could be the father and had opportunity.  Again Dr. Green you are skewing the facts.
 
Finally you are trying to skew the discussion by only talking about the FDR administration.  FDR just as RR won land slide elections that required the flipping of voters. (FDR 1932 won 42 of 48 states 1936 won 46 of 48 state RR 1980 won 42 of 50 states and 1984 won 49 of 50 states)  With in three elections the president flipped to the other party.   However, the black vote did not flip.  RR  and Trump may have achieve a partial flip of the black vote.  Nothing close to the almost total flip FDR achieved. 
Dave Volek Added Feb 13, 2017 - 12:30am
George: It seems strange much we long for some "good old days" that were never there. Working class people struggled then and now. 
 
Thomas: "The Democratic party in the last 84 yrs has control a house of congress or the White house for 80 yrs."  What kind of spin job is this? I bet we could come up with a similar figure for the R's, as well.
 
But give you some credit. Let's put 70 as the figure for the R's to have a president, Rep majority, or Senate majority. Why the hell didn't they fix things when they had a chance? Or perhaps better said, why did they not undo all those bad things the D's had supposedly done?
 
 
Patrick Writes Added Feb 13, 2017 - 6:39am
"What’s happen to us as a people?"
 
The Baby Boomers
 
(It's a cheap shot I admit, but is there some truth to it as well?)
 
By the way, Wallace was a naive weakling that didn't have the balls to stand up to Stalin (who's 'administration' was riddled with Soviet spies). 
Patrick Writes Added Feb 13, 2017 - 6:50am
Followup..., many of the knocks against the Baby Boomers actually started in the latter half of the GI Generation. The sexual revolution of the 70's wouldn't have happened if not embraced by the late members of the GI Generation (the Korean War GI's).
 
So while bashing Baby Boomers is fun for those of us who came after you, it really is, perhaps it's not fair. Having to live through 60's nostalgia my entire life, sometimes you guys are exhausting.
 
The business cycle of the 80's seems to have been the genesis of problems we face today. Cut costs, accounting tricks, obsession with stock market / share price, short term targets (next quarter), corporate raiders killing off weak companies, cut taxes, cut capital gains, deficit spending (in the form of social contract + military), wars to help the economy, etc...
Thomas Sutrina Added Feb 13, 2017 - 10:27am
David the Democrats controlled BOTH house from 1955 until 1980 (26 continuous years) and 1935-1946, 1951-1952, 1987-1994, and 2007-2010 (a total of 50 years). Democrats have held the majority in the House of Representative from 1950 until 1994 ( 44 years). and both Congress and White House 1934 to 1946, 1950 to 1952, 1960 to 1968, 1976 to 1980, 1992 to 1994, and 2008 to 2010 (a total of 32 years)
GOP controlled both houses 1946 to 1948, 1994 to 2000, 2002 to 2006, and 2014 to 2016 (14 years) and the GOP only controlled Congress and the White House from 2002 to 2006 (4 years), the term of George W. Bush that spent money almost as fast as Obama, added to welfare, did not eliminate a thing, and achieved the back lash that we see today thanks of the Tea Party which is not a party, and now with Trump they are going to add 2 years.
 
So David the Democrats have at least controlled one of the three for all but 4 yrs and 2 yrs will be added by Trump.  It take almost now intelligence to say that the country is a reflection of the Democratic Party and their ideology. So what we see on our streets and the taxes we pay and the malaise economy is a reflection of the ideology of the Democratic Party.
http://uspolitics.about.com/od/usgovernment/l/bl_party_division_2.htm
George N Romey Added Feb 13, 2017 - 1:45pm
Patrick excellent points!  You talk about the change that began in the 1980s.  That was about the time when people that actually lived through the Grapes of Wrath were retiring.  The Baby Boomers that only knew prosperity and good times somehow thought they could kill the consumer class (after they indebted the hell out of it first) and that things would just carry on swimmingly. 
Dr. Rupert Green Added Feb 13, 2017 - 5:46pm
@ Thomas, I demur to your extensive knowledge of American politics gained from the use of Wikipedia.  As soon as I master its use, I will argue your points on equal footings(;)
Thomas Sutrina Added Feb 13, 2017 - 7:12pm
Dr. Green none of our leaders are saints but they are also not devils.  To present campaign claims used to get votes as facts is just as wrong today in present elections as using them to smear those from the past.  As you see I have not presented Jefferson as a saint.  And I use more then Wikipedia but that is often a good start.
Patrick Writes Added Feb 13, 2017 - 7:57pm
The original book, I believe, made the case for strong unions and a heavy-handed government intimately involved in people's lives (the closing metaphor of the hungry man 'feeding' himself from the post-natal women--who represented the government). Unions are now weak as can be but the government seems to have become what Steinbeck foresaw. 
Minister Peaceful Poet Added Feb 14, 2017 - 4:58am
George, hope you find a job soon.  
Dave Volek Added Feb 14, 2017 - 8:08am
Thomas: I have to admit that a graph would make more sense to me than your paragraph. If you have a link with a nice picture, please provide it to me.
 
But for the time being, I'll take you at your word: the Democrats have indeed dominated the decision-making process in the United States.
 
Could that not be because the people have voted the Democratic Party into power?
 
You make it sound as if there is some big conspiracy happening that a majority of Americans prefer Democrats to Republicans.
 
If the Democrats have been taking us down a wrong path (which could be true), then is that not still the will of the people?
 
 
Thomas Sutrina Added Feb 14, 2017 - 9:26am
 wikipedia came through with a graph of the party in control of congress  The other one is gone but it is here
 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidents_of_the_United_States_and_control_of_Congress
Kaushik Venkatasubramaniyan Added Feb 14, 2017 - 1:34pm
Dave,
 
Elections are won typically with 40% or less of the vote. Are you saying that 40% or even 50% have the right to as they please with no regard to the rest or to the law or to the Constitution?
George N Romey Added Feb 14, 2017 - 1:46pm
Less than half of eligible age Americans vote.  A good deal of that I think is tied to the fact that too many Americans believe that both parties have no concern for their quality of life.  They are right.
 
Democrats have traditionally been good at firing up their base and to a lesser extent Independents when it comes to certain social issues.  However, I think that starting in 2016 eight years of neoliberal Obama policies lost most of the Independent vote.  Trump was a vote of change and In many cases desperation.  Both parties are probably done for.  They have outlived their usefulness.
 
I think that if we get a candidate in 2020 that really speaks to the economic and social angst in American and is willing to do something about it we might see record voter turnout.  However, that won't be a candidate of these two political parties. 
Dave Volek Added Feb 14, 2017 - 10:46pm
Kaushik: I'm not too sure where you are going with your comment. So I'll just go down a couple paths and see where it goes.
 
If the electoral rules allow for a majority government with a 40% vote, then those are the rules---even if the other party gets 45% of the vote (and this happens in British Columbia about once a decade). If the rules are deemed undemocratic, then there are processes to fix this. A  few years back, British Columbia held a referundum on this topic, and voters soundly rejected the change.
 
Just because a government wins an election(even with a substantial majority), that does not give it the right to fast-track legislation. There are processes that need to be followed. If the rules are not followed, the legislation should fail---even if a substantial majority of the citizens agree with the government.
 
Dave Volek Added Feb 14, 2017 - 10:49pm
George: A voter turnout of less than 60% has been the norm for several generations. You can't blame Obama far that.
 
If you believe a political messiah is somehow in the works for 2020, then you are most likely to be disappointed.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Feb 15, 2017 - 2:55am
I think that part of the problem is the fall of Communism.   Communism, I feel, was an essential competitor.
 
Capitalism no longer has any brake to keep it humane.   The proles will not revolt because that way lie Communism ... and we know where that ended.
 
Also today those with capital no longer have to live cheek by jowl with their workers or even see the poor.   It's a flick of a pen or a click of a mouse ... and jobs move to the area of lowest cost... wherever it is in the world.
 
We have lost our connection with each other and the realisation of our shared humanity.
 
And finally, today's media is so confusing (and largely directed by those with capital) that the losers in our society (aka most of us) no longer really know what to think.   Bullshit has essentially baffled brains.   When the working class somehow believe that taxing the rich is not in their interests, that global warming is a "conspiracy" and that King Trump is somehow on their side....you know that there is no hope of them combining together to effect change.
 
Change will come however.   But, unless those with capital wise up, and realise that long term wealth comes, not from those already with wealth, but from healthy economic loops which create both markets and products (in other words... workers who can afford to buy the stuff that they make), then change is likely to be highly uncomfortable.
 
To wise up, the capital owners will have to accept that they have no special God given position and right to special treatment... to low taxes etc etc.   And those I have spoken to recently somehow still seem to believe in their Divine right....
George N Romey Added Feb 15, 2017 - 12:43pm
Robin and Dave I agree the fall of the Soviet Union has unleashed predator and vulture capitalism.  Under the Cold War there was a PR campaign and the US was very much in tune to win that campaign.  It wouldn't do to have millions of unemployed and underemployed (masked by bogus stats.)  
 
I also believe that the system will need to go into total fail before reform comes.  The big money donors are not going to allow systemic change, Trump or no Trump.  They must fail along with the lower classes and that will not be a pretty situation.  Expect massive social unrest and even death.  I believe it will happen before 2020. Right now there are numerous trigger points globally that are just ready to explode.  Since everything in the financial system is interconnected it will show up on Wall Street's doorsteps in a matter of days.
 
This time it will be trillions in losses not billions.  The losses will be beyond what the Treasury and Federal Reserve can cook up to fix. Moreover, people will revolt if there is one cent in bailout money. The end result will be a total global economic Depression. Assuming we do not get into nuclear war future generations will start anew, and at least for awhile, avoid some of our really stupid mistakes.
 
Robin the red breasted songster Added Feb 15, 2017 - 12:58pm
Yes George.  With the fall of Communism it is as if the USA decided that it was all over.  That there was no longer any need to "sell" democracy.  Instead they decided on a policy of threatening people instead... using a very big stick and no carrot.
 
One of the big problems with Trump's immigration ban is that it plays right into the narrative of the USA being the bad guy.... without any counter acting messages.   Do something we don't like... and we will stomp all over you... is the message.  Somehow they no longer say what the benefits of being friends with the USA are.   So Trump's executive order has probably helped ISIS to recruit a few more warriors and potential suicide bombers
 
By this I don't mean state to state messages, I mean the broadcast messages that get to ordinary people....
 
An ordinary person living in, say Afghanistan, gets to hear a lot about anti Muslim American laws, about American threats, about American sponsored attacks on Muslims by Israel etc etc... but not much about positive stuff that the USA is doing to make life better for the world.  And now with Trump mutttering about rowing back on Kyoto it makes the USA look even more like the playground bully to the average man in the street.
 
There is a need to wise up and start transmitting a positive image of the USA once again... I mean positive to people who live elsewhere in the world
Robin the red breasted songster Added Feb 15, 2017 - 1:06pm
I am not so pessimistic about the future.   I think that there will be a gradual deterioration in economic performance as the elite hoover up more and more of the capital and less and less stuff gets bought.   Then Governments, and the ruling elite, will wise up and realise that they need to spread the wealth around a bit somehow to stop the whole thing grinding to a halt.    I think, personally, that there will be no alternative but living minimum wages and Government work programmes paid for by high taxes on the wealthy.  There are plenty of jobs to be done in caring for the elderly, in clearing up the environment and social work.... but they will never be paid for by private enterprise.   Economically viable jobs are increasingly being either done by automation (retail, driving, assembly, basic legal, medical etc) or being shipped to the lowest cost location in the world ($1 a day style)... they can only provide a living wage, which provides the "workers" with the means to buy the stuff produced by the economy, if the jobs are essentially subsidised.
 
However the elite will need to feel a real sense of crisis if they are to agree to any of this.   Maybe a few starving, and heavily armed, mobs breaking into their walled enclaves, unrestricted by a hopelessly underfunded police force, may help to create such a sense.  Although many of these elite, of course, live well away from the poor... even on private islands...
George N Romey Added Feb 15, 2017 - 1:26pm
Robin the elites will never do it on their own.  This whole thing on all these new jobs (which aren't that many) is nothing more than a PR stunt to get lower taxes and deregulation passed. They will take their new found wealth and buy back stock and increase executive pay even more.
 
I agree the system needs to crash for a reset.  Its only after a few large banks fail, Facebook financially crashes and Wal Mart is forced to close hundreds if not thousands of stores will the elites scratch their scrotum sack and realize they have put the global economy on an unsustainable past. As I have written in another article corporations have continued to economically kill their own customers through outsourcing and layoffs.  Eventually there is no skin left on the bone.
Robin the red breasted songster Added Feb 15, 2017 - 1:39pm
Maybe a parallel economy will get started for the "underclass".... a bit like you see in the slums of India... where we all get by through trading stuff that today we treat as trash.... and our own small scale gardening and farming.    Maybe we will develop into the Morlocks...
George N Romey Added Feb 15, 2017 - 1:58pm
Robin there will likely be a return to more local business.  All of the MNCs won't go away but they will have less influence like we saw 50 years ago.  We think of Too Big Too Fail only in the banking sector but the truth is that we have scores of MNCs from General Motors to Wal Mart that could also take down the global economy.  
Robin the red breasted songster Added Feb 15, 2017 - 2:06pm
For a while a local town had its own currency... the "Stroud Pound" and was traded among the locals.  Essentially it is a form of barter.   Maybe more of that will emerge.  Government hated it of course.

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