Tag Archives: economy

What Goes Around Comes Around

I’ve been reading a fair amount of historical nonfiction lately, and one thing that’s struck me is how the U.S. tends to go through fairly regular cycles of progressive vs. conservative thinking. Here, from “Asleep,” is some interesting data from the 1920s and thereafter.

“Most historians now consider the 1920s an extension of the Progressive Era. The movement began with the antitrust laws that promised to rein in some of the business megamonopolies, but it soon grew into the progress laws and ideals that aimed for a more  modern, safer and healthier lifestyle. Legislation like mandatory milk and meat inspections, restrictions on tenement housing, improved working conditions, and child labor laws passed. The movement then morphed into legislation concerning civil responsibility, granting Native Americans citizenship, and allowing women to vote….”

At the same time Warren G. Harding, widely considered the most corrupt president, died in office. The Teapot Dome Scandal and many others bloomed in the aftermath of his death.

Again, from Crosby’s “Asleep,” comes the  pointed corollaries of all this progress. Immigration became a hot-button issue. The Ku Klux Klan spread like a cancer through the country. Bills were proposed to overturn American’s open-door  policy and stop immigration. A conservative backlash called for the country to return to its “original” religious and ethnic mix. Particularly hated and discriminated against were Italians, Irish, Germans, Puerto Ricans and the migration of American blacks toward Northern cities.

This all ended, of course, with the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. “Most historians agree it was a complicated combination of factors like consumerism, market speculations, easy credit and business monopolies.”

Sound at all familiar?

By pure chance, the next book I read was set during the era of the Civil  Rights movement, when so many of these factors rose up again. And now, we see them again, and again.

* The destructiveness of consumerism and uncontrolled big business.

* Rampant fear of  “the other,” whether immigrants or people with different lifestyle choices,  or even the old familiar ‘BlackMexicanAsianArab.’

*  The spread of hate groups.  The Klan may be underground, but its brethren  are fully with us.  Westboro Church, anyone?

* Wars to keep us (we the people) distracted from real problems.

* Angry youth.

* Destructive drug use.

It all goes around and comes around, and probably has been since earliest pre-history. Does that mean we give up,  knowing that the cycle appears to be never-ending?

No. We live and seek joy and try to love even our least loveable neighbors. We lend a hand whenever we can,  turn our backs  on selfishness, fear and hatred.

Because no matter what happens before or after, all  each of us us guaranteed is this one existence. What a shame to waste it on fear and hatred and sadness. Somewhere the sun is shining.  Delight in  the day.

P.S. My daughter says I’m too optimistic. My husband probably agrees. But still… smile, laugh, see the beauty rather than the ugliness.

 

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Gainful Employment ‘R Us

Today’s challenge is to remember my first job, including how much I was paid. That’s a tougher question than you might think.

Was my first job when I used to iron clothes for people, mostly extended family members? If so, then I was paid between a dime and a quarter per piece, depending on size and difficulty.

Or was my first job when I went to graduate school on a teaching assistantship? Mostly I got to take classes for free, but I was paid some small pittance. I honestly can’t remember how much it was, but I remember than mac and cheese was four boxes for a dollar back then. I ate a LOT of mac and cheese in grad school.

I guess you could call selling Avon right after I finished grad school my first job, but to be honest, I was possibly the worst Avon salesperson in the history of the company. I sold plenty of Avon – don’t get me wrong. I had very good sales. Problem was, I felt bad for my customers, who were pretty much all as poor as me, so I sold it all at cost. Yep, I sold a fair amount of goods and didn’t make a penny. I suppose I should have known at that point that I was never going to be a successful capitalist.

After that, I worked the evening shift at a quickie mart for a while. Don’t remember how much I got paid there, either, although I suspect it wasn’t much. I had fun, though. You learn interesting things about your town when you’re working the night shift at (the then) only quikmart open all night.

I worked for a local school system for two years, one as a support staff person who tried to teach teachers how to incorporate new-fangled videos into their teaching. The other year was as a teacher of remedial reading to ninth-graders who had somehow gotten that far in school and never learned to read functionally. That was an educational year for me. I learned that although I love teaching, I don’t love all teaching equally. I came to understand that when I went home trembling at the end of the day and found myself actually hoping some of my students might get hurt or arrested so they wouldn’t come back to class, I was probably in the wrong place. Yep.

So then I got into the newspaper biz, by stumbling head-first into an ads sales job that I was in no way qualified for, and the rest, as they say, is history.

As for how much I was paid… Let’s call the newspaper job my first real job. As I recall, I was paid something like $150 week, more or less. That might be a little high. I was renting a small house from my great-aunt for $100/month, and rent, car upkeep, utilities, and food kept me pretty much living from check to check. Sometimes even falling behind.

Different time. Different me. The world was less complicated then, it seems in memory. But it was rich, and I was happy. What more can a person ask?

 

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Watching the struggle

Few things are as tough as watching your child struggle with something and not being able to help.

The economy has led to her still being unemployed, more than a year past college graduation. She’s had one short-term job, and has been working diligently on trying to make and sell her beautiful one-of-a-kind origami earrings, but this month, for the first time, she wasn’t able to make her car payment. I worry that her self-concept is taking a beating, but she doesn’t want to talk about it.

Right now she’s got a custom job on hold which would help a lot. She’s also got two jobs that she’s short-listed for, but that basically means just… wait.

I want to help, but what can I do? It’s just very frustrating.

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