Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Let's Do the Fifties Over Again
I'm old enough to remember the Fabulous Fifties with some degree of clarity. My advice to President Obama: Let's do the Fifties Over Again.
When I was a little kid attending the Mountain View Elementary School in Wheat Ridge, Colorado (Denver suburb), kids were the silent savers that helped secure America's future. Every week, year in and year out, every kid was asked to buy a savings stamp. The stamps were sold by our teacher in denominations of 10 cents and 25 cents. A thrifty kid like me would buy as many as he or she could. The kids would lick the stamps and put them in their private Savings Stamp Album. When there were $18.75 worth of stamps in the album, it could be exchanged for an official United States Savings Bond. When the bond matured it would be worth $25. And it was guaranteed by the United States Treasury. So you knew your investment was safe.
The government got little kids to give up part of their allowances (maybe) to help finance our way out of the debt carried over from World War II. We didn't borrow from China, Japan, England, France, or any other country. All the countries were recovering on their own from the war. (In fact the United States helped finance some of the recovery in Europe through the Marshall Plan.) So the incremental contributions of millions of kids on a weekly basis really did add up.
I remember my mother taking me to Empire Savings at the Lakeside Mall to open a savings account in my name. I'm sure I wasn't older than twelve at the time. When I made money, I'd always put part of it in my savings account. Believe it or not, I've still got money from that account today. I never stopped saving.
When my mother went grocery shopping she'd always take the Green Stamps home and I got the job of licking them and putting them in the album. Then we'd go to the Green Stamp store and look for something to "buy" with the stamps. Sounds hokey now, I guess. But millions of families did it in the Fifties. We were all about the same back then. Regular people who worked for a living and had houses in the suburbs of cities across the country. Just regular people without fancy European cars or European cabinets in our granite and stainless steel kitchens. We had one TV and one phone. Most families had just one car. Two at most. Thrift and saving was the norm. Indulgence was showy.
My parents were newly married at the beginning of the Depression. I came along unexpectedly 17 years later. I learned Depression-era frugality, and I was taught to save money and to spend it wisely. I put myself through college and law school. I did get some scholarships, but no money from home. None! So what I have achieved in life is from hard work, saving, and maybe a few good investments.
Kids that grew up in the Fifties learned that there was a permanent record of every deed they did. Bad deeds would indeed be put on your Permanent Record. Bad deeds got punished. Achievement got rewarded. I was never a super achiever, but I was never an evil-doer. George Bush would have been proud of me.
Fast forward fifty years. There is little savings and lots of credit. We buy things we can't afford--on credit. Banks lend money the shouldn't and reward the bankers who lent the money with big bonuses. When the whole economy starts to implode, the government steps in and gives more money to the morons that got us into the mess. Big banks and big businesses are too big to fail we are told. So the government borrows money from the Chinese (remember when we called them "the Red Chinese"?). That moniker kinda faded away real quietly.
My suggestion Mr. President: stop borrowing money from China and start borrowing it from our kids. Re-institute the savings stamp program in schools. Teach kids about thrift and savings. Teach them to plan for tomorrow and not to just borrow money. Teach them them to buy what they can afford. And while your at it Mr. President, tell the few American companies that actually manufacture things to start producing items the old fashioned way. You remember, I'm sure. Items that were built to last beyond their warranty expiration period.
One final suggestion, Mr. President: take the morons that created this frigging mess to the woodshed. Give them the old fashioned licking kids used to get before lickings became politically incorrect and socially intolerable. Let the Wizards of Wall Street get their fannies spanked. Let those bozos know that their greed and incompetence is going on their permanent record. No deals for morons. No get out of jail cards for the really big swindlers like Bernard Madoff. I can just see it coming, Mr. President. He's gonna work a deal to keep his sorry ass out of jail by agreeing to get some money back. Send that creep to the prison were common felons go. Let the guys on the inside do to him what judges and polite society won't do. That will send a message louder than you can imagine to every crook out there. No bonuses this year to the guys on Wall Street either.
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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell
- Gary Thomas
- Key West, Florida, United States
- I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.