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Posted by on Dec 30, 2015 in At TMV, Disasters, Economy, Environment | 5 comments

Looking Back

I will turn 70 in 2016 so perhaps this is a good time to look back.  I grew up in the 50s  – the golden age for the American middle class.  But that’s not what I remember.  Instead I remember the weekly and futile cold war duck and cover exeshutterstock_307265762 (1)rcises at my school probably best described by Jimmy Buffet,”tuck your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye”.   Then came the 60s – the first thing I  remember is the Cuban missile crisis.   All of the old cold war fears returned.

I became of political age during the Vietnam war which guided my political leanings  for the rest of my life. I graduated from college in 1968 during the Tet offensive.  I accepted a position with the Defense Intelligence Agency to avoid becoming canon fodder in the jungles of SE Asia.  I wrote two working papers while employed with the DIA;

  • The old Yugoslavia would fall apart when Tito died.
  • The old Soviet Union was in a death spiral.

They were both ridiculed by both the CIA and the British MI5 – as it turns out I was right.

Upon leaving the DIA I returned to the US and became an engineer. It was an exciting time – I still hold 30 now worthless patents.  During the 70s the middle class was still for the most part still thriving.  Then in the 80s along came Ronald Reagan and trickle down economics and the middle class began to die. The demise of the middle class was a result of both outsourcing and factory automation.    The unfortunate reality is that industrial robots can do a better job than humans. This has become a social problem and  how we deal with it is one of the great challenges of our time.  Rebuilding the collapsing infrastructure in the US is a solution but the now radical Republican  base oppose this.  While most on the right complain about China they are about to become the  renewable energy kings of the world while the Koch brothers financed politicians oppose renewable energy.

And then there is the new threat, Global Warming.  Yes it is real as we witness on a daily basis with droughts, floods and increasingly violent storms.  The recent storm in the US is moving into the North Atlantic.  It is predicted to become a hurricane strength super storm over Iceland and then slam into England which is already experiencing record flooding.  The Mississippi watershed is seeing record flooding and the number of tornadoes is what we usually only see in the Spring.

The too big to fail banks have learned nothing and are in danger of failing again because of risky derivative trading.

The US is still thinking about global hegemony and intent on spending our resources on wars in the Middle East that have little or nothing to do with our security while the infrastructure here at home continues to collapse.

All of this makes me glad I’m old and have no grandchildren.

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  • The Ohioan

    I’m older than you by almost a decade and we never had duck and cover exercises. Perhaps because a rural Ohio town was probably not going to be the target of a Russian nuclear strike.

    What we did have was an eye-opening reaction when Brown vs Board of Education was decided. The black kids in our school were captain of the football team and members of all our extra-curricular activities. When our team was told by a WV team that the black captain couldn’t participate in a game at their school, we simply refused to play at all. My 1960’s were spent in the SF Calif. area and though I was too old (or staid) to join the hippie movement, I enjoyed interacting with them.

    I would say the fall of the middle-class started in the 1970’s with OPEC’s oil gouging, interest rates on mortgages going through the roof, and, of course, society’s being shocked by Watergate. To be specific, we bought a home in 1978. There was a new-fangled thing called an adjusted-rate-mortgage that was the easiest thing to get into and the rate could go lower than a standard mortgage (which was around 7% or 8% as I recall). Well, we signed at 7%, which became 9.4% before the loan was completed, and a couple of years later was at 13.3%. Can’t stay in the middle-class at those rates. We later replaced it with a 6.7% fixed interest loan.

    I can’t say I’m glad I won’t have grandchildren (though I won’t unless they are adopted), but I worry more about the American culture kids have to grow up in now than about any foreign influence. Economically, it is more difficult to raise a family, but it can be done with good choices in life style. I recently read an article about the millennials and they are called the Ben Franklin generation – eschewing McMansions and saving and planning for long term goals. It was bound to happen and those who don’t will be left in the lurch. Onward and upward. 🙂

    • My grade school was a mile from downtown Portland, Oregon, certainly a potential target. My high was just a few blocks from the city center. The exercise was futile since we all would have been vaporized and really the only thing it did was scare the hell out of us.

      • Bob Munck

        Ron, I’m not sure that people knew that you “all would have been vaporized” in those days. They were just then doing the tests where all the houses got blown down, and we really didn’t understand radiation from a-bombs for a very long time.

        My duck-and-cover days were in a horribly overcrowded elementary school in Kansas City KS. We attended in half-day shifts, and the time spent crouching under your desk or huddled against the walls out in the hall came out of your class time. In the spring of 4th grade, a tornado came along and blasted the school into firewood — on a Sunday. We moved to Mission KS where the schools were marginally better, then to Lufkin TX where they were unimaginably worse; my 6th grade class was introduced to fractions. (Next to Paoli PA, where I was so far behind everybody thought I was brain-damaged. I got better.)

        The current situation I can’t get my mind around is the volume of student debt. When I graduated I owed about 20% of the amount I was offered by employers, and I was given 10 years to pay it off at 3% interest. I can’t imagine how you start a life with the debt burden that new graduates have now. It’s really another brick in the wall between the classes — the rich kids don’t have to pay Daddy back.

  • dduck

    I don’t remember ducking (until recently), but my wife, an ex teacher from the Bronx, told me that the Board of Ed. figured it would be easier to count the bodies if they were all under desks. Far fetched, huh, but many folks also used to believe that there were alligators in the sewer system. (Governments don’t lie anymore, they give us the straight facts now. Right?)

  • ca1879

    Ron – It appears that the current situation is a bit more dire than those that prompted our elders to tell the kids how it was all going to hell. Let’s hope we’re wrong. I don’t have kids, but we’re all related and I don’t wish the predicted outcomes on anyone.

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