The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The more things change, the more they...

I read an article in the NY Times the other day entitled "Older, Suburban and Struggling, ‘Near Poor’ Startle the Census". While I was reading it, I recognized my own childhood. It is how I grew up. Minus a couple of things. There were no new cars in my family, just good used ones, until after we moved to Florida. We had one phone in the house (extensions were expensive then). The house was a two bedroom with an unfinished second floor that my father converted into three bedrooms around 1950 (when I was 4). The one bathroom was on the first floor. We lived out on Long Island where my father commuted by train to his job at Dictaphone before opening a bicycle shop in town. We ate a lot of spaghetti. And leftovers stretched the food budget through the week. Especially while Dad was trying to get that shop on its feet.

After we moved to Florida, things got a little better but we still lived paycheck to paycheck. There were more than a couple of times I got home from school to find the electricity turned off because Mom hadn't yet paid the bill. Mom got very good at "kiting" checks: writing checks at the supermarket for enough to cover the food she bought plus some more to cover checks she had written in the past couple of days. The 50's equivalent of "cashback". The extra cash would get deposited so the earlier checks wouldn't bounce. I thought it was normal. I thought everyone did it. I was wrong. But not far wrong.

So it's nothing new, this "near poor" category, it was pretty common during my childhood. It was the Baby Boom years and towns and cities were struggling to keep up with the demand for new schools and roads and other infrastructure. Just as they are today.

Why does every generation seem to think no one had it as bad before? Every previous generation went through these things. The kids of parents with good jobs had more than their peers whose parents toiled for lower wages. Their parents struggled to keep them clothed decently and fed well and tried to get them educated so that they would move up and not have to struggle. I saw nothing I did not recognize in my own childhood in that article.

My parents were born in 1917 and 1918 and grew up through the Great Depression. They had it a lot tougher than I and my siblings ever did. Especially my mother, whose father died when she was very young and whose sister got sent to live with one aunt while my mother, her baby brother, and her mother went to live with an uncle until her mother remarried.

I look around these days and I wonder... Maybe the struggles are important, maybe we need to have it a little tough in order to appreciate what we earn later on. In any case, the economic cycles are nothing new and there will always be those who will struggle. Those dreams of a future where there is no poverty, no struggle to have more than one's parents are just that... dreams. Utopian dreams. Good dreams and ones we should strive to achieve.

But we shouldn't think they will ever come true.

No comments: