Tuesday, August 30, 2011


On our 25th anniversary our daughter Martha, home from college, cooked dinner for a few friends at our house in Woodridge, Illinois. A couple of days before the party, Wally called a friend and had him scrounge up a Royal Copenhagen Christmas plate picturing the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen harbor.

I’d tried to get Wally to buy that particular plate twice before. The first year we were married, Marshall Field’s advertised it for $10.99. Years later we went to a stamp show in Atlantic City, where Wally sold some of his extra stamps for a big profit, I found the Little Mermaid plate in a shop on the Boardwalk for about $25. Wally refused to buy it for me.

I don’t know how much he paid for that anniversary present. He was upset with me for not bing impressed with his last minute purchase. I wanted him to take me to Paris.

At the party I looked around at our handful of guests and thought, “Wally and I have been through difficult times, but we’ve made it this far. We’ll have a big party to celebrate our 50th.”

Inexplicably, the next year became increasingly difficult. I was at a loss as to why Wally was so angry and abusive. Finally, I went to my boss and said, “I’ve got to get away.” I went home, put sleeping bags in the trunk and the folded tent on top of the car. David and I headed east towards Pennsylvania, where we lived before moving back to Chicago.

David was 13 years old. The second night I drove into campground on a dark, rainy night fall. David and I set up the tent in the rain and climbed inside to go to bed. As I fell asleep in my cozey sleeping bag, I thought, “If I can do this, I don’t really need a husband.”

We camped in Cook’s Forest and at World’s End, where Martha went for Girl Scouts Camp. David was excited when a bear wandered into our campground. At a visit at my friend Mary Grieb’s home in Upper Darby, David and I both felt happy and relaxed.

Going home as we came to a highway interchange at Toledo, I said to David, “We can be home tonight, or we can detour to Michigan for a couple of days.”

David said, “Let’s go to Michigan.”

I turned north to Birmingham, the Detroit suburb where the family lived for four years and where David was born. We stayed with David’s godmother, Betty Rahn, in her daughter Susan’s apartment. With friends like the Rahns, even sleeping in our sleeping bags on the floor was fun.

I learned several things on that trip. First, David and I were both more at ease and happier when out of range of Wally’s angry outbursts. Second, I could travel on my own, do all the driving, having fun whether visiting old friends or primitive camping, and making decisions without the advice of a man. .

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Silver Anniversary

Our trip to Iceland and Denmark was a success. Wally attended the international stamp exhibition and saw the land of his ancestors. I had fun poking about on my own in Reykjavik and Copenhagen. Both of us enjoyed the time we spent together riding around Jutland in a rented Honda (a tiny car, not a motorcycle).

Wally controlled our finances. Our air fare and hotels were paid for as part of the package arranged by the Chicago Scandinavian Stamp Collectors Club. When we were alone, he looked for cheap restaurants. Before the trip I made reservations at inexpensive inns and bed-and-breakfasts for the week after the exhibition closed. Wally made no complaint about the cost of things. At Roskilde he even bought me a little silver Viking cross to wear under my blouse.

I thought, “Surely we can afford to take another trip to Europe in a couple of years.”

Two years later, as our 25th anniversary approached, Wally surprised me by asking, “What do you want for our anniversary?”

I suppose he thought I’d say, “Take me to dinner some place nice.”

I said, “Take me to Paris!”

In August, the month of our anniversary, Northwestern University, where Wally obtained his master’s degree, was sponsoring an alumni trip to Paris – air fare from Chicago (where we lived) to Paris and two weeks in a hotel with continental breakfast for $750 a person. A bargain!

I was thrilled when Wally signed us up for the trip. I would see the city of my dreams! After all Wally and I had been through in the 25 years, we would be Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman saying, “We’ll always have Paris.”

Two weeks later he came home from work one night and told me, “I cancelled the reservations.”

I was crushed. He mumbled something about not being able to afford it while Martha was still in college. I was working. I paid all of Martha’s tuition, board, and fees at St. Olaf College. But Wally was adamant: He would not take me to Paris.

It was not the first time he broke my heart.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In the Good Old Summertime

It is cooler today, only 104. We’ve had too many days at 106 or 107. The weatherman promises that next week the high temperature may fall to 100, or even 99.

Texas summers are always hot. This one has been brutal.

Next week my brother Don and his wife, Mary, fly away to spend two weeks in Wales, where the average high this time of year is 66 degrees. I wish I could go with them. I can’t. I must spend three days a week in dialysis.

Congress and the President are on vacation. Obama is on Martha’s Vineyard, where cool Atlantic breezes blow across the golf course. My Representative sits in air-conditioned comfort in his home in North Dallas, the same neighborhood where George and Barbara Bush live.

In Garland and Mesquite many of his constituents are caught in the Recession, struggling to buy groceries and to pay rent or mortgages. Yet, when our Representative goes back to Washington he will vote “No” to everything the President proposes.

I don’t want to think about either the President or Congress. A plague on both Democrats and Republicans! This too shall pass.

In this weather I don’t go out except from necessity. If we had not had season tickets, I doubt Lois and I would have gone to the play on Sunday. My friend Pat absolutely refuses to go out to dinner in this weather.

I sit in my air-conditioned apartment looking at pictures for the program on Greece I will do next month. Don made a DVD from photos I took in Greece: Me squinting in the sunlight with the Parthenon in the background.

I went to Greece in August 1983; it was as hot as Texas. I thought it would be cooler for my second trip in May 1999. It wasn’t.

Poor Greece! What troubles that country has today! I wouldn’t go there now. Instead, I’ll show pictures of ruins and try to help my friends imagine the glory that was Greece in 350 B.C.

I remember our summer in Ipswich. It rained every day, and every night John and I cuddled up as we slept between cold sheets. Two thick blankets couldn’t keep out that damp, English cold. Yet it was our best vacation.

I’m going to write more blogs about my travels. I loved being in Greece. On a cruelly hot afternoon I sat on a big chunk of marble in Olympia thinking about the ancient Olympic games. I looked down. Beside me on the marble were footprints. A statue of an Olympic champion had stood there. Imagining the vanished statue, I felt ghosts of ancient Olympians. It was a magic moment, in spite of the heat.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Buddha’s rule was “all things in moderation.” No excesses. Enjoy all the pleasures of life, but do not go to extremes.

Don’t eat too much; don’t eat too little. Don’t get fat, but don’t pass up a good meal in order to keep that skinny figure. Remember all those statuettes of jolly, plump, smiling little Buddhas?

I try to live that way, as much as my medical condition permits. I’m overweight, like a little Buddha, but not morbidly obese. I try to get enough sleep. I also try to find time each day to sit in my recliner and relax. I don’t meditate. I watch silly stuff on television. Anyone else for “Pawn All Stars”?

I keep to a crazy diet. Because of the kidneys, I avoid high potassium foods. There is a long “do not eat” list. No potatoes, no sausage, no bacon, no corn, no beans, no cheese, no avocados, no orange juice, no fresh fruits or melons, and lots of other no-no’s. I can eat lettuce. And lots of meat. (Dialysis takes protein out of the blood, along with the poisons.)

I cheat. I can’t resist a slice of cheese or a small wedge of watermelon or two tablespoons of guacamole. I cheat “in moderation.”

On Sunday my friend Lois picked me up. With her friend Joyce we have season tickets for to the Mesquite Community Theater to go to matinees five times this year. It gives me a “day out” every couple of months.

(I hear widows say, “Since my husband died, I can’t go anywhere.” Silly women. As stupid as men who say, “I can’t retire. I wouldn’t have anything to do.” Each of us has to make our own fun.}

This time the play was about eight Irish Catholic sisters. I liked it, but most of the Southern Baptist Texans in the audience missed most of the jokes.

After the play the three of us drove over to Catfish Cove for supper. At the retirement home where I live, only a few of our residents are Catholic, but Texans, even Baptists, love catfish. We have fried catfish every Friday.

At the restaurant I ate fried oysters. Definitely a no-no-no on my forbidden foods list. Heavenly! I enjoyed every bite.

When I die – which I expect to do before my treasury bonds mature in ten years – I will die happy, knowing I never passed up an opportunity to enjoy life. Always “in moderation.”

Friday, August 19, 2011


Life is full of events over which we have no control. Hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes. I heard a man in Joplin thank God for saving him from the deadly tornado which killed so many people in that Missouri town. What about the ones that died? Didn’t they love Jesus, too?

The economy is in a mess. Congress could do something about that. They won’t. The President can do nothing without the cooperation of Congress. Republicans want to defeat Obama in 2012. Then they can give more privileges to their rich friends. The voters could do something about that, but will they? The Democrats are almost as useless as the Republicans.

My heart goes out to the unemployed, who are losing their benefits, their homes, and their life’s meaning. Their children are taken to a new neighborhood, a new school, without their friends, even without their closets full of clothes and their toys. No room for them with five or six living in a single motel room.

I even have a little sympathy for the young people who grew up being given everything they asked for. Want it? Buy it. Just use your credit card. Want a house that’s finer and twice as big as the one your parents owned? Just sign here. . . .

Then came the housing debacle. Houses by the thousands are still being foreclosed.

I despise bankers, who demand their pound of flesh from the unemployed. Also, C.E.O.’s making $10 million a year as the head of corporations making huge profits by laying off more workers every month. Each time a company lays off 1,000 workers, the price of its stock goes up.

I hate brokers who made millions by parlaying stocks to record highs. . . and who will continue to make millions in commissions as panic-driven investors sell off as the stock market tanks.

Compared to the millions who are really suffering, my problems are petty. Still it is frustrating. My car had 34,000 miles, yet the engine blew up. It has taken a month, but Hyundai finally agreed to put in a new engine under the warranty. Then my cell phone quit working. My friend Doris took me to Sprint in 107 degree heat to get a new one.

Since April, Fresenious Dialysis Centers is badgering me for $135 for something in March for treatments that were no different from every other month – and every month they have received nearly $3,000 from Medicare. I’ve spent endless hours trying to reach them by phone; Sometimes I leave a message on a machine. They do not return my calls. Sometimes even the machine won’t answer my calls. Yet, stubborn me, I refuse to pay $135 for what I feel sure is a result of a mistaken entry in a computer system.

So what do I do?

I’m going to go to my recliner, let Charlie climb on my lap, and pick up “Bess of Hardwick” loaned to me by my friend Sally. In the 16th Century Bess married four times and became the richest woman in England, next to Queen Elizabeth I. Bess’s major problem, besides husbands dying (and she always found a richer one) was finding suitable mates for her eight children. Oh, there was plague and women dying in childbirth, and Mary Queen of Scotts conniving to take Elizabeth’s throne. But after 400 years that’s not a worry for us today. It makes fun reading.

My worries should be resolved in the next month. Our countries problems will take longer. I won’t live to see it, but I hope in 50 years the world will learn to live in peace, presided over by the great powers: China, the Muslim League, Brazil, Europe, and, I trust, the U.S.A. .

In 400 years . . . who knows? Alexander the Great and Augustus Caesar ruled over empires. Well. . . . they are not forgotten. Who will remember George W. Bush or Barack Obama?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Chinese Friend

This is a long one. When I have questions about something I’ve read, I look some source of verification. Last week I heard a real life story very similar to one I read about in a novel. I hope you find the comparison of real life and fiction as interesting as I did.

Last year I read “Shanghai Girls”, a novel about two sisters who were the pampered beauties of Shanghai. After the Japanese invaded China, they escaped to the U.S. as “paper daughters” to be married to men they had never seen.

At the time of the Alien Exclusion Act, the only way for a person from China to be admitted to the U.S. legally was for a Chinese man living in the U.S. to issue a sworn statement (a paper) claiming that this son or daughter was born to him before he left China. When the Japanese invaded China, Chinese-American citizens suddenly remembered children they had left behind in China.

In the novel when the girls arrived in San Francisco, they were detained on Angel Island for over a month, interrogated every day about where they supposedly lived in China. Finally released, they were forced to marry,. one to a man who was a “paper son” and the other to a retarded child.
The story was so fantastic I wondered how much was based on actual events. The author was a young woman born in Los Angeles. How much did she really know about the experience of the Chinese who came to the U.S. in the 1930's?

Then a couple of weeks ago I received a call from Pittsburgh from my friend Joanne. I met her on the Elderhostel to Prague and Vienna. We’ve kept in touch by phone and e.mail ever since.

Joanne grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown. She told me she was researching her family history. Most of the documents are in Chinese, which she cannot read. Her grandparents paid “a great deal of money” for her to escape the Japanese and come to the U.S as the “paper daughter” of a man who claimed to have eight children born in China.

Joanne obtained a transcript of her mother’s interrogation at Angel Island Like the girls in the novel, Joanne’s mother was detained for over a month. Joanne told me, “Day after day of questioning, horrible questioning, like the gestapo in World War II.”

“Describe the house where you lived.” “How far was the well from the house?” “Which direction was the well from the house?” Her mother had never seen the house of her supposed family. Asked about her seven “brothers and sisters”, she kept getting mixed up as to their names and ages.

After a month of questioning, the authorities said she was an illegal immigrant and decided to send her back to China. Someone was paid off with a bribe, and Joanne’s mother was allowed to board the ferry to take her to San Francisco. She stepped ashore, a free woman, only to be met by the man she was pledged to marry. She was dismayed to discover he was twenty years older than she was.

They were married and had five daughters. Then the old man had a massive stroke and was unable to work. At age 49 her mother, who spoke no English, went to work as a seamstress in a lingerie factory.

At age 10 Joanne went to work, ironing pillowcases and handkerchiefs in a Chinese laundry for 30 cents a hour. Of every penney she earned, she gave half to her mother and saved the other half.

The family moved to Oakland, and Joanne found a better job in a hospital kitchen. Working full-time, she could not keep up her grades. No scholarships for Joanne, but by the time she graduated from high school she had saved enough to pay for her college tuition. She commuted from Oakland to Berkeley and obtained a degree from the University of California. I can’t remember her major, but it was some kind of science.

Joanne married another Chinese-American, had a daughter, and was divorced. Offered an excellent job in Pittsburgh, she moved east. When she retired, her sisters urged her to return to California to care for their mother, but Joanne now feels at home in Pittsburgh.

She plays bridge at the senior center and ushers at a theater. She also travels. She went to China where in Beijing she had as much trouble finding her way around as any other American. She can’t read Chinese characters, and she speaks Cantonese, while in Beijing the spoken language is Mandarin, as different as English and Greek.

When I talked to her, she said this year she is seeing more of America. She went on an Elderhostel to the Grand Canyon, and next week she drives to West Virginia. She said, “I love the sound of Appalachian Music and want to learn more about it.”

Her mother died last year in California at age 96. Their lives are very different from mine, but theirs are true stories of perseverance and overcoming the odds. I admire this Chinese-American friend.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cleopatra's Daughter

This month our reading group at the library will discuss “Cleopatra’s Daughter” by Michelle Moran. I hated this book.

Ms. Moran mixes historical persons (Octavian, who became Augustus Caesar, and his sister, Octavia) and entirely fictional characters (“Red Eagle” and a female slave, who play major roles in the story).

Around a few known facts Ms. Moran embroiders a fantastic tale which is basically a polemic against slavery. Slavery in the U.S. was abolished in 1865. We don’t need a novel about Rome to remind us of the evils of slavery. Besides, there is nothing in the historical record to indicate Cleopatra’s daughter granted freedom to even one slave. Her mother was attended by thousands.

Very little is known about the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. Ms. Moran portrays her as so precocious and talented that I forgot she was a nine-year-old child.

In the novel the child and her brother are described as having one room in Octavia’s palace where they are served by a single slave. Really? I’ve stumbled through the ruins of huge palaces on that hill above Roman. Octavia probably owned hundreds of slaves.

It was only a story. Why do I feel so strongly about it?

Because it distorts the truth. We are bombarded with similar distortions in the news every day. Too many people believe lies as if they were fact.

Recently a friend forwarded an e.mail showing a picture of George W. Bush and Laura standing at the bedside of a wounded soldier. The accompanying story told how as soon as the former president heard of the massacre at Fort Hood, he and Laura jumped in the car and drove from Dallas to the hospital to comfort the wounded. Nice story. The former President is to be commended for his compassion.

But the story didn’t end there. The publisher of this e.mail turned it into an attack on President Obama for not flying in from Washington until three days later. The writer sneered that Obama didn’t care about the murders or the wounding of soldiers, that he only went for a brief photo op.

This was unfair to our President. First, it was nice of George W. to make that trip from Dallas. But it was a lot easier for a former President to get away. He does not have to deal with the multiple problems of a current President.

Also, George W. did not just drive up to the gate at Fort Hood unaccompanied. You can be sure he also drove down there with plenty of security. At home in Dallas his whole neighborhood is sealed in with a tall fence with guards at the gates. Only his rich neighbors can get in – and the guards know them all individually. .

Further, the implication that President Obama does not care about any of our troops is simply a lie. In Washington he visits hospitals as often as he can. He does have other things to keep him busy. Michelle goes every week, without fanfare.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Britain Burning

London is burning. I am deeply saddened and surprised by pictures of people looting shops and burning down buildings. What do those young people think they will accomplice?

I remember the times I was in London. I spent two weeks of roaming around central London looking for Wren churches when I visited Margaret and Jack at their home in Highgate. Another time I walked from my dormitory at the University of London to the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square or passed afternoons at the British Museum sitting with the Elgin Marbles, the only air-conditioned room I found while attending a three-week class in script writing during the hottest summer the Brits ever experienced.

Now I relax in my recliner in my air-conditioned apartment. Dallas bakes under Texas’s hottest and driest summer ever. It has been hot since May, and today is the 41th straight day that the temperature has topped 100 degrees. I dream of the cool summer when John and I exchanged our house in Albuquerque for one in Ipswich, England. In June and July, I wore a sweater under my raincoat every day.

I admired my Ipswich neighbors. They were content, making do with so much less than most of us have in the U.S. They did not buy new clothes or new furniture or bigger houses. None of the women I met considered shopping as a hobby. They preferred going to theater and the Antiquarian Society, and singing in the local chorus.

Recently my friend Joyce wrote how unhappy they were with the British government’s austerity measures. My English friends are disturbed by proposed cuts in the health system. Joyce worries about losing free visits to a specialist for treatment for Parkinson’s.

After our six weeks in Ipswich, John and I spent a week in London. We did not go to the East End, where the poor people live. But to riot and burn the city? Desperate people do desperate things.

It happened here. My family left Michigan the year before the 1967 Detroit riots. Last night I talked to a friend who was there. During the riots it was too dangerous for a single woman to be alone on the streets. Her boss at the supermarket where she worked sent a car to her Detroit home to pick her up and take her home afterwards. It was a terrifying time, like a war.

I remember the horrific pictures of Los Angeles burning during the Watts riots. I also remember when my husband’s mother died. Wallace flew to Chicago; I followed in the car, driving from Texas to Illinois with the three children. I drove into Chicago at dusk. Months after Martin Luther King was killed, I was shocked, seeing empty black windows in burned out apartment buildings on Chicago’s West Side.

It could happen again.

Today the unemployment rate in poor neighborhoods is over 16 per cent. Republicans demand that all government programs and benefits must be cut. . . . like in England.

Monday, August 8, 2011

First Impressions

Warning: Initial impressions can be misleading.

I meet someone for the first time. I look them over. How is the man dressed? If he wears a suit and tie, I assume he is a professional. If he wears old, torn jeans and has a stubble of hair on his chin, I judge him to be, even if a retired old man, a slovenly character. As for women, how they dress and the kind of jewelry and makeup tells me a lot. As for speech, a few grammatical mistakes – saying “she don’t” instead of “she doesn’t” – gives a quick assessment of how much or how little schooling a person has.

Often I am completely wrong!

The first time I saw Anese, she lumbered across the dining room like Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster. A black woman, six feet tall and built like a Japanese wrestler, just her size was intimidating. She frowned and hissed at me, “Anese.”

“Your name is Annie?” I said.

“Ah-niece,” she said in a firm, barely intelligible whisper.

I felt as if a Chicago gangster was threatening me with dire consequences if I ever mispronounced that name again. I thought, “This is one person I want to stay clear of.”

It was several months before I learned Anese suffered a massive stroke which left her unable to speak more than a few words and those barely above a whisper. She goes to exercise classes. While the rest of us kick our legs and flap our arms like ballerinas in Swan Lake, she moves her arms and legs a few inches.

But if the instructor skips something in the usual routine, Anese growls and by her movements lets us know what we should do next. She insists on keeping to a precise order. She can be intimidating. She is also shy. She finds it easier to frown than to smile. Maybe that is due to her physical condition.

I wondered how this big, black woman could afford to live in this retirement community where the smallest apartment costs more than most people’s Social Security. From our monthly newsletter I learned that Anese has a degree in micro-biology, did graduate work, and had a distinguished career in business before a stroke limited her mobility. How frustrating it must be for her now with that good mind imprisoned by a tongue that can only whisper a word or two at a time.

Anese is sweet and helpful. Every Saturday she passes out the sheets with menus for the next week’s meals. She gives them out in the dining room, and then walks around the entire complex, fastening them outside every door. She even comes up to the third floor, although she whispered to me that she doesn’t like heights.

At first I was frightened by her size and threatening movements. Now I know she is a tender woman dealing as best she can with a tragic physical condition.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Down with the Stock Market

I wrote this blog last week, before the Stock Market started its tumble. Am I a prophet? No, I’ve just had experience.

Today’s stock market is one giant Ponzi scheme. As the S&P Index jumps higher and higher in the bidding war between brokers, price has no relationship to value. Two weeks ago Netflex raised its monthly fees. The stock jumped from $100 a share to $300. To me it made no sense to pay $300 a share for a company which has never shown a profit.

Uncertainty over raising the debt ceiling caused the market to drop a little. Since all stocks are overpriced, the market may collapse as it did in 1929. That’s unlikely, due to the way the market operates these days. Little guys with 401K’s in mutual funds will be hurt, as they were when the housing bubble burst. But the rich guys will continue to get richer and richer.

In the 1970's, when I first bought stocks, a company whose price rose to more than ten times earnings would split the shares and all the stock holders would benefit. My son was in junior high when I gave him 25 shares of Mobile Oil under the Illinois Gift to Minors Act. With dividend reinvestment, ten years later, when his father refused to pay for his college tuition, David sold his 156 shares for enough to pay tuition for his junior year at the University of Illinois.

Once the initial offering is sold, a company receives no benefit from the rise in price for its stock. Today, instead of stock splits or increasing dividends as income goes up, boards of directors give big salaries, plus stock options and blocks of stock to themselves and senior management, who can sell them for enormous profit for themselves, but not for the company.

My late husband John worked for International Truck for 40 years. He believed in those big International trucks. To save for his retirement, he invested in company stock, paying as much as $40 a share. Then came the recession of the 1980's. International Truck almost went bankrupt and became Navistar, Inc. John was forced to take early retirement. He sold his shares for $4 each.

After we married, I urged John to buy 100 of those $4 shares “for sentimental reasons.” Soon after John died, the board of directors voted a “stock reduction” scheme to increase the value of the remaining shares. My 100 shares became 10. Later the company offered to buy them back for $32 a share. I’m keeping my 10 shares just so the company will send me annual reports.

Navistar continues to build trucks. In 2010 the C.E.O. received stock worth $646,567, plus options worth another $2,670,606. The C.E.O.’s total compensation for 2010 was $10,382,469. The company has not paid a dividend to stock holders since 1980.

I own other stocks which pay good dividends, based on the price I paid for them 20 years ago. Two years ago I sold my house. Since then I’ve had a chunk of money sitting in my checking account. I’ve searched for a place to invest my house money. If the stock market continues to crash, I will buy stocks. But I continue to have contempt for overpaid C.E.O.’s and their boards of directors.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What Happened to Jobs?

There are no simple answers to complicated questions. But our government does nothing to stem the factors leading to the collapse of the U.S. economy.

The unemployment rate continues to climb. Those are real people who now face financial ruin. On Friday a new gal came to clean my apartment. She used to process mortgage applications for a large financial institution. When the housing bubble burst, she lost her job. Now she scrubs floors and cleans toilets for a fraction of what she earned before.

The “authorities” say the recession is over. Like shit! Most jobs lost in the past four years are never coming back. My cleaning lady will never get her old job back. The company moved that business to Mexico.

In the 1890's the “robber barons” – Rockefeller, Carnegie, Frisk, Mellon, and their like – controlled American business. The government had to step in to bust the trusts. Most important were new laws protecting workers with wage and hour laws and guarantees to the right to organize labor unions. Today all those laws are being challenged as “unconstitutional.”

In the 1980's companies began laying off older workers before they reached retirement age. Many older workers never found jobs with equal compensation. To replace them companies hired young people fresh out of college who would work for lower salaries, kids who had degrees in business administration but no experience in actually working in a business.

The next step was hostile takeovers, mergers, and acquisitions. Lawyers and brokers made millions for handling the paperwork. C.E.O.’s took enormous bonuses for selling their companies. Often the takeovers were financed by banks. When the merger was completed, the victor company would close factories, lay off thousands of workers – and the price of its stock would go up. Who cared if a town in Iowa was ruined when Maytag was sold to Whirlpool?

Companies moved jobs out of the country. Factories closed in Kentucky and the machinery was shipped to Mexico, where peons worked for $2 an hour. A whole string of factories were built across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas, and westward to San Diego, California.

We buy steel from Italy to build bridges in Dallas. Clothes and toys we buy at Wal-Mart come from China. But do we realize how many parts inside our televisions and cars are manufactured in China?

Imports do not meet our manufacturing standards. My brother drove a nail with a Chinese tack hammer. The hammer head broke right off. He installed a new toilet. The plastic ring fastening the drain cracked. Water two inches deep flooded his bathroom.

We need more regulation of manufacturing, both with new corporate law here and with laws on the quality of imports. Try to get Congress to act. The Tea Party would cry, “No, no, no. What we need is less government interference in business!”


Monday, August 1, 2011

Less Government, Lower Taxes

I often say, “My education began after I graduated from college.”

Many years ago I studied at Texas State College for Women (now Texas Woman’s University). To receive my degree with a major in journalism, I took courses in economics, government, sociology, etc. to make me aware of the world beyond Texas, as well as how to edit copy, write headlines, and work with printers. Just for fun I also studied the Bible and history of Art.

After graduation I continued to read and study. I know more history than my first husband, who had a master’s degree in history from Northwestern. I know more about economics than my Congressman, who has a business degree from Texas A&M. By keeping my eyes and ears open as I lived in various places and traveled to foreign countries, I learned a lot about the differences and similarities between people and governments. My brother says, “Never play trivial pursuit with her.”

The most important thing I learned in college was to read and think critically. I learned to always check sources. Why does a person make this statement? Whether it is in a book, a magazine article, a commentator on television, or in an e.mail, what is “the story behind the story”?

Gullible people accept as truth whatever they are told. They internalize thoughts and prejudices without ever questioning their beliefs. Yesterday I sat at a table with a new resident who told me, “I don’t like Obama.” When I asked why, she said, “I just don’t like him.”

I have an extremely intelligent friend in Houston. He has a master’s degree from M.I.T. He trained as an engineer and thinks in terms of “facts.” He is a Republican and never questions any of the far right propaganda he receives via e.mail. He refuses to understand that there is no editor on the w.w.w. Also, he bought the mistaken idea that “the media” has a liberal bias. He knows nothing about libel laws and dismisses anything published in magazines like TIME and Newsweek as “liberal propaganda.”

Friends, he has things backward. He considers Bob Schiefer as a liberal and won’t watch his program. On Sunday he didn’t see two senators present their views on the debt crisis. Bob gave twice as much time to the Republican senator than to the Democrat.

Tea Party members in Congress are letting our country face an economic disaster because they are tied to “Less Government, Lower Taxes.” That is a simplistic program that won’t work. Sure, there is waste in government, and the fat needs to be trimmed. But not by cutting Medicare and Medicaid. Not to mention lesser programs. Our national parks are decaying minute by minute.

Giving more tax breaks for the rich won’t create more jobs. The super rich will only build bigger mansions and buy fancier yachts. Manufacturing jobs are not coming back. The way to stimulate the economy is for more government spending on programs to hire more workers who will spend their money to buy more. That’s the way to get the economy moving again. We should raise taxes on the rich to pay for it.

That is not Socialism. That is practical economics.