Most of the people I talk to about the sad state of our economy totally reject my point of view. Last week, a successful professional woman stopped me dead in my tracks, in the middle of a sentence, and said, “I refuse to believe that there is no hope.” I didn’t actually say there was “no hope,” I said in my opinion; neither Presidential candidate could fix the problems. Why do so many intelligent people bury their head in the sand and ignore all of the evidence? I call it the Rose-Colored Glasses Syndrome. Most people simply do not want to hear about anything that is negative or threatening to them. They tend to see life through Rose-Colored Glasses and filter out anything that darkens their day. Many of my friends and acquaintances think that I have a doom-and-gloom mindset. They believe that they are the “realists” and people like me are doom-and-gloomers –Personally, I don’t think that seeing things as they really are and drawing a negative conclusion is such an outrageous thing to do. To the contrary, I believe that we are the ones who have checked out the facts and we are the ones who see things as they are and after examining the facts, we have come to the conclusion that we are in real trouble and there are few if any options left to fix things now. We are at the crossroads – and the two roads are Almost Out Of Time and Out Of Time. Frankly, I don’t see any real hope from the policies of either Presidential candidate. I don’t see any hope from the political system at all, no matter which party is in control. Both parties have failed miserably for the last decade and all they offer is more of the same policies that failed in the first place. Kicking the can down the road, the Fed’s favorite strategy, has “run out of road.” Richard Russell sums it up in a few words – inflate or die and no politician will chose the latter option, which means the currency will be the victim.
25 years ago, Jim Kilday, a friend and client of mine said, “Don’t tell me about a problem unless you can tell me how to fix it!” When it comes to the economy, I wish I could tell you how to “fix it,” but I am not that smart. What I can tell you is to turn in as many of your (about to be seriously depreciated) dollars for gold and silver as possible, while they are still affordable and available. That course of action at least will cushion the blow and help you to get through the difficult times that we will all have to endure.
Yesterday, a friend sent me an Email. It was in response to an article I sent to him, an interview with Richard Maybury that predicted riots in the streets and difficult times lie ahead. Maybury, for those of you who aren’t familiar with him, is no fool. He was one of the first, in the early 1980s, to warn of the latest chapter of The Crusades, the wars in the Middle East and the growing problems with the extremist Muslims. His credibility is high with those of us who have known him and read his reports for the last 20 or 30 years.
My friend vehemently disagreed with Maybury’s premise, that we will experience riots in the streets here in America. As a matter of fact, Gerald Celente predicts the very same thing. I have pointed out to my friend, on many occasions, that the middle class is shrinking rapidly, the standard of living for most American’s is falling and that if something isn’t done soon, we will experience rising inflation and rising un-employment, and we will enter an era characterized by some form of a hyperinflationary depression, and the social unrest that will accompany it.
Most of us, and I include myself here, have never experienced a depression so unless you studied it in school you have little idea of what it means. We weren’t alive when it happened. Richard Russell, old codger that he is, wrote a fantastic piece on what life in the Great Depression was like and I want to share it with you so that you can better understand what many Americans will have to face if we continue on this road of out of control debt and unabated money creation, not to mention continued wars in the Middle East (with Iran in the cross hairs now too.)
Flashback: I’m walking down Broadway with my collar turned up around my frozen ears. It’s a hellish winter morning during January of the year 1939. Manhattan is beset by a blustering, freezing wind. I’m strolling down the west side of the avenue — Broadway, past Jack Dempsey’s, past the record shop, past Lindy’s, past the spaghetti and meatball joint, past the Automat, past — wait, I duck downstairs into the Automat. I’ve still got three nickels in my pocket, and I’m freezing my ass off. I walk up to the hot chocolate booth, and I drop a nickel into the slot. I yank the handle down and a stream of steaming hot chocolate fills my cup.
A scraggly-looking bearded old guy walks up to me and groans, “Hey, young fellah, can you spare a cuppla nickels? I’ve got a case of walking pneumonia, and I gotta stay warm.” I shake my head, no, and shuffle off to sit at an empty table. Next to me is another empty table. There’s a plate on the table with what looks like a half-eaten sausage on it. A few seconds later another old guy wearing a French beret sits down at that table. He’s got a fork in his hand. He scarfs the sausage down, looks at me and winks as if nothing has happened.
I nod to the old guy. I’ve got a job designing and selling piece goods. So I feel entitled to goof off at the Automat and have a cup of chocolate. And so far today, no luck — not one lousy sale. I had a job with the George W. Button Co. up near Harlem but they laid most of us off when things got slow. It was a union job paying $18.75 a week, six days a week including Saturdays. My job was loading trucks with Max Factor women’s cosmetics, and the cases were heavy as the devil. We used to kid around by putting beige or pink Max Factor powder all over our faces.
Now I’m a salesman and proud as hell to have a real job. As I’m walking, I pass an employment agency, and there’s a long line of grizzled men, hands tucked into their overcoats, all waiting outside the agency. Most are stamping their feet to keep warm. They’re hoping that maybe some kind of work comes up. I feel kind of guilty because I’m young, and I have a job.
I cut over across Fifth Avenue towards the west side and head into frozen Central Park. I’m going to look up a few friends from the West Side — big Chuck Lungobardy and Whitey Taylor. They usually hang out on Broadway at 86th Street, doing nothing, smoking and shooting the breeze. Cutting across the sheep meadow I see all the “Hoovervilles,” little huts made of crushed cardboard boxes and flattened tin cans — all taped or stapled together. Kids and their moms are peering out from the makeshift doors of the huts. I wonder how they all keep warm, because the cops don’t let the squatters light fires.
I cross 84th Street, Central Park West, Columbus Avenue. A shivering lady beckons to me. “C’mere sunny, I want to show you something.” I say a bashful “No thanks” and keep walking. I pass a bleary-eyed guy selling apples on the corner. He’s holding a hand-painted sign, “Help a vet. 10 cents for an apple.” I look away.
When I get to Broadway I head down to the Tip-Toe Inn where the guys usually hang out. On my way, Wayne Marcus is standing on the corner, a cigar in his mouth. Believe it or not, Wayne is a member of the NYSE (his old man, Morty Marcus, is rich and has a seat on the Exchange). Wayne is banned from the floor because he got into a fistfight on the floor. Seems one of the jealous runners had called him a “smart-ass Jew.” Wayne, an ex-Marine, loves to fight, and that was all he had to hear. Wayne knocked the kid out — right on the floor of the Exchange. The floor banned Wayne for six months. Wayne’s dad is the specialist in Bessie Steel and Emerson Radio. We kidded his dad about not having a car and always taking taxis. So one day he bought a Rolls and a Mercedes — just to show us.
“Hey, Russ,” calls Wayne, “I know this chick who can get us in the side door of the Paramount. Tommy Dorsey’s playing with Sinatra. Want to go?” I shrug my shoulders and say, “Sure, I can’t sell anything worth a damn anyway.” And we’re off to the Paramount. We skip the box office. Seventy cents admission before 12 o’clock, and that includes a new movie and the floor show. But we don’t pay.
The movie is a stinker, but Dorsey and Sinatra are great. Five hundred girls are screaming their heads off at Sinatra, and it’s hard to hear what Frankie is singing. They call these girls “bobbysoxers,” but to me they’re a pain in the you know what.
Leaving the theater, I trip over some guy. Wouldn’t you know it, he turns out to be a cop. He’s sitting there with two of his buddies. The cop mutters, “Watch your step, hookie-boy.” The cops often duck into theaters when it’s cold. And, of course, they never pay — even for the popcorn. It’s the Depression, and everybody is looking for something, anything, for nothing.
I know a lot of the cops get free meals at Lindy’s or even the Automat, where the changers slip them five or ten nickels. The New York cops aren’t like the California cops. Most of the California cops (I later found out) are clean as a whistle. Offer them a bribe, and they’ll cuff you, and turn you in.
Well, I could go on for 100 more pages about life during the Great Depression, but I hope this gives you some sense of what it was like for teenagers to grow up and survive during the Great Depression. Yeah, and in this piece I told you mostly about the fun part of it. If you were older with a family believe me, it wasn’t that much fun.
“The art of life is to live in the present.” Emmett Fox
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