A Few Minutes with the Mayor – April 2016

An odd thing happened a few days ago… I saw a penny on the sidewalk and kept on walking, never bothering to pick it up. That would be unthinkable at an earlier time… a time when a penny meant something.

When I was ten-years-old, five pennies could buy a loaf of bread, or a ticket to a matinee movie. Want an egg? Two cents! The corner “candy store”—that’s what the kids called them—sold cigarettes for a penny apiece. Need groceries? Potatoes were two cents a pound, cabbage three cents a pound, and peas four cents a pound.

If you were lucky enough to own a car, a set of brand new tires could be found for six or seven dollars… and gas was ten cents a gallon.

Nevertheless, cheap as everything was, no one had any money. Most just got by. I remember my mother pulling me behind her on a Red Flyer wagon… sometimes walking for two miles and back to a section of town where there were perhaps a half mile of pushcarts loaded with fresh produce… just to save a penny on her groceries. This, even though we lived right on top of a grocery store. Yes! A penny really meant something.

So my question is this. How did we get to where we are today, with bankers, economists, and politicians throwing numbers around in billion and trillion dollar denominations? Not a one of them can count that high. Even if they could, according to Google, it would take a politician 31,709 years to count a trillion dollars. Yet they have no trouble spending it in the time it takes to pass a bill in Congress.

Heck, now they’re spending more money just to win an election than even existed when I was ten. Jeb Bush spent one hundred million dollars (of other people’s money) in his failed campaign for President. It may not seem fair, but let’s look at that in 1939 terms. That’s 5,000,000,000 (billion) eggs, or 714,285,714 pounds of hamburger meat, or 50,000,000 roller skates. Is this where modern politics has gotten us? Hillary Clinton gets $300,000 for a single speech? Really? What wisdom does she have to impart that equals the value of 6,000,000 loaves of bread? At this point in our lives, it’s time to bring back that wise old sage, Will Rogers, who, when eggs were two cents, told us, “America has the best politicians money can buy.”

Rogers’ sarcasm applies equally as well today. Our Congress does a better job of taking care of themselves than they do our country. A recent Review column by our own Michael Kell of the GoodBean Coffee Company clearly laid out the dark clouds looming over our economy. This situation didn’t occur overnight… it is the result of years of mismanagement on the part of our Federal government. What else could one expect with politicians promising the moon to everyone in order to win an election and an electorate all too eager to listen to them? You would think our economy is booming today.

Meanwhile, the number of people on food stamps continues to increase… approaching 47,000,000 (million). In other words, fifteen percent of the population is dependent upon our government for their daily sustenance. That is more people than the number of unemployed in 1939.

In the meantime, local governments are literally going through hell trying to maintain services for their citizens. Unlike the Feds, they can’t print more money when their costs of operations continue to climb. Their loyal servants, the Police and Firemen, need to eat and live just as much as people on food stamps. They are just as important as those we send to Congress. Indeed, more importantly, for they provide the most important element to a functioning society… safety for each and every one of us.

When times were tough for our parents and grandparents… when eggs were 2 cents and a loaf of bread a nickel, somehow they found the money to pay their Police and Fire Departments, to keep and maintain them and pass them to the next generation. It’s never easy, but we also, here in Jacksonville, have an obligation to our citizens to do no less.