March 20, 2020
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Tough Times Ahead

I am not looking forward to the post “coronavirus times” as the difficult decisions we are making now are sowing the seeds for some very difficult times after we survive this virus. Most Americans today do not remember the Depression of the 1930s and the War years from 1941-1945. You would have to be in your late 70s or older to remember.

My parents were married on October 28, 1928 – one year from Black Monday, October 28, 1929 when the stock market crashed. Needless to say, they were dealt some tough cards to play in their married life and the challenges they faced; namely, a long Depression and a 5-year War.

I was born in March of 1941 and was 9 months old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. My earliest memories as a child were of ration coupons for many items such as bacon and meat, no tires and no gasoline, long lines in stores and the absence of any metal toys. I had a small wooden wagon and some wooden blocks. During those years, the radio was our main link to the outside world along with the three newspapers published in Detroit.

It was tough back then and life was not easy. My mother cooked everyday and any leftovers were used to make an extra meal during the week. We ate a lot of hash and stew as she created dishes that were not in any cookbook. Americans struggled to survive as they were trained well during the Depression.

After the War ended, prosperity returned to the United States and life got a lot better. We, as a family, survived the Korean War and the subsequent War in Vietnam. We had the gas lines of the 1970s and the raging inflation of the 1970s and 1980s when cars and houses went up in price monthly. I would not be anxious to return to those times but it did toughen people up.

Today, it seems we are less likely to be patriotic, less likely to understand others, less likely to share, and more likely to want whatever we can’t have or feel that we deserve or that it is “owed to us.” The era of the credit card did not start until the first Diners Card was issued in the late 1950s. You saved to buy a car, not lease it; mortgages were harder to get and for many people the downpayment took years to accumulate. We did not have the Internet and lived with less clothes, smaller houses, fewer bathrooms in our houses, and struggled to pay for our schooling. Many personal loans required collateral and the concept of a student loan was unheard of.

I am not sure that Americans today are ready for what we are facing. The coronavirus is a terrible thing and not something that we anticipated or were prepared for. We are so used to, as a country, having a shot or a pill available from the pharmaceutical industry that will cure any illness or ailment that we suffer from. Not having this is making our struggle with the virus all that more stressful and severe. I think that we will survive this challenge as a country but the steps that our government was forced to take has created situations where many businesses will fail and never recover.

We will be facing some difficult times. Will the many bars and restaurants, cruise lines, auto factories, schools, universities, sporting teams, and airlines come back as they were before the virus? I doubt it. Americans will be facing some tough times ahead. Our life for the past 30 to 40 years has been somewhat easy. We have had our financial setbacks but always seem to recover. Our government has spent money for years that it does not have and accumulated a $23 trillion dollar public debt. As this crisis unfolds, the government will attempt to fund a stimulus to help our struggling economy and many Americans will need this and more money to survive. I just hope that we are strong enough to face the challenges we will face.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer
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