Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Maine "Refugees" Who Died Fighting For ISIS

Two Muslim immigrants who lived in Maine were killed fighting for ISIS and each left a wife and children here on welfare. The second, Adnan Fazeli, was revealed last week by the Portland Press Herald, but how many people realize there was at least one other? And, are there any more? If so, that information would be kept under wraps as long as possible.
The first was Abdirahmaan Muhumed, aka Abdifatah Ahmed, about whom I wrote in January, 2015. He was born in Somalia, raised in Minnesota, lived in Lewiston, and became a US citizen in South Portland, Maine. His Maine wife divorced him because he wanted multiple wives. He was killed in Syria in 2014 and it’s worth mentioning that he also worked at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. Think about that next time you board a plane.

Last week’s Press Herald headline on Fazeli read: “Documents: Freeport man died fighting for Islamic State in Lebanon.” Was he a “Freeport man”? By whose definition? He was an Iranian who professed, at one time at least, a desire to become American. To be a “Freeport man” one must be an American. Nowhere in the article does it say Fazeli was a citizen. It said he became radicalized in Maine by watching ISIS videos and converting to Wahhabism, which the PPH called an “austere” version of Islam. That’s like calling the KKK an austere version of Christianity. Wahhabism is radical Islam. It’s jihadism calling for the destruction of the west. Maine State Police Detective George Loder said: “Fazeli’s change in behavior alienated him from many of his Shia and moderate Sunni friends in the area. However, there were a few local Sunnis who supported his [radical Islamist] fervor and treated him with a great deal of respect.”
The article said Fazeli was a “refugee” brought to Portland by Catholic Charities in 2009. He was born in Iran and raised a Shia Muslim, but “self-identified” as Arab and not “Iranian.” What a suspicious phrase that is. Was he born Persian, which is a different, majority-ethnic group in Iran? Faze also identified as a Sunni Muslim, a branch of Islam which comprises about 9% of Iran’s population, but he was afraid of being arrested so he “fled” to Syria, a puppet state of Iran where a civil war was raging between Sunnis and Shiites. How does that make sense? Syria would be the last place to go for “refuge.” Was he perhaps interested in joining Sunni terrorists like ISIS and al Qaida which were fighting the Shia in Syria? 
Yasidi females -- former ISIS sex slaves

Then he “fled” Syria, arriving as a “refugee” in Philadelphia in 2009, and “came to the Portland area through Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigration Services,” according to the Press Herald. The article goes on to say: “Catholic Charities in Portland said Fazeli tried to receive social services [welfare] from the organization but was told that because he had come to Maine from another U.S. city after he’d immigrated to the U.S., he was not eligible…”
However, Fazeli did go on welfare along with his wife and three kids. This was reluctantly revealed in subsequent Press Herald article headlined: “LePage orders scrutiny of welfare benefits for immigrants in Maine… a reaction to the case of an Iranian refugee who... was killed fighting for the Islamic State in Lebanon in 2015.”
Interesting that he wasn’t a “Freeport man” anymore, but “an Iranian refugee.” Most illegal aliens sneaking into the country now ask for “asylum” as instructed by immigration lawyers — virtually all of whom are Democrats. Most "refugees" are not fleeing war-torn countries either. They come from the Middle East, Africa, Central America, and other places as economic migrants to get what Fazeli was getting. Only some are leaving Syria or Somalia, but media like the Portland Press Herald and the Sun Journal of Lewiston imply that all are genuine refugees from war-torn countries. The London Daily Mail reports that four out of five migrants to the EU in 2015, for example, were economic migrants looking for a better life, not refugees fleeing a war zone.
Soros and Hillary

This “refugee” migration is pushed by the Democrat Party as a recruitment drive. That’s why George Soros funds it so lavishly both here and in Europe according to recently-hacked documents from Soros’s “Open Society Foundation.” It's a scam to "fundamentally transform" the United States and the entire western world while getting the rest of us to pay for it.
Obama and Soros

Soros also funds attacks against writers like David Horowitz, Pam Geller and Cliff May (all of whom I’ve met) and others who expose things like what I've written above. Stories like Fazeli's and Muhamed’s give ordinary voters a peek under the rug where liberal media desperately try to sweep stories about radical Islam in the USA — while depicting writers like me as hateful bigots for exposing them.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bedeviling Choice

How did we end up with two candidates most of us dislike? Well, we voted them in, that’s how. What does that say about us, the American people? That’s the essential question here. Hillary and the Donald reflect us — and we don’t like what we see. This year we tend not to ask “Who are you voting for?” so much as “Who are you voting against?”
Leaked emails confirm the Democrat National Committee steered the nomination toward Hillary and away from Sanders. They also confirm an incestuous relationship between Democrats and Mainstream Media. Both phenomena were long suspected but the emails are proof in black and white.
Republican leaders never hid their dismay as Trump won primaries. They maneuvered openly to deny him the nomination but failed. Trump got a record number of popular votes and won legitimately. Hillary also got more votes than her opponents, but Sanders supporters ask themselves if his momentum might have carried him past Hillary had the DNC had not covertly worked against him early on. We’ll never know.
Ordinary voters in both parties were dissatisfied with leadership, but only Republicans got a “change” candidate while Democrats got an old battle ax. Lately, however, Republicans feel buyer’s remorse as Trump repeatedly trips over his own tongue. Hillary has political experience and it shows. She is focused and on message as the general election campaign proceeds. 
With zero experience, Trump is neither. Every day he gives the hostile mainstream media more arrows to shoot at him. While he bleeds in the polls, Republicans like Ted Cruz, Susan Collins, and Ben Sasse grab life jackets and jump ship. They’re not facing reelection this year but others are. Party leader Mitch McConnell said he’ll understand if they want to grab their life jackets and jump too.
Aside from refusing to release his tax returns, Trump is an open book. He eschews teleprompters and speaks his mind day after day. That novel approach appealed to voters in the primaries but it’s sinking him in the general. It’s still ten weeks to election day, and that’s an eternity in politics, but it’s not looking good for him. She sticks to script while he shoots from the lip.
Hillary has been caught in lie after lie, but the mainstream media virtually ignore them. Trump says dumb things almost every other day and they focus on him instead. Obama’s “Justice” Department protects Hillary too, but fears more email leaks showing the Clinton Family Foundation as more a money laundering operation and political slush fund than a charity. That could still sink her. If the electorate starts seeing her and Bill’s quarter million dollar “speaking fees” as bribes and payoffs, her polls could flip quickly. She’s a smooth and practiced liar as I personally witnessed last December when I had a 15-minute exchange with her. Lies roll off her tongue effortlessly and she’s been skating away from accountability for decades.
“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t,” goes the idiom. We know what Hillary will do if she gets in so she would be the devil we know. We’re not sure what Trump would do. He’s been all over the political map during the past thirty years and it’s hard to tell, so he’s the devil we don’t know.
Trump, my least-favorite of the Republicans who ran, is one of the few candidates I didn’t get a chance to interview this election cycle. He says he’s pro-life, pro 2nd Amendment, wants to beef up the military and enforce immigration law — all good, but he used to think differently on some of those issues and has not explained why he changed. He never spoke of reducing the size of government either.
Trump did release a list of judges he would appoint to the Supreme Court — all strict constructionists. The four liberals on the court do not feel bound by the Constitution and would rely on foreign law. One, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, advised Egypt not to use the US Constitution as a model. I was more appalled, however, when Reagan-appointed Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner said: “[T]he original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the post–Civil War amendments (including the 14th), do not speak to today… I’m not … particularly interested in the text of the Constitution. I don’t believe that any document drafted in the 18th century can guide our behavior today.” Hillary would appoint more like these.
If you’ve ever said: “This is a free country and I can do what I want,” remember: that’s true only because of the Constitution — especially the Bill of Rights. Primarily, however, the Constitution is a document that says to government: “you have these powers only and no more.” It was designed to prevent the federal government from becoming the behemoth it is.
To preserve the Constitution at least, I plan to vote for Trump, the devil I don’t know.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Don't Know Much About History

Teaching US history to 14-year-olds could be frustrating. In Maine, as in most states, students took US History in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades. That latter was required for a high school diploma and I believe it still is, but none of it guarantees that those who graduate high school have even a cursory understanding of American history — or any other history for that matter. My frustration in 8th grade was the discrepancy in basic knowledge of history or geography with which students came to me. Most didn’t know a country from a continent. They could not point to Maine on a world map, nor did they have even a cursory understanding of what the United States even was.
The scope of my curriculum included US History from Indians to the present, weaving in geography, economics, civics, the US Constitution, and current events. I was prepared to deliver it, but after the first year I realized that most students had no framework of space (geography) and time (history) into which this material could be assimilated. Without such a structure, my students would not retain much. Some 5th grade teachers taught US History, but most did little more than cut out turkeys and Pilgrim hats at Thanksgiving. I had to fill huge gaps before delivering my course because without a mental framework of time and place, what I had to teach would go in one ear and out the other.
Because of an enrollment bulge one year, I had to give up two sections of history to other teachers and pick up a couple of writing classes instead. Though I gave one teacher the scope and sequence of my 20th century US history curriculum (the scope had narrowed by then), she taught nothing but slavery all year. That’s it. Students emerged from her classes knowing nothing else of US History but that black slavery was practiced here. I was appalled, but there was little I could do except bring it to the attention of administrators. I’ve since learned this was not usual. According to Assistant Professor Duke Pesta at the University of Wisconsin, it’s much more widespread than I ever realized. Pasta offers one telling anecdote:

I started giving quizzes to my juniors and seniors. I gave them a ten-question American history test... just to see where they are. The vast majority of my students - I'm talking nine out of ten, in every single class, for seven consecutive years — they have no idea that slavery existed anywhere in the world before the United States. Moses, Pharaoh, they know none of it. They're 100% convinced that slavery is a uniquely American invention... How do you give an adequate view of history and culture to kids when that's what they think of their own country - that America invented slavery? That's all they know.

Most Americans have no idea that Arab Muslims enslaved more than a million white, Christian Europeans between 1500 and 1700, and as many as 2.5 million more whites from the Black Sea region. Touring the Greek Gulf of Corinth in 2014, I asked our guide why all the villages were located up on steep hillsides instead of on the coastal plain, she said it was to escape Muslim slavers. Arab Muslims practiced black slavery long before and long after Europeans or Americans did and still enslave black Christians in Sudan.
Simon Deng - black Christian slave I met in 2010.

When my curriculum included US History from Indians to the present, I had students reenact pre-Civil War congressional slavery debates in class. Southern congressmen like John C. Calhoun were correct when arguing that slavery was approved in both the Old and New Testaments as well as in virtually every other culture throughout history. College students today, however, think slavery a uniquely American institution.
Consider what their misconception — that Americans invented slavery — does to their understanding of their own country. Consider that leftist professor control academia — and make sure students hear a continuous drumbeat about what an evil country this is — founded by evil, capitalist, white, racist men. It’s no wonder so many flock to Bernie Sanders rallies and support dubious organizations like Black Lives Matter. No wonder they’re so willing to believe that racist cops shot Michael Brown in the back while he had his hands up — which never happened. And, it’s getting worse. According to a report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA):

The overwhelming majority of America’s most prestigious institutions do not require even the students who major in history to take a single course on United States history or government. Disregard for the importance of United States history in the undergraduate history major is matched by the overall disappearance of United States history requirements from general education…

In the Ivy League, it’s not much better. reports:

When ACTA commissioned a Roper survey of seniors at the "Top 50" colleges and universities, those holding the most prestigious positions in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, it found that only 29% could identify—in a multiple-choice survey—the definition of "Reconstruction.”

Don’t count on an informed electorate going into November.

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Monday, August 01, 2016

The New Telescreens

Sunset over Portland Maine from Bug Light Park July, 2016

My wife and I often take a seaside strolls evenings around Bug Light Park in South Portland, Maine. Others enjoy that too and most look to be in their twenties and thirties. I can’t help noticing how many stare at their cell phones and one night I decided to count exactly how many. It was a lovely evening with a warm breeze. Planes were gently descending toward the Portland Jetport, ferries were coming and going, the salt air was sweet and Portland’s lights twinkled across the harbor. About twenty young people were standing around the lighthouse in small groups, while others sat on benches facing the water. All were looking at their cell phones — every single one.
Moonset over Portland, Maine from Bug Light Park 2013

That must have diminished their appreciation of a special time and place. That night we saw no one in our sixties demographic, but when I do happen to see some they don’t have a phone in their hand. Some may occasionally talk on one briefly, but I almost never see them just staring at the screen. There’s definitely a generation gap in use of cell phones. While nearly everyone my age I know has one, they use them about as they would use a handkerchief — taking it out only when they need it.
Tanker from Bug Light Park 2012

I’d like to know exactly what those young people were doing with their phones. They weren’t talking to anyone on them and they weren’t talking to the others who were physically present either. It was as if they were in an airport where no one knew each other, but clearly those at the park did know each other even if they were not conversing. They weren’t texting either: I saw no thumbs moving. They were just staring at screens. It would have been rude to go up and stare over their shoulders to see what so engrossed them, so I can’t say what the were looking at.
Sunrise at Bug Light Park 2013

We were holding hands as we sauntered along the paved walkway next to the water. I run the same path mornings and have to keep an eye out for dog poop, but at night I’m not able to see it. Most dog people are good about cleaning up after their pets, but occasionally I’ve had to dodge a turd. I’m thankful that so far I have not felt that sickening squish underfoot during our evening stroll.
Flying kites at Bug Light Park

I shouldn’t let other people’s cell phone behavior trouble me but it does, and it has for a long time and I’m still not sure why. It bothered me the first time I noticed it while walking on a sidewalk in Boston years ago and I wrote about it. Today, phones do many more things and their use had greatly increased. That is changing us in some basic way because, after all, we are what we do every day. I’m not sure if the change is good or bad. We’re communicating more, but in a more indirect way. People used to write letters, then letters morphed into emails. Now texts predominate. Volume of communication has increased, but quality has diminished.
Another sunset at Bug Light Park 2012

Sometimes I take my evening walk there alone. Smell of the sea brings with it memories of nighttime adventures with my teenaged friends in Newburyport and Gloucester, Massachusetts fifty years ago. We were part of a loosely-organized Sea Scout troop in the sixties and spent weekends sanding, painting, and varnishing pleasure boats while they were on dry dock in late winter and spring. Doing so, we earned the privilege of using those boats to cruise around Cape Cod Bay, Martha’s Vineyard and Provincetown. Pleasant memories, those.
My demographic at Bug Light alone with his thoughts

People pass by but I’m alone with my thoughts and it’s nice, very nice, but it just wouldn’t be the same if I were staring at a screen. What’s the point of being in a special place like that if I’m looking at something else while there? Yet I see young couples walking along each staring at a screen. They’re there, but they’re not there. They’re together, but they’re not together. Something very basic has changed for them.
A poignant youtube video called “I forgot my phone” has gotten nearly 50 million views in three years. It depicts a 20-something feeing isolated as she goes through her day without her phone. All with whom she comes in contact are glued to theirs and she seems to have an epiphany, an insight into what her demographic has become.
Orwell described Winston Smith’s resentment of the ubiquitous telescreens in his novel, 1984. Unlike cell phones, those screens were fixed to a wall. Smith’s fellow citizens stared at them and Big Brother could monitor them as they did. Our cell phones go around with us and are equipped with GPS, so our whereabouts can be known by anyone with the desire to track us. That’s concerning, but not so much as what I see young people doing every day of their own free will.

UPDATE 8-3-16: Bar owner in England blocked cell phone signals in his establishment. The BBC reported: "He said he was tired of people coming in and not socialising with each other or with anyone else in the building. 'I've seen it progressively get worse and worse and I thought, "I want to stop this,"'Mr Tyler told BBC Sussex.'I want people to socialise with the people they are with, rather than the people they are not with.'"

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Democrat War On Cops

Most of us are hyper-aware of police. If we’re in a hurry and driving over the speed limit, we’re trying to avoid them. We look in the rear-view mirror or ahead of us and cringe if we see one, slowing down immediately. Cops know this. If we’re victims of a crime, however, they can’t appear fast enough. Cops know this too.
Years ago a cop knocked on my door, and when I invited him in he handed me a summons. He wore a bullet-proof vest under his shirt and I asked him why he had to wear that just going around delivering paperwork. He said cops don’t know what type of reception they’re going to get and have to prepare for the worst. It’s the same reason they don’t stand right outside of your driver’s side window after stopping you. They’re trained to stand to the rear and you have to turn your head way around if you want to make eye contact.
Regardless of what you may have heard, cops don’t like writing speeding tickets, but they do like helping people. That’s why they became cops. They also know more about the public than the public knows about them because they see us at our worst. Years dealing with people who are stealing, molesting, assaulting, killing, or just going crazy is debilitating. A retired detective recently told me he’s writing about cops partly to help civilians understand why so many become alcoholics and/or suicidal. It’s a tough job.
Gentle Giant robbing, assaulting store owner just before he assaulted a cop and got shot

I had dinner with another cop soon after the Michael Brown shooting two years ago. The media was full of stories of how a racist cop Darren Wilson shot “gentle giant” Michael Brown in the back while he had his hands up pleading: “Don’t shoot!” After a few weeks, some of us learned that none of that was true — it was all made up by Brown’s friends and completely swallowed by liberal media. He wasn’t a gentle giant. He was a thug and he wasn’t running away. He was assaulting Officer Wilson and trying to grab his gun. After the media had so saturated the public with the “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” lie, however, facts didn’t matter. Most Americans still believe Brown was shot by a racist cop.
The officer with whom I had dinner was very dismayed. He said cops everywhere were affected, even in rural Maine. The atmosphere had changed. Cops were second-guessing themselves — thinking about how public encounters might be spun by media instead of reacting instinctively to potentially dangerous situations — and that hesitation put them in still more danger. Cops know they’re the good guys and don’t like being portrayed by media as the bad guys.
Soros funds War on Cops

It didn’t help when the day after the Michael Brown shooting, Obama’s Justice Department sent teams of people to Ferguson to instruct local officials and the general public about “White Privilege” and racism. It got worse when Democrat billionaire George Soros sent $33 million to organize Black Lives Matter. My cop friend believed things were going to get worse and he was right. Black Lives Matter and other groups held demonstrations all over the country chanting: “Pigs in a blanket [body bag]! Fry ’em like bacon!” and “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want ’em? Now!”  Hillary invited BLM leaders to meet with her. President Obama invited them to the White House. Then five cops were murdered in Dallas by an angry black man. Three more were murdered in Baton Rouge by another angry black man — all just because they were cops. Individual police officers all over the country were shot as well.
According to Heather MacDonald’s new book “War on Cops,” a cop is nineteen times more likely to be killed by a black man than a black man to be killed by a cop. That’s a fact, but media portray it otherwise. Their narrative is that racist white cops like to shoot young black men and media controls public perception. In politics, perception is reality. It’s no coincidence that Michael Brown’s parents spoke at the UN. The Democrat Party hopes to benefit from public misperception so they invited Brown's mother to speak at their National Convention in Philadelphia this week.
Democrats own this

CBS reported that: “[Philadelphia Police] Union president John McNesby says Hillary Clinton should be ashamed for allowing relatives of people killed by police to speak, but not give equal time to families of fallen officers.
Many declare that President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Democrat Party itself have created the War on Cops. Repeatedly embracing the allegedly Reverend Al Sharpton and other race-baiters as well as granting legitimacy to wild accusations about “racist” cops has created a dangerous climate.
None of this is good and cops know it. As they back off confronting black criminals, murder rates climb. Should Democrats win in November we can expect that trend to continue.

Update 8-2-16: Well, it has continued. Four cops in Pennsylvania were shot at by two young black men last week. Their mother blamed Black Lives Matter saying, "They are in jail for doing what Black Lives Matters wanted them to do: shoot at cops," she said in a written statement. "The truth is that these are two punk kids following the orders of an irresponsible organization and now they're gonna pay for it."

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Monday, July 18, 2016

American Families

“Ruth is on top, finally,” said my brother-in-law. We were at Arlington National Cemetery to bury my wife’s mother, Ruth Kosiavelon. The graves are all in straight lines there like soldiers in formation — ever ready, as the cemetery tour guide described them. We had buried my father-in-law, Theodore Kosiavelon there four years ago and Ruth’s coffin was to be situated above his because there isn’t room to put spouses beside dead soldiers. Her inscription would be etched into the back of his stone.
Ruth was Ted’s second wife, loved and respected as mother to children and step-children. Nearly all made the trip down along with friends who had attended her wake and funeral mass back in May. It takes time to arrange a burial at Arlington and they do thirty every day. Ted earned the right to be buried there during World War II when he was wounded in Manila Bay by a Japanese torpedo plane attack. Ruth wouldn’t be anywhere but with Ted and so we all gathered again for her ceremony. It’s the end of an era because Ruth the last remaining member of the greatest generation on my wife’s side.
Leaving from the Portland Jetport last Wednesday night, we bumped into conservative commentator Tucker Carlson. He has a place in Andover, Maine where he told us President Obama got only one vote in the last election. It was a different story in Washington, DC where Obama remains popular. The Obama effect is evident all over town. In the guided tour of the Arlington National Cemetery, blacks laid to rest there were mentioned most prominently, from Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, some Tuskegee Airman, Frank E. Petersen Jr. who was the first black Marine general, Matthew Henson who was with Admiral Peary when he discovered the North Pole, and so on. Museums we toured showed similar influence where attention is constantly called to the first black this and the first black that.
Ruth last Christmas

World-wide, there was a lot going on last week but I couldn’t study events as closely as I usually do with doing the tourist things as well as commiserating with family. The five Dallas police officers killed last week were being laid to rest, then three more were killed in Louisiana. A Muslim terrorist killed 85 with a truck in France. Information about torture at the November Paris nightclub attack emerged after the French government withheld it for months. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, to whom I’d been introduced by a mutual friend during an earlier trip, was selected as Donald Trump’s running mate.
It stresses me when I can’t find time to keep up with world events and last week I was falling further behind with so much going on. Ruth had always tried to keep up too and I’ll miss getting her perspective. After the burial we all gathered in the revolving sky dome restaurant on the 14th floor of the Doubletree Hotel in Crystal City. The Pentagon is nearby with Arlington National Cemetery beyond, and we could see across the Potomac to the Washington Monument. Ruth had bought everyone a round of drinks at the sky dome when be buried Ted and we all toasted her memory.
Also at the hotel was a reunion of another extended family calling itself the Demery, Farley, Syas, Taylor Family. Four hundred of them wore red tee-shirts and I’d get snippets of information from members during elevator conversations. In an extended discussion with one member I learned they’re all descended from two brothers who were “free people of color” in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and fought in the Battle of New Orleans. For this, they were granted special permission to live as free blacks in Louisiana, which would not otherwise have allowed it. Their descendants have kept in touch for two centuries and still meet every two years.
Four ladies of Stiles family at Olive's lonely grave

And speaking of family reunions, last week I guided members of the Stiles Family to the lonely, 1848 grave of ancestor Olive Stiles for the third time after I wrote about finding it in 2007. It’s on the slope of Stiles Mountain in the White Mountain National Forest. Ten of them were making a side trip from their larger reunion in New York City.
As she lay on her death bed Ruth told her loved ones she knew she was going to her Lord. That awareness gave her strength to die with peace and dignity, which in turn helped ease the loss for everyone. Also, the DSFT family reunion activities included “Family Worship” on Sunday, the day we left. Awareness of where we come from strengthens us all. Our founding fathers understood that and referred to our Creator at our country’s birth — a good thing to keep in mind at a time when our country and the families which make it up are feeling the strain of troubled times.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Today's Trends

My mother keeps track of her thirty grandchildren and her forty-six great-grandchildren. She knows all their names too — pretty remarkable for a woman in her nineties. She’s getting forgetful, but not about family. She had eight children of her own and I’m the fourth. Ours was a large family, but not unique. My best friend across the street was one of seven and so was my wife. We had only four children, which was considered a lot for my generation. Fewer Americans want to have any these days though. I’m seeing more people of childbearing age raising dogs and cats instead of babies and I’ve written about it several times including here and here. Why don’t Americans want to have children anymore? What is happening to us?
Ma on her 90th birthday with a few of her descendants

Our population is still growing but mostly because of immigration. The percent of Americans born somewhere else is approaching record levels. In Portland, Maine, one of six people was born in another country and most of those who are women are having children at much higher rates than native-born Americans. They, at least, have some hope for the future, which is one meaningful aspect of bearing children. Another is willingness to give of oneself.
Americans tend not to marry much anymore either from what I can see. For two months, I’ve been advertising an apartment above our garage, and while several couples have inquired, none have been married. Typically, a woman calls me to say she is interested. I ask if she’s alone and she says no, it would be for her and her boyfriend. That’s the norm these days. When I say I need first and last months’ rent, a security deposit, and a credit check, that all presents too high a bar for most to get over.
Pondering this, I saw a story on CBS News that two out of three Americans could not cover a $500 unexpected expense such as a car repair. I was shocked and realized that statistic bodes ill for our nation. There have always been people who live close to the edge and spend every dollar that comes their way as quickly as they can, but 66% of us live like that now? Even when we were a young family living below the federal poverty line, we kept that much on hand. That was back in the 1970s when $500 could buy about what $2500 buys now. It was hard to save up but we did so by eating a lot of soup and watching where every penny went. My wife and I agree those times were among the happiest of our lives. Most people we knew lived similarly, but  that way of life is not the norm anymore. What is happening to us?
Used to be that when people went broke, they would go to local churches to ask for money to pay the electric bill, the rent, buy heating oil, food, or whatever was the most pressing basic need. Doing so, they had to be accountable to the priest, minister, or rabbi about their spending habits, work habits, and/or lifestyle that might have gotten them into their predicament. If they went to someone in their family for a loan, the same accountability would usually apply. They’d have to explain how they got in the hole they were in and what they were doing to climb out of it.
Today it’s different. Today people go to government. In the 1960s when President Johnson declared his “War on Poverty,” the federal government began supporting people. There are forms to fill out but few inquiries about lifestyle. Either you qualify for government aid or you don’t. That aid increased steadily to the point where it now spans womb to tomb. It used to be that most had an incentive to save up for emergencies, but if they should save a given amount today it would disqualify them. In 2014, America reached the point where more than half of us received some form of government benefit. How far can “entitlements” expand? We’ll be $20 trillion in debt when President Obama leaves office -- double what it was when he was first inaugurated, and most has gone to pay for unsustainable social programs. That’s a whole year's GDP. Still we hear candidates promise to make college free and forgive another trillion in student debt with no explanation for how they’ll pay for it.
Americans are living beyond their means and so is the government upon which they depend. It’s not enough anymore to ask what is happening to us. We must ask what will happen if we continue on this path.

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