Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Forgotten Mom

The Forgotten Mom

MINUTES by Stephen Kelly
October 6, 2011

The Forgotten Mom

In her improbably gripping economics book, “The Forgotten Man:  A New History of the Great Depression,” Amity Shlaes tells of the transformation of the idea of the Forgotten Man.  In its original form, proposed by Yale Professor William Sumner in the 1870’s, when “‘A’ observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which ‘X’ is suffering, ‘A’ talks it over with ‘B’, and ‘A’ and ‘B’ then propose to get a law passed to remedy the evil and help ‘’X.  Their law always proposes to determine what ‘C’ shall do for ‘X’ . . ..”  Professor Summer said of ‘C’, the Forgotten Man, he “is the man who never is thought of.  He is the victim of the reformer, social speculator and philanthropist, and . . . deserves your notice both for his character and for the many burdens which are laid upon him . . . [h]e is the simple, honest laborer, ready to earn his living by productive work.  We pass him by because he is independent, self-supporting, and asks no favors.  He does not appeal to the emotions or excite the sentiments.  He only wants to make a contract and fulfill it, with respect on both sides and favor on neither side. . . . Every particle of capital which is wasted on the vicious, the idle, and the shiftless is so much taken from the capital available to reward the independent and productive laborer.  But we stand with our backs to the independent and productive laborer all the time.”

Sixty years later, FDR and his merry band of progressives proposed a new mathematics to the Forgotten Man.  In his math, much less word problem and more campaign rhetoric, A and B proposed a law to help X.  X is the Forgotten Man.  I guess in FDR’s formula C is the Really Forgotten Man.

When thinking of our own little problem of the Jefferson Roadblock, who is the Forgotten Man?  Get your scratch paper out.

Under Professor Sumner’s formula, the City of Saint Paul (A) saw a wrong from which bikers (X) were suffering.  During rush hour the poor little dears had to wait up to 2 minutes to cross Cleveland at Jefferson.  The City (A) then talked it over with TLC (B) and proposed to get a law passed (the Roadblock) to remedy the evil and help the bikers (X).  This law determined that the neighbors, residents and taxpayers, as represented by the three moms who started LTLC (C), must live with the Roadblock.

In this formula LTLC is the Forgotten Man, or maybe the Forgotten Moms.  They are the ones who will have to drive around the block, take several block detours, worry about their children on parallel streets and alleys on to which diverted traffic will be pushed.  They are the ones who will try and cross Cleveland at any point between St. Clair and Randolph and find that Cleveland has been turned into a raceway because there are no left turns at Jefferson.  The Three Moms are the ones who are fighting to make their neighborhood, the one that no decision maker at A or B live in, safer, more attractive and more convenient.

I doubt FDR was thinking of bikers (X) as Forgotten Men under his arithmetic.  It’s hard to see the evils and wrongs perpetrated against bikers (X) when State law allows them to drive on any road as they please, the City has removed car lanes to install bike lanes and that the City is giving away or renting yellow or green bikes.  Far be it for me to call bikers the “vicious, the idle, and the shiftless,” as Professor Sumner might. But it’s hard to think of bikers (X) on $1,200.00 bikes, $250.00 shoes, $150.00 Easter egg shorts biking though our fair town from coffee shop to coffee shop to enjoy a $5 cup of joe as the Forgotten Man.  It’s also really hard to consider people who are getting a $1,000,000.00 bikeway forgotten.

Certainly the City (A) and TLC (B) are not forgotten.  Well maybe they would like you for forget them.  They proceed with the bikeway and its Roadblock making as little noise as possible like a thief in the night.  Feds in Washington give away to TLC (B) our dollars they do not have.  TLC (B) doles out the dough like an eastern potentate sitting atop of this pile of our money at a levy.  The City (A), tongue hanging out, grabs at the moolah like a duped mark whose eyes glaze at the thought of $750,000.00 (psst . . . all you have to spend is $250,000.00).

No, the Forgotten Man here is the hard working Moms and Dads paying for both ends of this fiasco from the Federal dollars collected from their income to the City dollars collected from their property taxes.  Or maybe the Forgotten Man here the yet to be born kid of Mom and Dad who will be looking at a Greek debt crises x 1000 and ask, “you spent the money on what?!?”

But in my figuring (and I showed my work) I go back to the Moms; the three Moms that the Feds, TLC and the City turned their backs on.  They are the ones the Feds/TLC and the City want you to forget.  Well after knocking on doors, meeting with City staff, creating a webpage, making phone calls, sending letters to the editor, getting people to contact their elected officials, meeting in backyards and inspiring 300 neighbors to attend a meeting the other night, they’re not going to let you forget them.

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