What’s for dinner? Ingenuity. Remembering a Senator

Looks like it will be April Fools Month. By May, a lot more of us will look like old hippies. April has 30 days, but it will feel like 90.

Did you ever eat a ramp dinner? In Oklahoma the Cherokees call them wild onion dinners. Well, in the spring you go out in the woods and dig up a batch and invite maybe a thousand people to a big dinner affair. Serve ‘em with bacon, corn bread, ham, dried beans, fried potatoes and whatever the cooks decide to add. Ramps taste like mild onions, but the, uh, after-dinner aroma emanating with every breath can be devastating to friend and foe alike.

Ramps can provide a valuable service this spring. If you suspect you have symptoms of the coronavirus, eat a hearty meal of ramps. No, they won’t cure you. But for a few days you’ll be guaranteed social distancing.  Nobody will come within six feet of you.

Do you remember when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941?  By 1943 America was designing and manufacturing ten to twenty times as much military hardware as any Washington politician in 1940 could have imagined. Engineers and scientists and private enterprise did that. Today, you are seeing a similar explosion of ingenuity in the battle against coronavirus (which no politician could imagine). Need more Ventilators? Ford and GM are cooperating with smaller designers to ramp up production. Running out of fresh N95 masks? Battelle created equipment to sanitize and reuse old masks; each mobile, self-contained machine can clean 80,000 a day. Remember when there were not enough test kits and it took days to know if you had the virus? Abbott Labs developed a test that gives results in less than 5 minutes. And they will produce 50,000 a day. This is only a sample of all the companies joining in this battle. If we can all stay put (except for medical folks, first responders and other essential workers), pretend to be a soccer player (don’t touch anything with your hands), and wash ‘em if you do, then we can get through this with maybe 100,000 deaths instead of a million.

Farmers are continuing to farm. They hope to spend a good part of April in a tractor seat, planting crops. As in many calamities, prices at the farm gate are suffering. Worried consumers cleared out the meat cases, but the price of cattle dropped. Corn and soybeans this fall will likely sell for $50 less per acre than farmers expected when they ordered seed in January.

A former Senator died this weekend. I never met him, but let me tell a funny related story. About ten years ago I landed at the Tulsa Airport. As usual I was dressed as Will Rogers, wearing a blue suit with a small Stetson hat, and on my right shoulder carrying saddlebags with a lasso hooked to ‘em. As I entered the non-restricted area, I noticed a boy, about 12, apparently waiting with his mom for his dad. Now, it’s not unusual in Oklahoma for people to recognize me. They know I’m not really Will Rogers, but we often enjoy a brief conversation. This boy kept gazing at me, astonished, open mouthed. As I got close I smiled at his mom, then asked him, “Do you know who I am?” He gasped, “Are you Senator Coburn?”

Well, the real Tom Coburn, a family doctor in Muskogee, died at age 72 after battling prostate cancer. As a Senator, 2004 to 2016, he had battled wasteful spending and was successful in getting several changes in Congressional appropriations.

Historic quote by Will Rogers:

“Steak on the plate went up. Steak on the hoof went down.” WA #118, March 15, 1925

Stock market crashes, 1929 and 2020

Columbus: The coronavirus is expanding, just as the medical experts predicted. Besides the medical damage (hospitalizations and deaths), it is strangling the economy. By the time you read this, the stock market may have lost a third of the high value a couple of months ago and millions are out of work.

How does the response by President Trump and Congress compare to the response in 1929 by President Hoover and a Republican Congress?

Well, night and day. In 1929 it was mostly no action, except for the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930, which made the Depression even worse. In 2020 the Republicans are quickly pumping about Two Trillion (borrowed) dollars, yes Trillion, into the economy.

Here’s a bit of history. The Stock Market crash in 1929 began Oct. 24. By Oct. 29 it had dropped 25%. By the time the Dow Jones average bottomed out in 1932, stocks had lost 85% of their value. The election of FDR gave a temporary boost until 1937 when it dropped again. If I’m reading the charts correctly, the Dow did not climb back to the 1929 peak until 1954.

Below are a few insightful comments by Will Rogers on President Hoover, Congress, businessmen and bankers.

Note: Will Rogers did not own any stock, following the advice of Bernard Baruch. He invested in land instead.

Historic quotes by Will Rogers: (from Daily Telegrams, Oct-Dec, 1929)

“When Wall street took that tailspin, you had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of.” Oct. 24

“When the stock market goes down Mr. J. P. Morgan [and other prominent New York bankers] hold a meeting and let everybody see them in this huddle. Then the market perks up… It would be a great idea if we could just get these boys in a room together for six months. There is no telling to what heights the market might go.” Oct. 29

“Sure must be a great consolation to the poor people who lost their stock to know it has fallen in the hands of Mr. Rockefeller, who will take care of it and see that it has a good home and never be allowed to wander around unprotected again. There is one rule that works in every calamity, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” Oct. 31

“Mr. Hoover is becoming disgusted with the Senate… he took ‘em serious, thereby making his only political mistake.” Nov. 1

“All the big financiers are saying ‘good values are worth as much as they ever were,’ but that’s the trouble, nobody knows what they were ever worth.” Nov. 8

“Prosperity this Winter is going to be enjoyed by everybody that is fortunate enough to get into the Poor Farm.” Nov. 14

“America already holds the record for freak movements. Now we have a new one. It’s called ‘restoring confidence.’ Now I am not unpatriotic and I want to do my bit… But you will have to give me some idea of where ‘confidence’ is. And just who you want it restored to.” Nov. 19

“Wall Street stocks are about back up to where the suckers can start buying again.” Nov. 27

“Poor Democrats, I love ‘em. I guess because some are so dumb. Now they are dying to scare up an issue by trying to discredit Mr. Hoover.” Dec. 23

“Passed the Potter’s Field yesterday and they was burying two staunch old Republicans, both of whom died of starvation, and the man in charge told me their last words were, ‘I still think America is fundamentally sound.’” Dec. 25, 1929

A Pandemic requires some humor

Columbus: Whoa! What a difference a week makes. Last week I said California was concerned about the coronavirus becoming a pandemic.

Now the whole country, including President Trump, knows we are in a pandemic. It is far beyond a few people returning from cruise ships, China, or Europe. We are all at risk. In response, all sports have been cancelled, restaurants closed (except for carry out), and schools are online.

Everyone will work from home if they can. (One glaring exception: airline pilots). Of course, our farmers and ranchers already work from home. That’s one reason we’re not concerned about running out of food, only toilet paper.

Watching CNN and the debate. They took seriously the advice to stay 6 feet away from everyone. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are standing at least 6 feet apart; I can’t tell, but they may have a glass wall between them. Even the debate moderators and the commentators on the pre-debate show were spaced far apart. CNN, which routinely has 10 or 12 political experts sitting in a semicircle, creatively solved it by sending two-thirds of ‘em away for the night.

With two long-time Senators going at each other, we learned a lot about how Congress works. Sanders claimed, “You wanted to cut Social Security.” Biden: “No, I always voted for Social Security.” When you’re in there 40 years, you’ve probably been of both sides of a dozen issues. As John Kerry famously said in 2004, “I voted for it before I voted against it.”

Humor and entertainment are necessary in trying times. Will Rogers starred in movies during the Great Depression. And he included quite a bit of humor in his writings, often poking fun at the movie business. (below)

Historic quotes by Will Rogers:
“Producers decided to make fewer and worse pictures. They may make fewer, but they will never make worse ones.” Notes

“We try to make (movies) as good as we can. Bad pictures are not made with a premeditated design. It looks to you sometimes like we must have purposely made ’em that way, but honest we don’t. A bad picture is an accident, and a good one is a miracle.” WA #581 Feb. 11,1934

“I can’t write about the movies for I don’t know anything about them. It’s the only business in the world that nobody knows anything about… The exhibitor says, ‘If you get them too clean nobody is interested in them.’ The so-called intellectual keeps saying, ‘Why don’t they give us something worthwhile in the movies that we can think about.’ The regular movie fan says, ‘Give us something to see, never mind think about. If we wanted to think we wouldn’t come in here.’” New McClure’s Magazine, September 1928

“I like to make little jokes and kid about the Senators. They are a kind of a never-ending source of amusement, amazement, and discouragement. But the Rascals, when you meet ’em face to face and know ’em, they are mighty nice fellows. When you see what they do officially you want to shoot ’em, but when one looks at you and grins so innocently, why you kinda want to kiss him.” WA #345, Aug. 4, 1929

It’s down to Sanders, Biden, Trump… or Rogers??

Columbus: The Democratic race is down to Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. (Tulsi Gabbard is a long, long shot). Even Mike Bloomberg, who spent half a Billion, had no influence except in American Samoa. Bloomberg’s lack of success makes you wonder how much influence Russia had in the 2016 election when they spent a few thousand dollars. How much can Putin afford this year with oil at $30 a barrel?

The coronavirus has jumped from China to our West Coast. In California they’re worried it could become a pandemic. In the rest of the country Democrats fear a Sanders win could cause a pandemic for their Party.

Bernie Sanders does not like Billionaires. He used to hate millionaires, too, but now he is one. So he tolerates ‘em . On television this morning he said the Walton family has over $100 Billion while their 2,000,000 Walmart employees make only $10 to $12 an hour. He kinda implied the Waltons should divide their wealth with those employees. And if he gets Brian Williams and his MSNBC crew to do the math, each employee would get $5,000,000.

Senator Sanders also said half the families in this country live “paycheck to paycheck.” In simple arithmetic (not the Brian Williams method) that means if they earn $3000 a month they spend $3000 a month. And a young couple with 2 or 3 kids will need all of that for a house, car, food and other essential expenses.

But “paycheck to paycheck” also describes families that get $6000 or $8000 or even $12,000 a month and choose to spend it all (or more). Instead of saving for college education, retirement or medical emergencies they spend every dollar. Naturally they will vote for Sen. Sanders for free college, free medical care, and a comfortable retirement from Social Security.

Sanders lost his lead to Biden in the Super Tuesday elections. An amazing comeback for the former Vice-President and Senator. TV commentators are asking Bernie if he will drop out if he loses Michigan this Tuesday. But why should he? He won California and half the states have not voted yet.

With only old white men (Sanders, Biden and Trump) in the race, maybe it’s time for “Will Rogers” to jump in. “I’m” 140, so I got ‘em beat on age. And I’m quarter-blood Cherokee (authentic, not like Sen. Warren). My great-grandfather, Robert Rogers, immigrated from Ireland in 1800, so I should grab the Irish vote.

And here’s the clincher: I’ll ask Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii to be my VP. Did you know she is part Samoan? Maybe she can persuade Bloomberg to give us his American Samoan delegates. Of course we would rather have the half a Billion he hasn’t spent yet.

Historic quote by Will Rogers:
“Politics has got so expensive that it takes lots of money to even get beat with nowadays.” DT #1538, June 28, 1931