Over the weekend I read portions of two books that have turned into long term reading projects. One is a biography of Franklin Roosevelt, the other an economic tome called Naked Economics. Somehow the ideas in these two completely different books began to meld together and set me to thinking how dramatically America, and Americans have changed over the years.
For example, in Naked Economics the author writes about the great disconnect between what our college age children are studying vs the training that is actually needed in the current work force. Several million American jobs remain unfilled. They include electrical and industrial engineering and design as well as a need for welders and fine machine work. The disconnect comes as our college graduates walk off the commencement yard with degrees in political science, gender studies, history of the oppressive white majority and other degrees that captured millennial interest.
So fully a third of college graduates now reside with their parents and are either not working, or working in lower paid jobs which have nothing applicable to their degree studies. And American companies, desperate for workers, are pushing for legalizing illegal Mexicans because they know they'll take the jobs that Americans don't want. To fill the higher end jobs, companies from Michigan to Silicon Valley are lobbying Congress to grant more Visas from highly educated folks from China and India.
What does all this have to do with World War II era Americans? Well, Rosie the Riveter couldn't fix a screen door as World War II began. But, since most able bodied American men were serving in the military, it became necessary for Rosie to manufacture the war materials and hardware their husbands would need to win that war. How did they do? Well that led me to re-visiting those American war production numbers from 1942 to 1945.
Try to imagine America turning out 300,000 aircraft, 60,000 tanks, 36,000,000,000 yards of cotton textiles for uniforms, 41,000,000,000 rounds of ammunition, 12,500,000 rifles and carbines, 204,000 jeeps, 806,000 two and a half ton trucks, 124,000 warships of all types...so many that they were backed up in shipyards waiting their turn to bob into our naval harbors.
Then Rosie went home from her ten hour shift, cooked dinner for her kids, washed their clothes, cleaned the house, then went to bed to get up early for another ten hour shift the next day. When she did have a little leisure time she was saving her bacon grease, to be turned into her local butcher, to be carted off to plants that were making explosives. And she turned her newspaper and scrap iron over to volunteers who collected anything that could be recycled for war production.
Long ago, when I asked my mother about those years, she told me it was hard. She talked about rationing and how their sharecropping harvest went toward feeding American troops and our allies. Of the many sacrifices that people on the home front made in fighting that terrible war. Others of that era said, while it was hard, it was an exciting time, a time when the entire country was united for one grand cause; the preservation of the free world.
Contrast that era, and those Americans, to those of the Vietnam War, or the Gulf War, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While it was admirable that thousands rushed to their recruiting office on September 12, 2001, nothing else was asked of the American people. We simply dispatched our all volunteer force to the Middle East while the rest of America sat back as if nothing had happened. And we didn't try to sell war bonds...we just put all those wars on the government credit card. And we Americans continued to war and snipe at each other and divisiveness thrived.
Now we are on Obama's "semi-war" footing...neither in nor out. We dare not even call it war anymore..our President calls them "overseas contingencies".
As to the our economic battles, here at home, we're not doing very well there either. Our young want American companies to create jobs around their liberal studies degree while the world demands something far different. So the Millenials stay home with mom and dad, pictures of Barack Obama gracing their basement bedroom, and wait for the world to come to them.
Rosie The Riveter would be ashamed.