It was an honor to know and work for Ronald Reagan, whose birthday we celebrate this week. I “cut my political teeth” working for him in West Texas in 1976 and 1980, running for the U.S. House at his suggestion in 1978, and later in his administration from 1981-85 in several executive positions.
I was very fortunate to meet with him numerous times both in private and public meetings, and there are two – of many – specific lessons that I learned from him that are enormously important today in 2012. They’re timeless actually.
First, know what you believe; and believe what you know. And be ready, willing and able to tell that story. I learned from Ronald Reagan that in politics the narrative is everything. The reason he could so compellingly explain to his fellow citizens the reality of economic consequences, the nature of evil, the noblest call of human liberty and dignity, and the Divine hand of the Creator in both our national and personal life, is simply because it was in his very soul.
He spent decades studying and conceptualizing his beliefs. So when he went before the public arguing that a bloated, government-run welfare state stripped human dignity out of individuals, and left them to the least that is in them, not the best that liberty could afford them, American’s responded to the conviction and the truth of his narrative.
When he said that our problems are not caused by too little spending, but by a predictable desire of a self perpetuating bureaucracy to take from the individual and consume for themselves, the truth struck like a bell.
When he described the “Evil Empire” and its political offspring that sought to corrupt God’s sovereign gift and enslave a world to a dark idolatry of the state, free men and women knew instinctively that his narrative was beyond human truth.
And when he spoke of the gift of human life, it was not a piece of DNA, but a life hand crafted by God.
Today, we suffer the “sound-bite conservative” in the political world. Too many of our politicians are men and woman of the moment. They throw around catch-phrases like “free markets” and “free trade” and “pro-life” like party favors. But you know in your heart they are just spouting words they think you want to hear, not the truth you need to hear. They simple don’t have a whole narrative in their souls; and whatever they believe today, can change by a poll tomorrow.
If the modern conservative movement wants to be freshly relevant - if we want to rescue our faith, our culture, our economy and our liberty - then we will become studied expositors of the narrative. We will tell the American people why we believe what we believe. Not reluctantly, no apologetically, and not with one eye to the political calculus.
Ronald Reagan’s narrative spoke to the American spirit like a song-bird sings to the world; he told both the Truth - and the truth.
The second thing I learned from Ronald Reagan was to speak to the future, not the past. He was a very practical man. He certainly used historical and factual stories from the past as guideposts, markers and warnings. But he led his countrymen by an optimistic vision of what God promised us we could be. Always in his narrative was the causal lightness that we took ourselves to seriously, and that there was a streak of common sense and ingenuity that ran in the American character – because liberty revealed it in us. God’s grace invited it. Our natural humor welcomed it.
Men look better after the years pass. We forget the turmoil and angst of Washington’s trek across the frontier of Revolution. We forget Lincoln’s foibles, mistakes and dark moods. So too, perhaps we shall paint a portrait of Ronald Reagan without some of the blemishes of his life because we want to only remember the best of him. But blemishes are not what make great men and women. Ronald Reagan was without serious question one of the giants of the twentieth century. We do him, nor ourselves, any wrong to pass by his blemishes, and celebrate his greatness.
As I go to sleep at night, my prayer is that our beloved America shall soon see another great leader for the young twenty-first century.
[Michael Giere lives in Northern Virginia and has been widely published on politics, public policy, and foreign affairs. He served in both the Reagan and Bush (41) Administrations.]
The causes of the 2007-08 downturn are now etched indelibly into popular memory: it all came about because of an infamous housing bubble, which policymakers inexplicably failed to spot. Readers of this column will know that I regard this explanation as simplistic, although housing was certainly an intermediate cause of the problem. However spotting the housing bubble at the time was difficult (though not impossible – this column did it a couple of times) which is why it is unsurprising that commentators have failed to identify that repetition in greater magnitude of the same policy mistake – excessively cheap money – has now produced another bubble. Not in gold and commodities, whose price rises are an entirely rational response to monetary conditions. Today the true and hugely damaging bubble is in government.
Very cheap money and relaxed credit standards are/were key drivers of both the housing and government bubbles. Traditionally, governments had been constrained to maintain deficits below about 5% of GDP and homeowners had been constrained to maintain home mortgage payments at below 30% of their incomes (or in Britain, mortgage principal at less then 2.5 or 3 times their incomes.) With easy money, these constraints were abandoned, and new frontiers of leverage and budget deficits were explored.
Political philosophies have underpinned both bubbles. In the housing case, there was a belief, fed by the absurd U.S. home mortgage guarantee system, that home ownership was in some sense a right, even for those who could not properly afford the mortgage payments. In the government case, the belief was the age-old Keynesian Bureaucrat Fallacy of government infallibility, that problems could best be solved by government intervention, and recessions cured by injections of government money.
These philosophical beliefs were combined with misguided beliefs about the market. In housing the core belief was that house prices never fell, except in local areas for short periods. The New England and Texas meltdowns of the late 1980s should have disabused the housing market of this theory, but memories are surprisingly short when there are financial advantages to oblivion. Thus a mere 15 years after those meltdowns the housing market embarked on a nationwide, nearly worldwide, adventure in leverage and overvaluation.
For governments, the equivalent belief was that governments can borrow more or less ad infinitum, rolling over their debt, without much danger of default or adverse economic consequences. There was somewhat more excuse for this belief; defaults within living memory had all been in places like Latin America which could be written off as poor and underdeveloped.
The Japanese counterexample, where debt rose steadily above 200% of GDP without visible adverse consequences (that could not be attributed to some other cause) gave the borrowers encouragement. So too did the distant historical experience of Britain, which had twice worked down debt levels of 250% of GDP. The second, after 1945, was eliminated though inflation and “repression” of its savers by forcing them to buy government bonds at below-inflation interest rates. (This tactic would be much less effective in a globalized system, where money can flow freely, than it was in Britain with its 1945-79 exchange controls.) The first work-down, after 1815, was achieved through a government austerity and management quality almost certainly impossible in a modern democracy.
Once the bubble got going, traditional metrics on house prices, borrowing ratios and budget deficits were rubbished. House prices rose by 107% between January 2000 (already a fairly buoyant period) and April 2006, according to the S&P-Case Shiller Index. The U.S. budget deficit, which had never in peacetime exceeded 6.3% of GDP or $500 billion, was pushed up aggressively to 12% of GDP, and allowed to remain above $1 trillion for four successive years (and counting – there’s no certainty at all that the deficit for the year to September 2013 will end up below that figure). As in all bubbles, participants convinced themselves “it’s different this time.”
As well as metrics being abandoned, traditional lending standards and budget constraints were trashed. However much Republicans may wish to blame President Obama for this, the reality is that subprime budget policies were adopted in 2008, nearly a year before Obama took office. The first trillion dollar deficit occurred in the year to September 2009, for which Obama had de facto responsibility for only the last 3-4 months. The equivalent of “liar loans” in which the borrower did not have to prove his income or ability to repay the mortgage was the 2009 “stimulus” in which government spending did not have to be shown to have any value.
Many have written of the bubble in U.S. Treasury bond markets, with the 10-year yield below 2% while inflation is at above 3%, and the Fed owning close to $3 trillion of government guaranteed paper, mostly of long duration, but this is a symptom of the bubble, not the bubble itself. The collateralized debt obligation market was an efficient if flawed mechanism to distribute securitized home mortgages, but it was housing and the mortgages themselves, not the securitized market, that formed the bubble. If home mortgages had remained sound, mortgage bonds would equally have been sound. Similarly, it is government spending and borrowing that forms the current unsustainable bubble; the Treasury bond market is merely a financing mechanism.
Wall Street has been blamed for the housing finance debacle and will doubtless be blamed for the coming government bond debacle, but in reality it is merely an efficient testosterone-fueled distribution mechanism. Its risk managers, and those of many institutional investors, were in 2005-08 working on hopelessly flawed models, which made incorrect assumptions about the nature of markets. However in the housing case the true blame should fall on the rating agencies, which recklessly and unquestioningly took Wall Street’s models and used them to assign AAA ratings to bonds that were anything but.
In the government case, most of the blame should fall on bank regulators, who are even more culpable than the rating agencies of 2005-08. They have allowed banks to invest in government bonds without assigning capital to their holdings, thereby effectively permitting infinite leverage. In addition, blame should fall on the designers of current monetary policies, which have encouraged banks to buy huge stocks of government bonds and finance them through short term borrowing and repurchase agreements, making an unlimited profit through unlimited leverage of the yield curve. Making this silly game more profitable than small business lending is a principal source of the economic sluggishness in the United States, and even more so in southern Europe.
The Enron example showed that jail sentences are felt to be appropriate after financial crashes. In this case they should fall on regulators, monetary policy designers and budget committee chairmen rather than on the relatively blameless bankers, who were simply responding to the misguided incentives they were given. Of course, in both the housing and government examples, some operators were worse than others. Countrywide’s mortgage lending practices appear to have been significantly more feckless than most of their competitors’ while among governments Greece, Italy, Illinois and California were notably less prudent than their brethren.
In the government bubble, central banks have played the exacerbating role that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac played in the mortgage bubble. The Bernanke Fed’s repeated purchases of government bonds, a practice believed devoutly to be thoroughly unsound before 2008, mirrors Fannie and Freddie’s massive portfolio of mortgage bonds and their determination not to be left behind in market share however “subprime” the mortgage market became. Similarly the European Central Bank’s $600 billion 3-year 1% bank funding in December 2011, and its promise to repeat the operation in February, have provided a massive subsidy to the government bubble in the same way as Fannie and Freddie’s recklessly awarded guarantees, their dumbing down of approval criteria and their bloating of maximum mortgage limits subsidized the subprime mortgage bubble.
One interesting case study is China, which conflated the two bubbles. Having developed a real estate bubble of its own, based on reckless bank lending at below-inflation interest rates, it then engaged in “stimulus” that consisted of yet more feckless bank lending to needless construction projects. With a gigantic domestic pool of savings available to raid at any time, China may yet escape the yawning recession that would normally follow such redoubled folly, but someone in that country is going to lose truly gigantic amounts of money in the next few years, as the bad loans come due.
Both housing and government bubbles thus involve massive amounts of “malinvestment” in the Austrian economic sense – money flowing into assets and activities that are superfluous to the economy’s requirements. The solution in both cases is a recession that writes down the malinvestment and begins the redeployment of resources to more economically viable areas. In the case of housing, that process is nearly finished – there are strong signs that house prices are nearing a bottom, having returned in most areas to below-average multiples of incomes. The next few years will see two further downdrafts, however, one caused by the inevitable (if artificially delayed) foreclosures and the other caused by a rise in real interest rates to historically appropriate levels. It may thus be 2018-2020 before the housing market is truly restored to health, in terms of new home building, etc.
In the government case, the first solution attempted will inevitably be a burst of inflation, with interest rates being kept artificially below the inflation rate, inflation statistics being falsified, and the Fed attempting to depress the real value of the government’s obligations. This will not work, but the temptations to the Fed and the authorities are likely to be such that no Paul Volcker will appear as in 1979 while inflation is at the relatively benign 10-12% level. Instead, sloppy money will be perpetuated until hyperinflation of 100% per year or more has entered the American experience for the first time.
At that point, the international money and capital markets will refuse to accept the now worthless dollars (and, equivalently, euros) and will increasingly move to gold, with governments in the U.S. and elsewhere being powerless to prevent this development. Eventually the combination of a Gold Standard, a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and a massive write-down of remaining U.S. and European obligations will restore order. Needless to say, a political crisis of some magnitude will accompany these developments, since current politicians are quite incapable of dealing with the rigors of Gold Standard government finance.
This column said as early as 2005 that the housing bubble would inevitably burst, and that it would cause a major economic disruption. The same is now equally obvious for the bubble, not merely in government bonds, but in government itself.
The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index measures the residential housing market, tracking changes in the value of the residential real estate market in 20 metropolitan regions across the United States.
(Originally appeared in the The Bear's Lair.)
Martin Hutchinson is the author of "Great Conservatives" (Academica Press, 2005)—details can be found on the Web site –and co-author with Professor Kevin Dowd of “Alchemists of Loss” (Wiley – 2010). Both now available on Amazon.com, “Great Conservatives” only in a Kindle edition, “Alchemists of Loss” in both Kindle and print editions.
The United States is one of the freest countries on the globe, but unless my sensibilities are entirely out of whack, I assert that this country—the country of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Randolph, Calhoun, et al—is not nearly free enough. It isn’t even as free as we think. Can a man or woman truly live here according to conscience? At one time, we could have answered “almost certainly.” Today one’s conscience must be conformed in so many ways to so many things. We are not free, except in the most abstract, academic—and ultimately irrelevant—way. Our spirits are dying: death by a thousand pinpricks. Nay worse, a hundred thousand paper cuts from a faceless bureaucracy! Since Eden , there have been so many constraints on man anyway, without the added coercion of the muscular enforcers of state, whether they enforce the will of the few on the many—or the will of the many on the few! I just wish our government were less concerned for my welfare and more concerned for my freedom. I wish it were less concerned for this collective nonentity called “the people” and more concerned for every single individual, made in the image and likeness of God. I wish the government were less concentrated, had less power and authority, and were more respectful of the natural regions and the natural differences that exist amongst us. I don’t want to cooperate with everybody else, marching off into a global abyss. I JUST WISH THE GOVERNMENT WOULD LEAVE US ALONE.
Of course, you know what they say about wishing in one hand and picking up horse hockey with the other: one hand is likely to get fuller than the other. I reckon the wish must obtain a will and the necessary resources to in fact change things. God help us. Today the federal government literally employs extortion on the States with the money it taxes from us. To make you wear your seatbelt and do a hundred other things, the feds withhold funds from sovereign States, unless and until those States pass particular laws. They did the same thing after the War Between the States: permanent military occupation unless the States would approve certain constitutional amendments. The contexts are indeed different, and there were hard historical and practical realities to settle during the Reconstruction. But is another Robert E. Lee or Jeff Davis left anywhere in this unified, chained and tethered house of ours—locked down from the inside out? Is there a governor with backbone anywhere in the country to point out and even put an end to . . . (shall I name it? Are you willing to recognize it?). Tyranny.
Some of you will say, gosh he’s gone over the top (again). So you think, “I’m free, right?” Not if you think you ought to be in charge of the money you set aside for retirement, or the age you choose to retire. Not if you think you ought to be able to choose when your child goes to school, for how many weeks he or she should study, as well as what subjects. Walter E. Williams reviewed Sheldon Richman’s excellent new book, Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State (available at and ). In the review, he asks “What if you think your child is capable of having a job at age 12, as I was? No dice. The government determines the age at which one can work, and for how long and at what pay.” Andrew Jackson joined the American Revolution at the age of 14, and he was a natural soldier. I’m glad nobody told him No dice, Andy . (He probably would have killed somebody on our side). Of course, I’m not advocating enlistment of child soldiers—just pointing out the arbitrariness of well-meaning rules, forced and enforced down every throat in the country—where no one possesses the slightest degree of discretion and no State retains a sovereign prerogative.
Alexis de Tocqueville predicted Americans would face this kind of despotism, to which democracies are prone—more widespread and milder than other forms, degrading men rather than tormenting them. In his masterpiece Democracy in America, he writes that our leaders are likely to become as schoolmasters. Our government will try to keep us “in perpetual childhood” and will do this by providing security and necessities, assuming responsibility for our concerns, managing our work. He foresaw government, which “gladly works for [‘the people’s’] happiness but wants to be the sole agent and judge of it.” Williams sums up his review with a very insightful comment, that “Democracy gives an aura of legitimacy to acts that would otherwise be deemed tyranny.” Moreover, my fellow tethered citizens, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe observed, there is no one quite as hopelessly enslaved, as the person who thinks he is free but is not!
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford . Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves asState Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC) and is currently running for U.S. Congress (TX-District 25) in the Republican Primary election scheduled April 3, 2012. This article is from his newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium available on-line atwww.WesRiddle.net and from fine bookstores everywhere.Email:
In a recent survey performed by AOL Jobs using statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job of judge was rated one of the best “lifestyle jobs” (those that pay above average but which require fewer hours than average).According to the survey, judges work an average of 37.2 hours a week and have a median annual income of $119,270.But the study left out some of the perks besides the hours and wages.Let’s face it—how many other jobs let you show up for work in a robe, sit up higher than everybody else, and require everybody to stand up whenever you enter and exit?See if you get that treatment at your cubicle tomorrow.And let’s not forget about that neat little gavel thingy.In fact, there are a lot of advantages to being a judge, as the following examples illustrate:
How many jobs other than rapper let you bust some rhymes at work?For Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin (about whom I’ve written before), it is a regular feature of life on the bench.Justice Eakin recently issued the latest of his rhyming opinions, this time reversing the insurance fraud conviction of a guy who opened a bank account with a forged State Farm check:
“Convicted of the forgery, insurance fraud, and theft,
he admits the first and last, but denies the charge that’s left.
Just because the bogus check shows an insurance company’s name
doesn’t make the crime insurance fraud—it’s simply not the same.”
Well done, Justice Eakin—what other job would let you combine sound legal reason and iambic pentameter?
Who hasn’t made a Freudian slip from time to time?Judges are no different.Just ask Madam Justice Faye McWatt of the Ontario Superior Court in Canada.Just before a Toronto jury exited her courtroom to begin deliberating the cocaine-trafficking charges against defendant Prinze Wilson, the judge cautioned the jury to acknowledge the presumption of innocence, saying “It is only defeated if and when Crown counsel has satisfied you beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Guilty—I’m sorry, that Mr. Wilson—is guilty of the crimes charged.”Oops!Did that little slip of the tongue influence the jury, which subsequently convicted Mr. Wilson?Or was it simply an innocent faux pas?Wilson’s lawyer, Crystal Tomusiak, has appealed her client’s conviction, saying the judge should have ordered a mistrial or given the jury an instruction to disregard the gaffe of referring to the defendant as “Mr. Guilty.”The Ontario Court of Appeal is expected to rule later this year.
Judge Jed Rakoff, a federal judge in New York, has presided over very high profile cases during his tenure on the bench.So it is understandable if he exhibited a little frustration in a recent case that involved, well, kitty litter, to be precise.Church & Dwight Co., the maker of Arm & Hammer products, took issue with what it contends is false advertising by the Clorox Company in a commercial for Clorox’s Fresh Step cat litter.After an evidentiary hearing, Judge Rakoff granted an injunction in favor of Church & Dwight Co., preventing the continued airing of the commercial in question.The judge particularly criticized the reliability of Clorox’s in-house “jar tests” supporting its claims that its carbon product eliminated the odor of cat crap better than Arm & Hammer’s baking soda.Judge Rakoff called it “highly implausible that eleven panelists would stick their noses in jars of excrement and report forty-four independent times that they smelled nothing unpleasant.”In other words, this case didn’t pass Judge Rakoff’s smell test (and I’m pretty sure the job of “cat crap smell tester” came in way down on the AOL Jobs survey).
Oh, where do I begin with this one?There is the legal dispute between Bikram Choudhoury (founder of Bikram Yoga) and three yoga studios (including New York’s Yoga to the People, Inc.), claiming that the yoga studios have violated his copyrighted yoga poses.The defendants argue that yoga poses can’t be copyrighted, and the U.S. Copyright Office recently agreed.Copyright authorities ruled that yoga poses and moves are exercises rather than choreography (which can be protected).If I were the judge ruling on this matter, I’d have to say that yogi Choudhoury’s argument is too much of a stretch (insert rimshot noise here).But there are so many more crazy lawsuits to choose from, like the Michigan woman who is suing the makers of the movie “Drive” (with Ryan Gosling) because, well, she was expecting more driving in the film itself.Then there is the California woman who’s sued Chuck E. Cheese for $5 million, claiming the popular establishment’s games are actually an illegal form of gambling that gets kids addicted.We also have the success-obsessed New York mom who’s sued a private preschool, saying that its curriculum has seriously damaged her 4 year-old’s chances of getting into an Ivy League university.My favorites are the adult children (ages 20 and 23) who have sued their mother for allegedly sub-standard mothering.Their list of “grievances” includes “playing favorites,” sending cards without gifts, and not sending care packages to them at college.Boy, would I love to be the judge who imparts a cold dose of reality to those two!
Sure, most judges have sacrificed lucrative pay in the private sector for the sake of public service.But just look at the benefits.
Throughout my working career I’ve been blessed to work for businesses who’s owners were great businessmen. Due to these men who had big dreams to be the best in their respective companies (mobile homes, printing, restaurants, aircraft contractors) I, along with my family, have done well financially and never to this day have we been in financial distress.
Last week my wife and I went to San Antonio to celebrate our Wedding Anniversary. Driving to San Antonio I called several of my musician friends to find out where they were performing. One, Johnny, who my wife and I love his music told me he was not playing at his old gig in downtown San Antonio and gave me the name and address of the club where he now performs. Luckily, the club was close to where my wife and I stay. During a musical break Johnny told me why he was let go at his former gig and how he loathe the club owners and well educated individuals. “James, these guys think they’re better than everybody else and don’t give a damn about others!” He ranted. I then told him, “Johnny, all the years we went to see you perform at Pat’s you seemed so happy. Now they they’ve let you go, you suddenly seem so angry with the owners. Don’t you appreciate all the years you made money there? And, if it wasn’t for club owners, who will hire you? Will it be people who are on welfare and food stamps? And if it wasn’t for folks who are well educated, who in turn make good money, go out to eat, have a few drinks and give you tips, which in turn keep the club owners in business, who’s going to butter your bread?” Johnny couldn’t give me an answered.
My friends, I’ve entertained at several restaurants for almost 30 years. I’ve known the owners since we were teens. Johnny Cisneros, a close friend and owner of Los Vaqueros in the Stockyards, started his restaurant with only a dream and a loan from his brother in law. Prior to being a restaurant owner Johnny worked for his brother in law who owned a bakery and tortilla factory packing tortillas. Johnny, a great cook, once told me that he always wanted to own a restaurant but didn’t have the money to open one. He asked his brother in law for a substantial loan and luckily got it. He then opened his restaurant, which soon grew very popular in the Riverside area of Fort Worth. After a few years Johnny trained his sons to run the kitchen. Some years later, John rented a former feed store in the Stock Yards and converted it to his now famous Los Vaqueros Restaurant across from Billy Bob’s Texas (the largest country club in the USA). Later, upon the insistence of one of his sons, Johnny bought a multilevel building in the same block he ran his business. Within time he remodeled the building and converted it into a very popular Mexican eatery packed with patrons almost weekly. My friends, due to this hard working businessman, I, along with cooks, waiters, bartenders, cashiers, and busboys for thirty years have reaped the fruits off the dreams of this successful businessman.
Recently, my pastor at my church started to rant about the Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones. Father Tom told the congregation that he detests the business dealings of Mr. Jones and how he cheated a lot of homeowners to obtain their homes and property to build his stadium in Arlington. He went on to tell us that he found out that Mr. Jones has a lot of the Dallas Cowboys souvenirs (jerseys, caps, etc.) made in Third World countries where children are paid 29 cents an hour to make them. As I sat listening to Father Tom’s supposedly deplorable business dealings of Mr. Jones, I suddenly remembered that just last year when Super Bowl XLV between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers was held, it was the first time a Super Bowl was played in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the third time it was held in the state of Texas. I honestly believe that bringing the Super Bowl to our area is nothing to sneeze at. That to me is the expert dealings of a business sports genius! In the week prior to the game, I would drive to downtown Fort Worth to my favorite bar restaurant and all of downtown Fort Worth was teaming with tourist from Green Bay and Pittsburg. All I assume renting rooms in Fort Worth hotels and motels which were full to capacity and spending money in all of the restaurants, clubs, and department stores. On the Saturday before Super Bowl Sunday, Los Vaqueros, where I entertain was full to capacity with tourists who were here to see the game and enjoying our Western Heritage in the world famous Stockyards. Folks, I, along with my musicians made out like bandits in tips thanks to businessmen like Mr. Jerry Jones, and Mr. Johnny Cisneros.
Days after Father Tom’s Sunday’s rant at mass I received an email from my cousin which showed how much people from around the world spend a week on groceries. One of the photos, which showed a family of six in a Third World country, caught my eye. The photo showed the meager staple food these poor people eat in a week, which costs them a whopping $1.23, which they can barely afford. It then dawned on me that if just one of these poor people kid’s worked making Dallas Cowboy souvenirs at 29 cents an hour for 8 hours a day for a week, it totals to $16.24 a week, which would adequately in my humble opinion feed the whole family for several weeks.
My friends as a young boy of 12, I set pins at a bowling alley for 10 cents a line for several years. I remember earning around 14 bucks a week and I’d give mom half of my earnings. Mom, back in the early 50s could buy a lot of groceries with 7 bucks. I don’t recall her ever telling me not to work because I was a boy. I also remember Hispanic families leaving for months with their kids to go pick cotton, fruits, or whatever to help sustain the family.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Father Tom’s family probably bought him clothes made out of cotton when he was a kid, which more than likely was picked by a young Hispanic 12-year-old kid working long in the hot sun in Texas!