Friday, November 15, 2013

November 15 - FDR Initiates the Draft to Prepare to Fight Hitler

Today in 1940, FDR called up 75,000 men to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. It was the first peacetime conscription in American history. The United States had a long history of resistance to the draft -- in World War I, some three million young men refused to register. Of those who were called up, 12 percent failed to report for duty or deserted.

FDR's decision to draft the first group of young men in the summer of 1940 was therefore risky because the country wasn't at war and the draft would be on the mind of voters in an election year (the election was ten days earlier and FDR won his third term handily).

The newspapers and cinema newsreels were now full of the news of Hitler's cynical pact with Stalin whereby in 1939 they divided up Poland. The the German army earlier in 1940 overran Norway and Denmark on April 9, then Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg on May 10, and France on May 12. Fear of Hitler, which for many dated back a year to Kristallnacht in 1938, following the annexation of Austria and the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Hitler sensed the fear and was emboldened  by the lack of resistance among the European powers.

Meanwhile Stalin overran the three Baltic states and annexed them. Neville Chamberlain was ousted and Winston Churchill took over the Prime Ministerist of Britain, stepping up preparation for war. The United States had a poorly trained standing army of only about 200,000 soldiers.  FDR took the step of requiring 16 million young men to register with the Selective Service. At the first lottery in Washington, D.C., Secretary of War Henry Stimson was blindfolded and ceremonially scooped out numbers.

By the end of World War II, 19 million men were drafted and 10 million were inducted. The draft lapsed for a while between the World War II and the Cold War, but Truman then restarted. It was not ended until 1973, when Nixon introduced the all-volunteer program.

Most Americans rejoiced about the end of the draft, but in 1999 the historian Stephen Ambrose explained the downside:
Today, Cajuns from the Gulf Coast have never met a black person from Chicago. Kids from the ghetto don't know a middle-class white. Mexican-Americans have no contact with Jews. Muslim Americans have few Christian acquaintances ... But during World War II and the Cold War, American [men] from every group got together in the service, having a common goal — to defend their country.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Secretary Perez Urges Hiring of Vets

Secretary Perez and Assistant Secretary for VETS Keith Kelly represented the department at the official Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 2013.  Organized by the Department of Veterans Affairs and a committee made up of veterans service organizations this program honored the valor and sacrifice of our veterans. Delivering his Veterans Day Address, President Obama recognized the attendance 107-year-old veteran Richard Overton, saying, 'It doesn't matter if you have been out for 7 days or 70 plus years, we have your back.'  Pictured: Richard Overton, Keith Kelly, and Honor Flight escort.  Photo credit Maria Temiquel. View the slideshow for more images and captions.
Secretary Perez with disabled veteran.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation held its Third Annual "Hiring Our Heroes Awards Dinner" on Nov. 12 in Washington, D.C. Labor Secretary Tom Perez spoke at the event.

He noted that service members shifting to civilian life "have an enormous contribution to make".  However, he said, the federal government must work with American businesses to help these heroes "succeed in the civilian economy." 

Perez said the department helps by "preparing them for civilian jobs, helping them and their family members find jobs, and protecting their employment rights." The DOL encourages business, unions and Veterans Service Organizations to work with the government around a common mission of creating jobs and hiring veterans to fill them. Because most hiring happens locally, "the work local chambers do in tandem with our staff in communities nationwide is nothing short of outstanding." 

The previous day, Secretary Perez attended a Veterans Day event at the White House where President Obama recognized Richard Overton, 107 years old, the nation's oldest living World War II veteran. The Secretary has written an op-ed for Veterans Day.

The Secretary and Assistant Secretary for Vets Keith Kelly accompanied the president to Arlington Cemetery for a ceremony honoring all veterans. 
The DOL Public Service Announcements are aimed at providing transitioning military service members, as well as veterans generally, with information on education, training and employment opportunities.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November 11 - Veterans Day

In Flanders Field, the poppies blow...
On Veterans Day we salute those who have served -- in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. 

The poppy became a symbol of World War I dead and Armistice Day because of In Flanders Fields, the great poem by the Canadian John McCrae who was a battlefield physician in Belgium in 1915.

The day was originally called Armistice Day, because it marked the ending of hostilities in Europe, on November 11, 1918. 

In the British Commonwealth, the day became known as Remembrance Day. In the United States, it is the day set aside for honoring of veterans.

Our honoring of Veterans Day in November suffers by comparison with Memorial Day, which has a similar purpose and is more widely observed as a holiday because it starts the U.S. summer season. Memorial Day also dates back further, to 1866 when a memorial was first held in Waterloo, NY to honor dead Union soldiers.

Our honoring of November 11 as the end of the "Great War" is also not as poignant as it is in Europe, where an entire generation of young men was cut down by machine guns in the tragedy of World War I trench warfare started by an assassination and then moving ahead inexorably as treaty after treaty came into effect and no one was able to halt the death march.
The memory of so many young men having been killed senselessly is evoked by The Green Fields of France, a poignant song about the fallen soldier Willy McBride. Some 250,000 Americans died in Europe in World War I, but as was the case in World War II the impact on the United States was much less devastating than on Europe, where losses were much greater over a longer period, out of smaller populations. My friend Tim Sullivan sent me the inspiring story of Alan Seeger, a Yank who volunteered to join the French and British forces after the Kaiser invaded Belgium and France in 1914. But Seeger was a rarity. The United States didn't join in the war until 1917 and it was soon over.
Ironically, America's longest war, although not the deadliest, is the one that we are still in, what is called the Gulf War, parts I and II, with Part II beginning on September 11, 2001. The longest war in our history, but the smallest percentage of our population is involved in fighting the war. 
So - let us pay proper tribute to the day by saluting all those who have fought for their country - and the families of those who have had to cope with their warrior not returning, or returning with injuries - and all other innocent victims of wars.

November 6 - John Philip Sousa

"Stars and Stripes Forever", the
National March.
Today in 1854 John Philip Sousa was born in Washington, D.C. His father played the trobone for the U.S. Marine Band. After young John attempted to run away to a circus, his father signed him up as an apprentice to the band.

So by the time he was 13, Sousa was proficient at the violin, piano, flute, cornet, baritone, trombone. And he could sing as well.

At 26, Sousa became director of the Marine Band and served in this post for 12 years. Here he wrote the first of his 136 marches, including "Semper Fidelis," which became the official march of the Corps, and "The Washington Post March." In addition to those marches, he wrote a nearly a dozen light operas and as many waltzes, too; and he wrote three novels.
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To provide us with feedback and be added to our list of invitees for some interesting events, please contact me at John Tepper Marlin, Ph.D. Chief Economist and Beta Blogsite Manager Warrior Family Foundation.

John Philip Sousa.
His best known march is "The Stars and Stripes Forever", the official National March. Listen to it played by the Marine Corps Band here. He was known as the March King or The American March King.

Sousa was a hard worker, devoutly religious, known for his personal integrity. At the outbreak of World War I, he joined the Navy and served as  Lt. Commander. He used to say: "When you hear of Sousa retiring, you will hear of Sousa dead!" His words were prophetic, as he died suddenly of a heart attack following a rehearsal in 1932.

(Thanks to Garrison Keillor and the Writer's Almanac, on which this bio is partly based.)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

JOBS | Youth Unemployment

Although not as high as European rates of >50%, the USA suffers from
17% unemployment among young people. Chart by Atlantic Cities.
Before she discovered that the United States was tapping her phone and emails, German chancellor Angela Merkel rated youth unemployment as "the biggest crisis facing Europe."

In Britain, nearly 1 million young people are jobless. The talk in the UK is of a "lost generation" of workers, as lack of jobs creates mental health problems in this age cohort.

The nonprofit MindFull says that 850,000 UK children, one-third of the age group, suffers from a mental health problems and many more suffer from anxiety and depression. Mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK, 23 percent of the NHS burden.

Yet the NHS is spending only 1 percent of its budget addressing the causes of mental health problems, according to a member of Parliament, Nicky Morgan. The main concerns of young people in the UK are school stresses (54 percent), worrying about the future (53 percent), and feeling inadequate (52 percent).

Are Older Workers Crowding Out Younger Ones? In General, No

Like Europe, the United States has high unemployment among its young people. At the same time, with the asset meltdown in 2008, baby boomers who expected to retire at 60 or 62 have stayed on to keep working past 65. They can't afford to retire.

The United States ranks third in the world for hiring over-65 workers, after Japan and Singapore. There is no maximum age for retirement. The persistence of older workers in their jobs has been cited as a reason for high unemployment among youth. Some employers are concerned about the lack of intake of younger people and offer "buyout" arrangements -- for example, extra credit toward retirement -- to encourage elderly workers to retire so that more younger workers can be recruited.

However, is the retaining of older workers really the reason for high unemployment of younger workers? Not according to a study cited by the UK Parliament. No evidence was found that older workers who stay on the job longer squeeze out opportunities for younger employees. The Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College says that there may be situations where older employees crowd out younger workers in some companies or areas, but not across the workforce at large. The report examined employment and unemployment rates, wages, and hours worked in all 50 states over time (1977-2011) for three different age groups: 20-24 ("young"), 25-54 ("prime-aged"), and 55-64 ("old"). There was a wide variation among the states in all measures.

If older workers were hampering the prospects of younger ones, states with higher employment or wages among older workers would also lead to higher unemployment or lower wages among younger workers. But it wasn't so. The report also looked at levels of employment both before and during the Great Recession and found:
  • No support for the idea that the Recession changed the relative opportunities for younger and older workers. 
  • Evidence that the Great Recession did affect overall unemployment rates and wages, but no support for the idea that employment among older workers affected opportunities for younger workers.
  • Employment among younger workers was instead influenced by their education and skill levels, and by whether these workers were employed in the service or manufacturing industries. 
  • Younger workers may have needed to migrate to job opportunities in new locations or industries, particularly as the Great Recession ended many manufacturing jobs.
Why Employment Moves Together among Young and Old

It makes sense that having elderly people work as long as they can may be good for the country and region, and for young people. If workers stay on in the workforce, it:
  • Reduces the burden on pension systems, many of which are underfunded. 
  • Makes it more likely that consumption and therefore the economy will remain strong. 
  • Helps retain jobs that would be lost if older people who are successful at what they do and know how to serve their customers stop working. 
  • Enables entrepreneurial older people to generate ideas that result in hiring of more young people as trainees and partners.
Work at the two ends of the spectrum are not substitutes, they are complements.

In planning for a transition to the private sector, older veterans need to be aware that some large companies have a pyramid structure that makes it difficult to join them after a certain age. A service member facing discharge needs to have in mind a number of options, including self-employment, as backup in case a job search meets obstacles.

Implications for Veterans

The implications of the data and research for veterans is as follows:

  • Within the military, as the pyramid structure thins out, there is an automatic reduction in force of older service members.
  • For veterans with skills readily transferable to the private sector, being older should not be a handicap.
  • Some veterans may need training in entrepreneurship, which some equate to studying a foreign language.
  • Families of veterans must also prepare for the changes that occur with a new career.