I was ordering breakfast last Sunday when, after offering a “Happy New Year to all,” a very insightful and gorgeous female reminded me that we were about to enter the Roaring Twenties all over again. I was taken aback for a moment when I realized she was right. Like the first time around, the stock market is at an all-time high — my 401(k) balance is going through the roof — so I decided to consider some comparisons.
In the United States, the 1920s was called the Roaring Twenties because of “the exuberant, freewheeling culture of the decade.” It was a time when a large percentage of the population ignored the prohibitions set forth in the 18th Amendment, which made it a crime to import, manufacture, transport and purchase alcoholic beverages. This unpopular law enabled the creation of a huge black market, giving criminals a way to illegally make money, and directly brought about the rise of organized crime. Although this period has been romanticized with stories of illegal stills, fast cars outrunning the law, speakeasies and Eliot Ness’s Untouchables, the public would have been better served if a lesson had been driven home about the ineffectiveness of making laws that are not popular with a large segment of the country’s population.
Contrast the selling of illegal alcohol in the 20s with the illegal drug trade of today. Heaven only knows why so many Americans are hooked on illegal drugs, but the government’s “war on drugs,” which has doubled down on the failed methods of 100 years ago, has only created an even larger problem. Drug cartels are floating in greenbacks and causing death, destruction and misery on our southern border and further south. Medical professionals are, in some cases, so nervous about being prosecuted that they are making some unbelievably insensitive decisions. A couple of years ago, I visited a friend who was dying of pancreatic cancer. She had only days to live and was in great pain. Her attending physician had taken her off a morphine pump because he feared she would overdose and he would be seen as the cause of her death. Thankfully, she passed on three days later. Our elected officials are all so reluctant to alter their tack and try something new, for fear of failing to immediately solve the problem and being called out as too soft on the issue. So, the only good thing to come out of Prohibition were the advances in stock car racing and NASCAR that resulted from rumrunning and bootlegging.
In the 1920s the country experienced wealth as never before. I chuckle when I read stories of families having so much more expendable cash than in the past, they were buying store-bought clothes, radios, electrical appliances and even cars. By 1927 Henry Ford had manufactured and sold 15 million Model Ts, and Model As were entering production. It was the Golden Age of Radio, movies with sound were first released in 1923, and Gramophone Records came into being in 1925.
But now it is 2020, and we are experiencing the Roaring Twenties squared. What would someone from the 1920s think about an average person’s wealth today when they entered most homes and found 40-, 50- and even 60-inch television sets adorning the living room walls? Would their eyes widen even further when they discovered the family had more than one television set, and almost every new car had a radio, CD player and even possibly an MP3 player? Just imagine how unbelievable it would be to them when they witnessed your children watching a movie in the back seat of their car? Next, you could wow them with home heating and air conditioning, garbage disposals, dish washers, and please don’t let them trip on your robotic floor cleaner. But I think the most impressive thing would be how almost everyone has telephone service, via a cell phone.
Yet it even amazes me today every time Apple comes out with a new $1000 iPhone, and on the news I see images of customers lined up around the block waiting for the Apple Store to open, so they can turn over ten Benjamins for the new product.
Now I realize that at no time in human history has a society been blessed with such wealth and prosperity as the United States of America, while at the same time, the most prosperous regions of our country have a large homelessness problem. The only answer I can muster is, just like the drug addiction problem we are facing, the root cause of the problem is not being addressed, and those in charge are refusing to look for new solutions for this problem as well. The legislative segment has never solved the problem because the only solution they ever offer is to throw more money at it.
Suppose the legislators were to establish a Homeless Task Force to address the homeless crisis in our area. Then they would have the leader only invite participation of individuals currently involved in the issue, hold the meetings in private, and prevent any minutes or results of the meetings from being released to the public. Do you think any new solutions would be suggested? No? Well, that is precisely what is happening in Santa Clarita today, and the only people currently satisfied with the results are those whose pockets are lined and the politicians trying to sell you their talking points. Think about what you can do. As a country, a community and as individuals, we have an opportunity to make the second round of the 20s roar like never before. But it will require us to do more than throw a few dollars at solving our societal issues. Hopefully, you will get involved, attend city council meetings and legislative town halls, write to your legislators and your newspapers, speak your mind, tell the community your ideas and most importantly make sure to vote in every election for candidates who offer solutions, rather than just hot air.
Because it is up to us to make a difference if we expect to still be singing, “Happy days are here again, The skies above are clear again, So let’s sing a song of cheer again, Happy days are here again,” when 2030 rolls around. I am optimistic that our community and our country will figure it out and do the right thing.
Therefore, from myself, my wife Pam and all the Ferdman Clan, may 2020 provide you, your family and our entire community a prosperous, healthy and happy year.