Vol. 3    No. 21
October 16, 2008
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                 Economic adjustments
   There was a time in my life — it’s hard to fathom most days — that I had a lot of time on my hands. Maybe it
was just because I was younger and could stay up late at night and make sense of the next morning on little sleep.
It was before my newspaper days and after my son was old enough to be fully engaged in his own life, but still
dependent on me for meals, a roof over his head and the occasional loads of laundry. I was an empty-nester in
   So every once in a while, I could hide away for a day and read a book straight through. It might take me 16-18
hours, but I could read a book from cover to cover and get completely lost in the imaginary world contained
inside. We aren’t talking books on philosophy here. We’re talking mystery stories. One of my favorites was John
Grisham novels. The Firm intrigued me because I had passed through Memphis, the setting for the book, many
times and lived in Mississippi where some of the action occurred in his books. And then there was always New
Orleans that added some plot twists from time to time.
   The ending of The Firm has the brother of the protagonist basically whiling away his days on a boat that cruised
from one Caribbean port to another. I could always imagine myself — especially during cold Januarys — on that
boat cruising the Caribbean. Other novels and movies left me imagining myself striking it big somehow and living
out my days in some tropical area sipping margaritas and perhaps writing the “Great American Novel.” Sometimes
my fantasy was located in New Orleans, sometimes Florida and also Mexico from time to time. I was ready to get
away from the rat race and enjoy a life of contemplation at an early age when I was still physically fit to enjoy it. It
would be something to work hard for. It was something that could keep me motivated and coping with the slings
and arrows of outrageous fortune.
   I realize that I was not the only one with this day dream. All of those Corona ads and other elements of our mass
culture found that tropical, sedentary lifestyle appealing. So many of us invested with a plan to retire at age 55
and kick back. And it seemed as if every available coastal plot of land was bought in the last 40 years and houses
were built everywhere including in floodplains and the paths of hurricanes. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy
it much because it seemed as if the only way you could get a sense of nature and seclusion would be to develop
tunnel vision and look straight ahead at your little slice of the ocean view. It would be like the ‘Back to the Future’
ride at Universal Studios. The illusion of time travel seemed real as long as you didn’t look below you or above you
and notice that hundreds of people were going through the same experience.
   During the past few years — from the Carolinas to the Mexican Caribbean coast — people have found that
reality has crashed down hard on their dreams. People’s homes have been destroyed — sometimes several times
— by the intense hurricanes that have barreled through the Caribbean, wreaking havoc on the tropical dream that
millions shared, but Mother Nature could not support over the long term. Something had to give. The reality could
not support the common dream that millions shared.
   And now with the financial havoc that germinated in New York and has spread like a pestilence over the global
economic structure, I can’t help but think about the retirement dreams of millions of Americans who are
approaching their golden years. At 56 years old, I am on the younger edge of the baby boom generation that
resulted from all of those millions of armed service folks coming back to America at the conclusion of World War II
and starting families and buying homes in unison. The baby boom generation is a big bubble moving into the
golden years where a smaller number of people below the bubble are expected — as things now stand — to
support the people inside the bubble during their golden years, for many of whom it started at age 55. It’s almost
like an inverted pyramid and I have always wondered how that big base was going to balance itself on that rather
small point.
   Perhaps too many of us in the baby boom generation had that same dream of having decades of good health
and plenty of cash funneled to us through our 401(k)s, annuities, dividends, interest and all sorts of other financial
arrangements. If all of us are enjoying the good life and someone else is supposed to be doing all of the work —
something was creating the demand that caused millions of undocumented workers to leave their homes for the U.
S. — but there aren’t enough people creating real goods and services and not just adjusting the monetary stream
in their favor. Something had to give.
   So maybe why millions of us had the dream — and created all sorts of screwy securities offerings and other
questionable financial deals to allow more and more of us to enjoy the dream — maybe the reality of the situation
couldn’t support the dream and now the whole financial structure has come crashing down around us, wreaking
havoc on the lives of millions. Perhaps this is a market adjustment that is bringing the dream closer to reality for
many, many millions of Americans who may not be able to retire at 55 or move to the beach or golf all day or
travel the world. Many of us might have to work a lot longer than we planned because our financial houses have
been devastated by Hurricane Wall Street.
   Perhaps this has been a correction of the dream of America so that many of us will have to work well into our
golden years. Too many of us may have had the same dream and tried to fulfill that dream all at the same time.
Reality has a way of intruding. Nature has a way of correcting in spite of the man-made barriers and institutions
that are created to channel it.
   Me, I entered the newspaper business and knew I would never be able to retire. I feel the pain of the millions
who have been harmed by this financial catastrophe. Something had to give.

Stories & Columns

Dr. Jonah Edelman speaks at the
Madison Civic Club: It's about the
by Jonathan Gramling

UNIDOS' Vigil against Domestic
Violence: Remembering the fallen,
by Jonathan Gramling

It's a clean sweep for Barack
by Paul Barrows

Asian Wisconzine/The North-South
Foundation: Excellence beyond the
by Heidi M. Pascual

Simple Things/ Multitasking and
other modern diseases,
by Lang Kenneth Haynes

Politicas de
by Alfonso Zepeda Capistran

Health Matters: October is Breast
Cancer Awareness Month,
by Dr. Michelle DeBose

The Democratic National
Convention/Witnesses to a
historical moment (4),
by Jonathan Gramling

2008 University of Wisconsin
Diversity Forum: A New Day for
Diversity (2)
by Jonathan Gramling

African American Ethnic Academy
2008-09 Academic Season: An
Afrocentric educational state of
by Jonathan Gramling

Lussier Community Energy
Resource Fair: Winter preparations,
by Jonathan Gramling

Second Annual BeSafe Awards,
by Jonathan Gramling

Ken Black appointed acting
Veterans Affairs secretary: In the
line of duty,
by Jonathan Gramling

The Caribbean Assn. of Madison
present Caribbean Splash 2008,
by Jonathan Gramling

African American Health Network
gears up to fight disparities: Health
Matters (2),
by Jonathan Gramling

Editorial Staff
Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Heidi Manabat
Managing Editor

Clarita G. Mendoza
Sales Manager

Contributing Writers
Paul Barrows
Fabu Carter-Brisco
Andrew Gramling
Lang Kenneth Haynes
Heidi M. Pascual
Laura Salinger
Alfonso Zepeda Capistran
Martinez White

©2008 The Capital City Hues