Tonight President Biden addresses Congress.  As has become my custom, I’ll publish this hours before there are any specifics.

Tonights address is about priorities, as is always the case when the President addresses Congress. This will be unusual: that Pandemic is still part of all of our lives; the insurrection of January 6 looms in everyone’s memories; the George Floyd decision in Minneapolis was one week ago….

“Priorities” always mean “money” and how it is translated by those for or against expenditures for this or that.

As I was thinking about what to say, here, my thoughts went back to a comment I heard at my coffee stop a few weeks ago.  It was a young man – he appeared to be recent post-college – asking the server what I thought was an odd question: “do you take cash?“.

The source of the quote, a young person, was especially odd.  I come from a generation where transactions were almost exclusively cash or check (the check below is the oldest actual check I’ve ever actually touched) – probably one of the first checks written by my grandfather when he started farming in North Dakota in 1905.

(At first, I thought Grandpa signed the check with a stamp.  I have five other checks from the same batch.  They all differed, but only slightly, and all were as precisely written.)

Those days, ND was in the midst of boom times.  Having said that, folks then could not have imagined today.  Their U.S.  was very different in innumerable respects.

Tonight, I think the Presidents address will be about infrastructure, writ large.  It will be about the crumbling ‘infrastructure’ as it is commonly understood – roads and bridges and the like.

But I think the president intends to expand the conversation to a greater infrastructure: things like child care and other matters of great concern to ordinary folks who could use the helping hand of Government.

I’d predict that the response from the other party will be fear about deficits – that we can’t spend all of this money.  These will be the same folks who passed huge tax cuts in 2017 meant to benefit the already rich and most wealthy corporations…and in turn increased the deficit and squeezed needed resources to those with less.

You can predict what side I’m on in this conversation.

Which leads me back to the young man’s comment: “do you take cash?”.

Debt in this country is not the issue, in my opinion.  In fact, “debt” is the source of a great portion of the “wealth” of this country – interest on debt, spending on credit when one can’t afford whatever want, etc., etc.

At the same counter where I heard the above comment, I’ve noticed people going to the second credit card for their coffee, because their first one was already max’ed out.  It is apparently a not infrequent occurrence, both for the company and the card holder.

Our infrastructure is essential; debt is not an issue.  The U.S. is a community, among 192 other communities (world nations).  We are more than a group of individuals.

This is incomplete.  Doubtless I’ll write postdates, later.  Feel welcome to weigh in, now or later.

POSTNOTE: 9:30 p.m. April 28:  I watched the entire speech.  The Republican response is now on air.

All is predictable.  9:40 his response is concluded.

Our future is in our hands, literally.  We get what we elect.  Here’s my contribution at least to Minnesotans: the current listing of our Senators and Representatives in Washington, and our local legislators in my part of Minnesota.  Time to get to work: Minnesota Legislators

POSTNOTE: 6:20 a.m. April 29:  Overnight came my favorite summary of the previous days national news.  This one headlined “A Bit Transformational”  about President Biden’s speech.  Alan, out in Los Angeles, a retiree like myself, albeit more talented and with a longer tenure as a blogger, most always nails complex issues in what I consider a reasonable way.  What he said and says is always worth your time.

As for me, last night when I wrote the other postnote, I had a one page letter on the desk next to the computer screen.  I received it on April 5 from someone in another state who’s someone I’ve never met in person.  You can read the letter here, as received, with only two words deleted: Democrats?  Along with this letter came a substantial collection of printouts from assorted “news” outlets of the right wing fringe.  I’ve decided to keep them.  This single page is a good summary.

We are in a very different country now than my Grandpa was, when, as a 24 year old brand new farmer in North Dakota, he wrote the $14.50 check, most likely to a new local business for something related to his farm (the town of Berlin was brand new at the time).  He and Grandma, his 21 year old spouse, had been on the prairie for about 6 months, first crop in the first horse-plowed field.  It had to be an exciting and optimistic time.  They lived together on that land until the first of them died 62 years later, and history would fill in the blanks, with small triumphs and large tragedies as life went forward.

April 29, 2021, President Joe Biden gave a “right on” speech.  What becomes of it is up to every one of us.

POSTNOTE: 2 p.m., May 2: Here’s President Biden’s speech to Congress on April 28.  One of many points of emphasis in his speech related to wealth inequity and the role of Congress in increasing this inequity in the 2017 tax cuts which had the opposite effect from the advertised.  This is the issue in the current debate.

“…Look at the big tax cut in 2017.

It was supposed to pay for itself and generate vast economic growth.

Instead it added $2 trillion to the deficit…

According to one study, CEOs make 320 times what their average workers make.

The pandemic has only made things worse.

20 million Americans lost their jobs in the pandemic – working- and middle-class Americans.

At the same time, the roughly 650 Billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 Trillion.

Let me say that again.

Just 650 people increased their wealth by more than $1 Trillion during this pandemic.

They are now worth more than $4 Trillion….”


from Jeff: Lately I have begun to think more about immigration.  Partly as a result of my beginning genealogy work.  Partly from my past historical study. Partly because of the current situation and the last 5 years.

I have always had a saying for the folks who are xenophobic and anti immigrant (and who are all descendants of immigrants of course): “ladder pullers”….I think the metaphorical name explains itself.
In 1906 , unless you were Chinese (or most likely Asian in general), or physically ill or mentally disabled,  you could enter the USA without a visa, without a passport, you just needed to give a contact person who confirmed you and have a little cash in your pocket.  Recently I was trying to find out exactly when a passport was actually needed to enter the USA…I havent really found out when, but in 1923 big restrictions on immigration primarily to stop the flow from Eastern and Southern Europe were enacted.  But it seems it wasnt till 1952 that a passport was required to come and go for USA or other citizens.  I remember from my research that my Italian grandparents arrived in 1906 and 1911 , but they didnt get naturalized until 1921 or 1922.  My guess this was because if they didn’t become American citizens they knew that they would not be allowed back in if they left to visit their family in Italy.
I personally know a Chinese woman who is in China right now because her H1B visa was not renewed during the Trump final year and the pandemic restrictions. She works for a company in Wahpeton/Breckenridge as an international salesperson for food grade soybeans exported from North Dakota/MN to Asia.
Apparently the Biden administration did not extend the work visa restrictions Trump passed, so she may be able to regain her visa and come back to work, however my friend in N Dak who is her boss said absolutely nothing is happening out of the US Embassy in Beijing on visas.  I imagine the stacks of applications and appeals fills several rooms…..
Have a nice day.

From Steve:  A friend sent me an email this morning commenting on the President’s speech. He wrote about how things have changed in our lifetimes and memories, about the role of government and our economy. He included a copy of a check his grandfather had written as a farmer in North Dakota, probably to a merchant or a banker in 1905, and reflected on the pride and optimism that young man must have had after his hard work and the fortunes of weather. Last night’s speech was as different from the politics and economics of those days early in the 20th century as spaceships and helicopters on the moon are from farming on the North Dakota prairie in 1900.

Politics is as fickle as fashion and the term “transformational” is the latest example. I’m not sure the word was used to describe Roosevelt’s New Deal, Humphrey at the 1948 DNC, or Fredrick Douglas’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech. And there are others like those “transformational” appeals. In each case someone stepped forward to say that things can be better, that the resources of this country and the intentions of human nature can be directed differently, toward a more attentive and generous future. The President’s speech last night was in that tradition–an appeal to our optimism and confidence that all of us can share in the benefits of this nation. I hope it works.
The president also talked about our place in the world. “I’ve spoken with 38–now 40–leaders of other nations”, he said. “I let them know we’re back.” There are moments in the last century when statesmen acted in ways that protected the well-being of our global future in peacetime, among them the Marshall Plan, the formation of the European Union, the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Arms, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Our challenge, it seems to me, is to run in both races–here at home and among the nations of the world. Not an easy task.
In the meantime, we have work to do here. Our legislature and the governor, the Republicans and the Democrats, have chosen to find what’s possible to accomplish in Minnesota in these last three weeks of the session. Not an easy job, but it’s one we promised everyone we’d do. There’s a familiar comparison of politics with sausage-making suggesting that neither is for weak stomachs. My grandparents made sausage in their home to sell at Ingebritsens on Lake Street during the 1930s and 40s. They were careful, imaginative and proud of their hard and attentive work. They had nothing to hide or be ashamed of. I watched them and thought it was fascinating and didn’t question their honest effort or dirty hands. Politics, I’d say, has a lot to learn from those who make sausage.


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