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Don't React, Look Ahead at Problems

Updated on April 9, 2020
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU 1963. Worked in NYC in public relations 2 years then as reporter/news editor 32 years at The Hour newspapers. Retired in 2000.

Rosie the Riveter

This iconic Rosie the Riviter poster celebrated the role of women working for the War Effort during World War II while American men were off to fight against Germany and Japan.
This iconic Rosie the Riviter poster celebrated the role of women working for the War Effort during World War II while American men were off to fight against Germany and Japan.

Depression Era Protest of Various Income Security Programs

Palisades Amusement Park

The former Palisades Amusement Park in Cliffside Park and Fort Lee, New Jersey.
The former Palisades Amusement Park in Cliffside Park and Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Arguably, the Great Depression and World War II were among history's most dreadful times. Yet, many of us who lived through those sorrowful times remember them, too, as pleasant, sometimes bittersweet.

We remember food packages left at our door by the Welfare Department, Gold Star mothers crying for their sons lost "over there," and mothers, whose husbands were fighting Hitler and Tojo around the world, leaving home to take "Rosie the Riveter" jobs to help in the war effort.

Despite all that, we look nostalgically at the close-knit families, friendly and crime-free neighborhoods, pleasant and convenient trolley cars and cheerful outings at beaches and parks.

A Better Quality of Life

Today, we have neither a world war nor a world depression; we have world peace, of sorts. We should be "happy as a clam," looking forward to a quality of life far better than our forefathers, and confident about retirement in comfort on savings and Social Security.

Alas, would that it were so!

Unfortunately, the picture isn't that rosy. We don't have a world war, but we have some of the sorriest conflicts the world has ever seen (i.e. Bosnia.) We don't have world depression, but we have hunger and poverty on a grand scale around the world -- and in the United States.

Our amusement parks are all but gone, our beaches are awash with pollution or, as in Greenwich (Conn.) all but posted with "Keep Out" signs. Our open-air, nickel-a-ride trolleys that ran every few minutes virtually anywhere you wanted to go were replaced with buses; today the buses run infrequently, on routes that are inadequate, while financially pressed communities push the fares so high that it's cheaper to take your car (if you have one.)

Rampant Crime

Sure, we had some problems decades ago -- aside from the world war and depression -- but today's troubles affect more people more directly more often; today's problems go more directly to the quality of life. What can be more pervasive than rampant crime that keeps people fearful of walking the streets?

I've often wondered over the years why we rarely tackle problems before they overwhelm us. We always seem to be reacting to, rather than forestalling, disaster.

In fact, "the system" promotes a reactionary approach to problems. Generally, after disaster strikes, the public complains; then, finally, a legislator becomes aware of the situation and, eventually, files a bill to correct the problem.

This procedure does not allow for an assessment of the problem, much less a comparison of options.

Signs of Hope

Two hopeful signs appeared on March 25 indicating that our political leaders are trying to look ahead on at least one issue: crime; not that it's all that early in the game, but, it is hoped, before the situation is aggravated beyond redemption.

In one instance, Gov. (John) Rowland created a "crime cabinet" of law enforcement officials to try to deal with problems "ahead of time." In another, Norwalk's own former Judge Nicholas Cioffi is urging that a task force be set up to study our drug laws with an eye toward changing the state's approach toward the problem.

What we really need, in my view, is a government-sponsored commission modeled after the Supreme Court to find problems before they become emergencies, look at options, and offer solutions to our legislative bodies.

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on April 15, 1995.

Should Government Be Doing a Better Job Planning to Prevent Future Problems?

See results

Rosie the Riveter -- Women Work in Factories for the War Effort

What Are We Going To Do About This?


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    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      My family was a big consumer of sugar, www.lookseenow, but we only got the ration stamps that were allotted to us during World War II. I loved all the various stamps and tokens we were issued that often featured pictures of fighter planes, tanks and other instruments of war. I wish I had saved some of them. Thanks for the link.

    • www.lookseenow profile image


      9 years ago

      I was ten years old during WW 11. I remember rationing, and we were allowed one 5 lb bag of sugar per family. Mom would go in buy a bag of sugar, Bill, my brother would go in buy a bag of sugar, I would go in buy a bag of sugar, then if we needed more, Bill would remove his glasses, take off his jacket—go in buy a bag of sugar.

      We could get away with it, because the clerks didn’t recognize the persons, because of the system. The system issued a name that everybody had to display. A tag in the windshield, a book of coupons the clerk would tear out one, so a name identifies a person. So how does this number identify the mark of the wild beast? John says that it “is a man’s number.”

      Fittingly, then this is it—the wild beast has a name, and this name is a number. It’s the government’s system, and interestingly, it is a man’s number- 666. I linked your post to my post.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      The Marshall Plan in Europe, JamaGenee, and General MacArthur's restructuring of Japan played a role in the recovery of the war-torn countries. So, too, the United States has spent heavily since WW II in keeping our forces in dozens of countries around the world -- also enabling them to become major economic forces while America was drained of its resources. The unemployment rate, however, has more to do with the greed of corporations that have chased, and continue to chase, cheap labor by destroying unions and outsourcing to take advantage of cheaper labor wherever they can find it -- and using their political clout and money to influence our elections, our education system and our economic policies. We won't get our jobs back until we reverse the outsourcing in favor of manufacturing jobs here and counterbalance the laws of incorporation to encourage the return of strong workers' unions.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      10 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Bill, you of course know in the 1950s, the U.S. was the ONLY developed country with functioning factories because most of Europe's had been destroyed in WWII. Therefore, we had the monopoly on manufactured goods, which is what made jobs so plentiful (and secure). We were in denial that this artificial monopoly couldn't last, and didn't plan for what would happen when our allies began making things again. Nor did anyone recognize that health insurance tied to employment would make our goods more expensive to produce than the goods of countries whose employers didn't/don't have to provide it. This "head in the sand" attitude has been our downfall and until we acknowledge, as other countries do, that socialized medicine is NOT a bad thing, the unemployment rate will be stuck at double digits for at least another decade, maybe longer.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I'd love to see this country return to the days of yesteryear, JamaGenee, but there's no chance the Tea Baggers will help us get there. In those days Americans cared about the plight of their neighbors in need - and there were plenty of them (or should I say "us.") The "good old days" can return only when the power of corporations is curbed and America goes back to manufacturing its own products so that everyone can have a decent job with a living wage. That's the only way we'll ever get out of debt and back close to zero unemployment. Unfortunately, we are heading in the wrong direction at the moment.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      10 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Two generations grew up without a world war or poverty on the scale of the first Great Depression, and therefore never learned the hard lessons our parents and grandparents did from surviving one or the other or both.

      Unlike many European countries, America's infrastructure, public transportation, and public education have been the forgotten step-children since WWII. Also, ANY program intended to improve the quality of life for ALL, not just corporations and the richest 1% who own them, who believe they alone are *entitled* to benefit from the taxes paid by the rest of us.

      Most of our infrastructure was built as part of a jobs creation program during the 1930s and 40s. And just like the man who splurged on the very best car and then surprised when it finally wore out, greedy public officials made us believe those roads, bridges, and levees would last forever in order to line their own pockets instead with tax dollars that should've been used to repair or replace them. Minneapolis and Katrina put the lie to that one at the very time, thanks to Wall Street's greed, we were heading into another Great Depression.

      In some respects - note I said **some** - I hope the Tea Baggers can take this country back to the 1950s. That's when jobs were plentiful (and secure), homes and the utilities to run them were cheap so only one parent had to work while the other could stay home with the children, and saving money was the norm, not buying everything in sight with plastic. And if memory serves, the national debt was nearly non-existent due in part to rationing during WWII and in part to zero unemployment.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      13 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks for the comment, Bob. In the 90s, millions of dollars were spent on a political excursion by right-wingers impeaching Clinton while these same people criticized attacked his every effort to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. After 9/11 Bush said he'd get Osama, but now he says he doesn't spend much time thinking about him!

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      Bill.If we had spent that billions on terrorism back in the 90's those 3000 +/- people of 9 11 might still be here. We'll never know, but too many tears of hiding our heads in the sand.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      13 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      You're verly kind, compu-smart. Thanks. I'm trying to reach a larger audience, but progress is slow.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Tony Sky 

      13 years ago from London UK

      It would have been great if you had published your work online all those years ago..Your views could have made a lot of difference..Im sure it's never too late!

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      13 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I don't know what the statistics say, but I believe there's been little to no progress in the fight against crime since 1995. Instead were spending billions of dollars protecting bridges and tunnels and cities against a mythical attack by a guy named Osama bin Laden, whose hiding out in a cave somewhere near the Afghanistan border. Thank you Mark and MrMarmalade for your questions and comments.

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      13 years ago from Sydney

      An Excellent hub. The Question is What has changed since you wrote that hub many years ago?

      The situation is that much much worse now than then.

      In the time frame, I was driving around the Australian outback teaching someone to sell gidgets. For the record 100,000 Kms per year. Away Sunday night back home Saturday morning. Val never locked the back door for 7 years and we had three small sons. Sure we had Rex (Doberman) He would Shake hands with the burglars. (Ha! Ha!) Now we go out and two locks click into place.

      Anyway a Great hub thank you

    • Mark Knowles profile image

      Mark Knowles 

      13 years ago

      As you wrote this over 10 years ago - in retrospect, how did it turn out? Is crime a low problem in the US now?


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