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War bonds: America still a good investment

By By Sid Salter
Sept. 20, 2001
Marlene Dietrich sold them warbling songs on the courthouse steps of backwater towns in the Midwest.
Comedian Bob Hope shoe-horned his sales efforts on national radio broadcasts between the United Services Organization (USO) overseas base and hospital tours that would make him an American icon for generations bless his gentle heart.
On July 22, 1943, The Times-Picayune recorded a "Christmas in July" campaign to sell them in New Orleans that culminated in the arrival of "Uncle Sammy Claus" dressed in red, white and blue top hat and tails on Canal Street transported up the Mississippi by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter.
What were they selling? U.S. war bonds and stamps. Was America buying? In a word, yes.
Nation invested $200 billion
During World War II, Americans invested $200 billion in war bonds and stamps. In the poorest state in the union and on the heels of the Great Depression, Mississippians bought an amazing $548. 25 million in war bonds from May 1941 until Dec. 1945 or 3.65 percent of the total national sales, according to State Department of Archives and History Reference Librarian Anne Webster.
Dr. Paul Grimes, head of the Finance and Economics Department at Mississippi State University, said the nation's $200 billion investment in WWII would represent $1.978 trillion and the state's $548.25 million would represent $4.873 billion in today's dollars according to the current consumer price index.
Records at the University of Connecticut Roper Center show that a January, 1949 Gallup Poll reflected that 51 percent of respondents had money in U.S. war bonds and 41 percent had more than $1,000 invested in those bonds.
In May, U.S. Bureau of the Public Debt spokesman Pete Hollenbach told The Austin American-Statesman that of the $200 billion sold, all but three-quarters of one percent of the war bonds had been redeemed and were still outstanding. The bonds remain redeemable by the government at face value plus interest.
Legislation introduced in Congress last Friday by U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Conrad Burns, R-Mont., would authorize the U.S. Treasury Department to issue a special category of U.S. Savings Bonds as the nation did during World War II "war bonds" to finance the nation's promised war on world terrorism and relief and rebuilding efforts from the targets of the Sept. 11 suicide bombings of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the hijacking victims who crashed near Shanksville, PA.
As in WWII, the proposal would create a special category of bonds that would be general revenue to the government and not earmarked for specific purposes.
As in WWII, the funds would be entrusted to the government for use both in domestic spending and defense spending necessary for the national interests.
Invest in America? Yes!
Since Watergate, the notion of citizens trusting the government for much of anything was cast aside. Over the last 40 years, patriotism in America has been locked in the attic like the crazy aunt. But things changed Sept. 11.
Want to help rebuild New York and the Pentagon? Want to put your shoulder to the wheel in making the nation and the world safer from terrorists?
Things are more complex today than in the 1940s and the enemies less identifiable, but some things remain the same. America is still a good investment. Americans will sacrifice when called upon to defend this nation. It's a fact.
Congress should pass the bill to bring back war bonds and we should buy them as our fathers and mothers did long ago.
Sid Salter is Perspective Editor/Columnist at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson and a syndicated Mississippi political columnist. Call him at (601) 961-7084, write P.O. Box 40, Jackson, MS 39206, or e-mail ssalter@jackson.gannett.com.

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