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Fight brewing over Social Security benefits for illegal immigrants
By Brian Hughes | November 29, 2014 | 5:00 am
President Obama: It’s not amnesty
The White House now acknowledges that many of the illegal immigrants spared from deportation…
A new clash over retirement benefits has come to a head following President Obama’s decision to unilaterally protect up to 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation.
The White House now acknowledges that many of the illegal immigrants spared from deportation under Obama’s sweeping executive action will become eligible for Social Security and Medicare benefits once they reach retirement age.
RELATED: Obama edict raises questions about illegal immigrants’ benefits
COMMENTARY: How Obama’s executive action makes life harder for legal immigrants
The conservative backlash has been swift and will certainly extend into a GOP Congress’ deliberations in 2015 over how to limit the reach of the president’s immigration blueprint.
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Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick rules out White House bid
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A central argument in Obama’s defense of the most extensive overhaul to the immigration system in decades was that those given reprieves from deportation would not qualify for Obamacare benefits. The president reminded critics that Dream Act-eligible immigrants previously granted deportation deferrals could not enroll in federal health exchanges.
However, Obama was less eager to wade into the debate about what to do with newly protected immigrants now paying into Social Security. He didn’t address the matter while outlining his immigration plan in a prime-time address to the nation, but White House aides later confirmed GOP suspicions about how Obama’s unilateral move would affect retirement benefits.
MORE: Obama’s final reset
Analysts said that Republicans would use the admission to argue the president is misleading the public about the details of his immigration action.
“It is a bit of surprise,” said Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who focuses on entitlement programs. “For a long time, there was an argument made by the administration that [undocumented immigrants] would not be eligible for such benefits. It does seem to be a contradiction.”
REPORT: Republicans can block Obama’s immigration mandate
For Republicans, this debate is about far more than just Social Security. It fits into the broader narrative of painting the president as unwilling to spotlight an unpopular provision of his agenda until after it has been enacted.
“It’s Obamacare all over again, ‘If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” one House GOP leadership aide told the Washington Examiner. “Obama was very clear on this issue. He said no benefits. What the president says just isn’t credible. That couldn’t be any more obvious by now.”
The administration says Obama’s move is sound fiscal policy, that it makes sense to grow the tax base. They also argue that it would be unfair to force people to pay into Social Security and not reap the same benefits as everybody else.
Immigrants would have to work at least 10 years to qualify for Social Security and Medicare benefits, administration officials said, and Obama’s executive action could always be reversed by any of his successors.
MORE FROM BRIAN HUGHES: No Chicago homecoming for Obama on immigration
Though quiet about the Social Security implications of the president’s latest executive action, the White House has long argued that comprehensive immigration reform would strengthen the long-term outlook of entitlement programs.
“Over 500 days ago, the United States Senate passed legislation with bipartisan support to improve border security, streamline the immigration process and establish a firm but fair path to citizenship,” Vice President Joe Biden wrote in an op-ed this week in Irish Central. “It would be an absolute game-changer for our economy, adding $1.4 trillion to our economy and reducing the deficit by nearly $850 billion over 20 years, and extending the solvency of Social Security by another two years.”
However, some fiscal hawks say that any short-term benefit of having more people paying into Social Security would be eclipsed by the burden of paying out benefits to potentially millions of additional people.
Republicans also point to the illegal immigrants not yet covered by Obama’s unilateral action.
“It is also important to keep in mind that while 5 million [illegal immigrants] benefit affirmatively from executive amnesty with work permits, photo ID’s and social security numbers, almost all of the other 7 million illegal immigrants continue to remain functionally immune from enforcement,” said Stephen Miller, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. “The problem for American workers will be compounded even more when the amnesty produces the ensuing wave of new illegal and chain migration.”
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Could Ikea burst the housing bubble?
Some may mock Ikea estates with jokes about missing screws, but they could threaten the concept of home as investment
A ‘Supalite’ prefab home in 1953 … ‘Ikea’s system is nearer, perhaps, to the often well-loved Prefabs built in the aftermath of bombing in the 1940s.’ Photograph: Hulton Archive
Friday 31 August 2012 05.00 EDT
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he late architecture critic Martin Pawley once explained Britain’s tortured relationship with mass-produced housing in an interview by holding up a banknote. To convince the bearer that this piece of paper has value equal to the quantity of gold it once represented, it is dressed up with antique typefaces, scrolls, swags and cartouches, giving an impression of continuity and historic grandeur. The note is interchangeable and mass-produced, and when economic crisis hits, is hardly as reliable as it looks – so that appearance is all the more important.
As with cash, so with houses. Since the 1940s, it has been obvious that factory-made houses can be mass-produced as much as any other consumer object. The price of most other things, from food to cars, have reduced as production processes become more ruthlessly efficient, but housing has become more and more expensive, taking up an ever-larger chunk of real incomes, creating ludicrous property bubbles and spurring on a tedious, if symptomatic national obsession. Might factory-made housing still be the way out of this?
Some might laugh off the prospect of Ikea estates with jokes about missing screws and instruction manuals, but if so, it’s as a means of trying not to think about the threat they might represent to the home as castle and/or investment. News that the furniture manufacturer is planning an exurban, airport-side district of Hamburg has been met with incredulity and ridicule, as has its plan to build an estate on part of the Olympic site – but its prefabricated “villages” are in fact already here. St James Village in Gateshead is an Ikea estate built in 2006, for instance, and outwardly quite interchangeable from any of the dozens of executive estates built in that decade – though being Ikea, it was the wood cladding and wonky roofs version of boom housing rather than the pediments and Georgian detail type.
As a product, St James Village was successful – its units sold out entirely. On the face of it, that’s unusual, as the estate is entirely system-built – and system-building is a swearword in British housing. That’s largely because of the prefabricated estates of the 1960s, which mostly used another Scandinavian prefabrication method – the Larsen-Nielsen system, brought to the UK by engineer Ove Arup. The system was used for thousands of dwellings in Denmark and elsewhere that were entirely uncontroversial, but in the UK they became notorious after the collapse after a gas explosion of Ronan Point, a Newham council tower block built from the kit by Taylor Woodrow (as was). Larsen-Nielsen was supposed to go up to eight storeys – Ronan Point was 22, and that wasn’t the least of the liberties taken. BoKlok, Ikea’s system, is so far used for small houses rather than towers, so is unlikely to become quite so negatively stereotyped – nearer, perhaps, to the often well-loved Prefabs built in the aftermath of bombing in the 1940s. Mass production might be easier to deal with if it comes with a house, garden and car-parking space.
However, systems are still used abundantly in the UK – not for the house, but for something more transient. The thumpingly banal hotels of Jurys Inn, the clustered towers of student hutches built by Unite – both are entirely system-built. Anywhere you might be expected to live in for more than nine months must preferably be built in much the same way as a house was built in the 18th century, in case anyone gets scared, whether builders or buyers.
John Prescott’s “£60k houses” were supposed to work against this, but their fate is instructive. While Richard Rogers’ flats for billionaires at One Hyde Park sold easily; his Oxley Woods prefabricated houses in Milton Keynes were considered unsuccessful by their builders – the successors to Ronan Point’s contractors, Taylor Wimpey. When the estate was expanded, Rogers was not re-hired, and traditional building advocated.
The reason for this persistent failure to rationalise housing, to make it into a product like any other, might be because it tries to rationalise something – the property market – that is inherently irrational. Homes can’t be products, they’re too important to a dysfunctional economy. If they stopped being quite so archaic and mythical, but became instead something easy and cheap, then the entire bubble might finally burst.
Meet Carl Strandlund
Steeling Himself for the Future
Born in Sunsvall, Sweden, in 1899, Carl Gunnar Strandlund came to the United States at the age of four and grew up in Moline, Illinois. As a young man, he took correspondence school classes in engineering. Aptitude in that field apparently ran in the family—his grandfather was one of the leading engineers in Sweden and his father worked in the United States for agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere, registering more than 300 patents related to farm implements.[i] The young Strandlund was soon putting his engineering training to good use. During twelve years as a production engineer at Minneapolis Moline Power Implement Company, he registered over 150 patents. As president of the Oliver Farm Equipment Company, he increased revenues from $20 million to $120 million in less than five years. Strandlund’s ingenuity and energy brought him national recognition and a substantial income, which allowed him to indulge in horse breeding and racing. He was often accompanied at races by his wife, Clara Sandborg Strandlund, a Minnesotan of Scandinavian descent who was seven years his senior. “Mrs. Strandlund is constantly inspiring me to do bigger and better things,” he once told a reporter. “Best of all, she’s the world’s greatest believer in Carl G. Strandlund.”[ii]
The War Effort
In April 1942, Strandlund directed his considerable knowledge and energy to the war effort. Hired by Chicago Vitreous Enamel Product Company to transform the factory for defense production, Carl quickly proved himself invaluable. His innovations dramatically improved the manufacturing process for military equipment, bringing praise and profits to Chicago Vitreous. The company rewarded him with a promotion to vice president and general manager in September 1943.
Lustron is Born
In 1946, when the post-war economy was shifting back to domestic production, Strandlund went to Washington to seek an allocation of steel-a commodity still under government control-to manufacture gas stations. He discovered that the government was unwilling to support gas stations, but was desperately seeking an answer to the housing crisis. Strandlund seized the opportunity, and the Lustron house was born.
“Mr. Strandlund was then in his late forties,” Colliers magazine later reported, “a stocky figure, with pale-blue eyes, thinning blond hair and a neat little mustache. He wore his expensive clothes in the right degree of rumple, spoke in a rough and genial way, and conducted himself generally with the forthright, positive manner of an engineer with a reputation for being ‘a guy who can design for production.’ An enthusiastic sportsman, with a racing stable of his own, he carried an air of easy opulence.”
Strandlund Invests in Lustron
As vice president and general manager of Chicago Vitreous, Strandlund was making $100,000 a year-a princely sum in that era. He took a 50 percent pay cut to head the Lustron Corporation, when the owners of Chicago Vitreous got cold feet and Lustron was set up as a separate business. Carl and Clara acquired 51 percent of the stock by investing $1,000, plus Carl’s patents and knowledge. Carl also took on personal liability for the company’s $15.5 million loan from the federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation. As Ohio State Journal reporter Justin Henley noted in 1949, Strandlund “has ‘shot the works’ in an all-or-nothing gamble.” It was the kind of challenge he relished. “I brought in the patent and the engineering,” he said. “I’m an endorser on all notes. If there is any failure in Lustron, you can meet Carl on the breadline.”[iii]
When problems started mounting, Strandlund seemed unflappable. “Last month as Lustron moved to meet its test in the market,” Architectural Forum wrote, “big Carl Strandlund sat, cool as a cucumber, at his long desk under the photographs of an impressive list of friends of his house-including President Truman, Senator Flanders, and one-time housing boss Wilson Wyatt.” The article observed that “Strandlund had ridden out so many near-disasters, so many rumors of bankruptcy, so many changes of government favoritism, that his initial crusading fervor for his house had shaken down to a quiet but rock-like confidence.”[iv]
Fortune magazine described him as “an enthusiast, a natural promoter, an eternal optimist, a salesman,” adding that “promises flow from him like poetry in an Irish pub.” He was constantly on the move, spreading his enthusiasm for the potential of Lustrons. Between December 1947 and February 1950, he ran up almost $47,000 on his expense account, much of it for train and airplane tickets, hotels, and “entertainment of Lustron guests.” Other expense items included “football guests” and “Christmas courtesies to Lustron people and customers. ” He frequently occupied a suite at the prestigious Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., and regularly visited New York, Boston, and Chicago. “He liked to have a hell of a good time,” a relative later recalled. “He was a real fun-loving guy-more than anyone I can think of. He liked to live high.”[v]
Eventually, though, his lavish entertaining and charisma were not enough to carry him through. Buffeted by congressional hearings and national controversy, Lustron’s luster began to fade. Strandlund’s meager financial contribution for such a large stake in the company began to be questioned, and his assets were put to public scrutiny. A personal financial statement dated January 1950 put his assets at $113,350 with liabilities of $56,216, resulting in a net worth of $57,134. The assets included $23,350 in livestock (presumably his beloved racehorses), $15,000 in automobiles, furniture, and personal items, and $65,000 in real estate, against which there was a mortgage of almost $50,000. The value of his 43,000 shares of Lustron stock was given as “unknown.” A note indicated that the statement did not “take into consideration a contingent liability based on a guaranty of a note of Lustron Corporation in the amount of $15,500,000 held by RFC.”[vi]
After the Fall
When the Lustron Corporation collapsed, the Strandlunds decided to leave Columbus, where they lived on a sizable estate-with a Lustron for a guest cottage. In an interview in 1982, Clara described their life after the Lustron dream ended. “Everything we had went. . . . They took everything but our home. . . . We went to Chicago and marked time a little bit, then we went to New York, went to Florida and had a little home and lived quietly for about 17 years.” The life could not have been completely quiet: Carl designed “a plastic type of housing,” his niece Sally Beiersdorf recalled, “and I think a couple of models were built, . . . but it required a lot of backing and again he ran into problems with unions and different organizations that didn’t want to have him come into their territory and have him make probably a cheaper type of home.” He did consulting projects for various companies, including setting up a factory in South America.
Carl and Clara moved to Minnesota in 1973. “He was dying,” Clara explained, “and this was where I was born and this was where we met, so it had special meaning to us.” He passed away the next year in Edina, a suburb of Minneapolis, at the age of 75, and was interred at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. His widow, Clara, survived him by fourteen years, reaching the age of 96.
Bartlett, Arthur. “The House that Lots of Jack Built.” Colliers, November 5, 1949, 15, 68-71.
“The Factory-built House Is Here, but Not the Answer to the $33 Million Question: How to Get It to Market?” Architectural Forum 90 (May 1949): 107-144.
Gendler, Neal. “Lustron Metal Homes: Failed Legacy of a Postwar Dream,” Minneapolis Tribune, September 12, 1982.
—. “Widow Recalls How Strandlund’s Dream Became a Nightmare,” Minneapolis Tribune, September 12, 1982.
Henley, Justin. “Nation Watches Lustron Mass Produce Housing.” Ohio State Journal, April 11, 1949.
Reiss, Robert. “When Lustron Lost Its Luster.” Columbus Dispatch, July 23, 1978.
“Strandlund, Carl G.” (obituary). Minneapolis Tribune, December 28, 1974.
Strandlund, Carl G. Financial Statement and Expense Reports. In National Archives.
“Strandlund, Clara M.” (obituary). Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 5, 1988.
“That Lustron Affair,” Fortune, November 1949, 92-94.
Wideman, Clark. “The Man behind Lustron,” Columbus Citizen, January 25, 1948.
 Gendler, “Widow Recalls”; Robert Reiss, “When Lustron Lost Its Luster,” Columbus Dispatch, July 23, 1978.
 Gendler, “Widow Recalls”; “Strandlund, Carl G.” (obituary); “Strandlund, Clara M.” (obituary), Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 5, 1988.
[i] “Strandlund, Carl G.” (obituary), Minneapolis Tribune, December 28, 1974; Neal Gendler, “Lustron Metal Homes: Failed Legacy of a Postwar Dream,” Minneapolis Tribune, September 12, 1982.
[ii] Clark Wideman, “The Man behind Lustron,” Columbus Citizen, January 25, 1948.
[iii] “The Factory-built House Is Here, but Not the Answer to the $33 Million Question: How to Get It to Market?” Architectural Forum 90 (May 1949): 107-144.
[v] Carl G. Strandlund, financial statement and expense reports, in National Archives, Washington, D.C.; Neal Gendler, “Widow Recalls How Strandlund’s Dream Became a Nightmare,” Minneapolis Tribune, September 12, 1982.
[vi] Strandlund, financial statement and expense reports.
4 Responses to “Meet Carl Strandlund”
Rick Allen Says:
February 29th, 2008 at 9:51 am
I have been unable to find the exact day of Carl Strandlund’s birth. Does anyone have it?
August 22nd, 2008 at 3:06 pm
I’ve just watched the end of an American documentary about Lustron on a Swedish television channel. That made me curious about what I had just missed, so I found this website. “Strandlund” being an obviously Swedish last name, I wasn’t surprised to read here that Carl himself was born in Sweden. What surpised me, though, was that he grew up in Moline, Illinois. The reason is that I have myself lived for a number of years in the States, including three years in Moline and East Moline, and I had never heard of him, nor of “Lustron”, until tonight.
Out of curiosity, I made a quick search on “Strandlund” at http://personer.eniro.se/ and see 329 people listed with address and phone number (some may be missing, some may be duplicates). Of those, 181 are listed for “Sundsvall” (not “Sunsvall” as your typo goes here above), the city where Carl Strandlund was born. THAT MAKES THE NAME STRONGLY ASSOCIATED WITH THAT CITY. Sundsvall has a population of 94,600 while Sweden has a population of 9,200,000, suggesting that the name is more than 50 times as common in Sundsvall than elsewhere. Maybe more valid, a comparable search on Sweden’s most common last name “Johansson” suggests that “Strandlund” is 29 times as common in Sundsvall than it “should” be. Anyway, historically interested as I am, it was good to see your website!
January 15th, 2011 at 8:37 am
I am from Sundsvall, Sweden and I think that the man you are intrested in is a relative to mee.
My grandfather Karl Edvin Strandlund and mr Carl G Strandlunds father (Karl Gotthard Strandlund) were cousins.
I have noticed that Carl Gunnar Strandlund was born 5 march 1899, in a village Hässjö, located north of Sundsvall.
Tommy Jonsson Says:
March 15th, 2011 at 10:43 am
Strandlund is in my register.
Karl Gunnar Strandlund
Karl Gotthard Strandlund, f. 1878
Margreta Åslund, f. 1876
On my wevsite you find a link named Translation so you can use for translation to english