Maurice Reese | Citizens Against Government Waste

Maurice Reese

CAGW President's Club Member Speaks out for Honesty & Frugality in Government

8/5/2008

CAGW President’s Club member Maurice Reese’s life story makes you proud to be a fellow American and serves as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices and values that have made this nation great.

Born in 1921 on a small farm in Evansville, Wisconsin, Maurice fondly recalls attending a one-room schoolhouse and the bonds he forged with his classmates.  When he graduated from the eighth grade at the age of 13 in the middle of the Great Depression, Maurice had not mastered algebra, but that one-room schoolhouse had instilled him with the Midwestern values that have sustained his life honesty, integrity and frugality.

Maurice recounts that in his youth the government didn’t provide handouts, and everyone was expected to pull his own weight.  Barely into his teens, Maurice and his brother worked on a neighbor’s dairy farm for a $1.00 a day each, not including lunch, which they had to take with them.  Maurice recalls how making ends meet was “hard going.”  At one point, the money his own family’s farm earned for sending a pig to slaughter didn’t offset the cost of transporting the animal.  Maurice jests that the reverse is true of Congress, where eliminating the worst “Oinkers” would surely help offset the federal budget deficit!

In 1941 with $50 to his name and no car, Maurice fell in love and married his wife of 67 years, Arlene.  He was only 20 years old; she was just 18.  To support his new family, Maurice took a job boning meat at the local Oscar Meyer plant, only to be drafted into the Navy in December, 1942. 

Maurice spent three years in the communications department of a flagship in the South Pacific.  The Japanese never hit his ship, and it didn’t lose a single crewmember.  He passed the required tests to qualify for Navy officer training; however, interviewers rejected his application because he lacked a high school diploma.  Lesson learned, Maurice approached the principal of Evansville High School about taking a high school equivalency test when discharged from the Navy in 1945.  His common sense and real-world experience filled the gaps left by his eighth-grade education, and five hours later, Maurice received his high school diploma.

Maurice enrolled in the University of Wisconsin and took a part-time job in the insurance industry to pay his expenses.  Soon his employer asked him to quit school and become a full-time supervisor.  Three years later, Maurice became the General Agent of Federal Life Insurance Company of Chicago, with a service area covering all of Wisconsin and northern Illinois.  His business savvy next led him into banking, and Maurice served as the first president of Lake City Bank, which eventually became part of Marshall Ilsely Bank, the largest bank in Wisconsin. 

Maurice appreciates his success for enabling him to finance a college education for his three children and for five of his eight grandchildren, one of whom became an attorney.  In 2001, Maurice himself returned to college and, at 80, became the oldest student ever to graduate from the University of Wisconsin. 

Maurice views the shenanigans in our nation’s capital through the prism of his Midwestern values and business acumen.  He complains that Washington today lacks “good old-fashioned honesty.”  As a former insurance salesman and banker, Maurice says trust must be earned and never betrayed.  He reminisces about “Ronald Reagan’s days when he tried to be honest with the American people.” 

Maurice notes that as a bank director he worked “for the benefit of customers and stockholders.  If you did not do a good job, you would be replaced,” but things don’t work that way in government.  “Today, we have congressmen who think they’re in Washington for their own benefit, not the benefit of their constituents.  The people of the United States are good people, but the folks we elect don’t do what we want them to do.  They are there to represent you and me, and sometimes they forget that.”  That’s why, asserts Maurice, he supports watchdog groups like Citizens Against Government Waste.

When he first began selling insurance and earning discretionary cash, Maurice says his boss advised him not to increase his standard of living one dollar until he had saved six months worth of paychecks in the bank.  Maurice recounts with pride the day when his grandson Aaron returned from teaching English in Japan, “looked at me and announced, ‘Grandpa, I have six months of paychecks in the bank saved from teaching English.’” 

Maurice believes, “Most folks today not only spend what they make, but future money as well.”  The same can certainly be said of our elected officials in Washington, who have racked up a federal deficit that is expected to reach a record $482 billion nearly half a trillion dollars in fiscal 2009. 

CAGW is grateful for the support of Maurice and the hundreds of other President’s Club members who provide the personal dedication and financial firepower necessary to keep driving home the message that such deficit spending is mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren.

 

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