Sunday, January 11, 2009

All we want is work -- and respect

My roots grow deep in blue collar and rural soil. My father a steel worker, his father built oil derricks, my mother's father and his ancestors for generations were farmers.

My husband worked at several factory jobs until returning to college to become an accountant, so we know quite a bit about the lifestyle and the people.

The bottom line is: we want respectable work that gives us a comfortable income so that we can raise our families and be part of a family.

I don't need a $400 purse, designer jeans, exotic vacations or an expensive car and most of the people I know feel the same way. They want to be able to send their kids to college, provide a safe, comfortable home, and have some fun doing the work they love.

This morning I heard Paul Gigot, editorial editor of the Wall Street Journal, voice his opinion that the capitalism in its present form had served us perfectly well for the last 30 years. This current situation was just a glitch and once it was fixed, it could be 'business as usual.'

I sat up and yelled, "What Lala Land do you live in?"

The last 30 years?

In my home town, the last 30 years turned it from a thriving manufacturing center into a ghost town. Jobs went overseas; benefits disappeared; retirees were left without a network. Insurance and health care costs, just when they most desperately needed it, skyrocketed. Some lost their pensions because of new government regulations.

Businesses sold out and moved at a whim due to junk bond and stock market trades which had nothing to do with the quality of the products being produced. Companies lost any consideration for employees, they were dehumanized, and were simply part of the profit-loss equation. Corporations shrugged off any responsibility toward their employees, saying they were paid for their work, that's all they needed -- and they could certainly get by with less -- much less. And when they left their employ -- they were on their own, even after 30 years of devotion to the company.

College tuition aid dried up in the last 30 years. Well paying jobs evaporated to be replaced by minimum wage, part time employment. The product took second place to growing careers and amassing wealth for the top 10 percent. Unions disappeared and the employees became voiceless. Anyone who fought this move toward invisibility became quickly unemployed.

We watched our income fall behind cost of living. The prosperity of the 40s and 50s dwindled.

We watched Neal Bush and the Savings and Loan scandal get swept under the rug. We watched funds sent to other countries, along with jobs and nothing invested in infrastructure, retraining, or new jobs. We watched family farms sold because the commodity prices were kept so low a farmer could not survive.

Oh yeah, I suppose if you invested in the dot.coms and the computer stocks it was a great 30 years. But for the most of us, we watched our way of life disappear and nothing to take its place.

So Mr. Obama, please, as you put together this new package that is to take us out of this recession, please know that we want to work. We want to be respected for the products we produce. We want to be able to provide for our families. We want to earn enough to take care of ourselves. We don't want handouts or bailouts. We want work!

Other countries have faced the evaporation of manufacturing jobs. In Sweden, the city of Malmo was dependent upon heavy industry. In the 1980s a recession devastated this industry base -- sound familiar? Well, instead of relying on medical jobs and service occupations, the city regenerated its urban landscape and along the way provided jobs for the current population. They began with a bridge. It connected the city to Copenhagen and opened up greater economic opportunities. The leaders had vision.

I lived for almost a decade near Rockford, IL, a community similar to Malmo, yet their leaders had no vision. They didn't see beyond the hopelessness of lost jobs.

Denmark reinvented its economic base, by seeing green. If you want an alternative energy source -- a solar panel, a wind generating turbine -- the odds are it will originate in Denmark or the research and development came from Denmark. The whole country has devoted itself to profiting on this new technology.

Why can't we do that?

If the government wants to spend trillions on a bailout package, give us something tangible. Infrastructure rebuilt, or remade to reflect a green society. Give us jobs and let us help rebuild this country. Fund research and development so that we can once again lead the way in innovation and technology. I'm so tired of seeing every gadget and creative invention come with the stamp of 'made in Germany, Japan, China....'

We look like a bunch of lazy people with our hands out and that is not the American way. We work, we build, we survive and we strive -- so let us do what we do best. Get out from under the shadow of corporate American and re-find the spirit of American ingenuity and victory over adversity.

I want a new form of capitalism that is for all Americans, not just the top 10 percent. My parents experienced it and everyone was respected, whether doctor, lawyer, CEO or farmer and factory worker.

Let em know in Washington that we want to do more than 'shop.' We aren't just consumers, we are contributors to our common good. My roots grow deep in the soil of America and I'm damn proud of my ancestors' blue collars and calloused hands. We know how to work. Just step out of the way and let us get to the job of rebuilding our country. OUR country.


Unknown said...

I heard (more likely, read) the other day that Bush and Company (leading back to the Friedman school of economics) assumed "greed is self-correcting." Apparently it ain't. Apparently we refuse to learn -- an example, some of the banks receiving the bailout money cannot account for how it will be used. Send Derrol to DC or NYC! I wonder what would happen if the Feds simply put these greedy institutions into bankruptcy and divided the $750 equally among households earning less than $100k a year?


Bob Sanchez said...

Excellent observations, Dawn. We need to start rebuilding our country, putting our own people to work. Part of this need is for an energy infrastructure, which would create a great many jobs. It should not, however, simply be a vehicle for making a few people rich.

Dawn said...

Since I wrote this blog, I've listened to more of Friedman's book and there are difficulties in rebuilding infrastructure -- there are shortages in almost everything. Steel, aluminum, engineers, and the list goes on. Nothing is quite as easy as it 'used to be.' And that's why I think we need more vision.

Where are those Sci-fi writers like Phillip Jose Farmer and the Buck Rogers creators who actually had some science based good ideas? :)