POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Respect the Working Man and Woman by Preserving Their Jobs

by David Trumbull

September 3, 2010

As I sit in a comfortable chair in my air-conditioned office today the outdoor temperature is expected to reach the mid-90s. As my fingers move across the keyboard the overhead light reflects off my freshly manicured nails and the cuff links in my soft clean white shirt. As I think of my relative comfort I remember that I enjoy ease because other men and women are out in the heat and sun doing dirty backbreaking work. And that is why we set aside the first Monday in September as Labor Day.

Of course, Labor Day honors all workers, not only those who do manual labor. But it is good to remind ourselves from time to time of the necessity of manual labor. Ordinary Americans today enjoy necessities of life, security, and even luxuries the envy of princes in an earlier age. The bright, hardworking, and daring men and women of Wall Street and other financial markets created new and innovative ways to maximize wealth and gave us the most prosperous society the world has known, and one in which wealth, has been distributed more widely than ever before. In sum, our financial markets—at least when left alone—do a bully job of managing wealth. But they do not create wealth. Ultimately you have to make it (manufacturing), mine it (digging or drilling), or grow it (agriculture). Someone has to build houses for the economic indicators to register an increase in housing starts. Some has to drill if we are to have the oil to fuel our economy. Someone has to hoe and weed to keep Whole Foods (whole-paycheck we call it my house) stocked with the organic fruit and vegetables we love to consume.

American policy for 20 years or more has been to maximize imports and pay for them with credit. We import oil from the Near and Middle-East rather than drill our own abundant supplies. We have some of the largest tracks of fertile land, yet we import food from sources so dubious that many of us do not consume raw vegetables unless we can ascertain their origin. And as for manufacturing—just go into Walmart and try to find something—anything—made in the U.S.A.

Politicians in Washington will talk much this Labor Day weekend about the dignity of the workingmen and women of America, but the policies they enact tell a different tale. President Obama is pushing congress to approve new free trade agreements with Colombia, Korea, and Panama. He has instructed his chief trade negotiator to make similar deals with Vietnam, Brunei, and possibly Malaysia. If these deals go through more U.S. jobs will be lost, replaced by manufacturing, mining, and agricultural work in nations that do not honor labor, but rather subject their workers to unsafe and unhealthy conditions and low pay.

You do not respect the dignity of the workingman or woman by destroying his job.

[David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.]