America Breaking Soft

Overpopulation and privilege in this country has led to an inability to do the tough work and creativity necessary for our economic survival.

Yes or no? 


Well emphatically you would say no if you are talking about the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan fighting unpopular wars in places so difficult and fraught with danger that you and I shudder at the thought of being there. How about cancer, ALS, or other victims of such life threatening diseases and conditions struggling everyday just to make sense or completing their daily activities?  Or people barely making minimum wages that clean up our cities, our homes, take care of our privileged children and help with our aged parents and friends. What about the chronically disabled, physically or mentally unable to fend for themselves and everyday a battle to not only understand their predicaments, but be able to somehow find hope in a society that would mostly rather forget they even exist?

Toughness is certainly not in question there.

But what about the general population?  

For example, those of us who have chosen to be lawyers, accountants, financial consultants, customer service workers, sales executives, teachers, technology purveyors, beauracrats – in total the white-collar masses that exchange money, collect/deliver information and shuffle paper from one place to another. Not that these folks don’t fulfill some important functions, but what do they really create, manufacture and make that other people want to not just consume, but to purchase because it has real substance, value, meaning and function in their lives.

Do any of those people build your house, manufacture your car, build your furniture, make your carpet, manufacture your television, computers, DVDs, cell phones and myriad of other electronic devices?  It is the manufacturing sector that creates, builds and maintains all the things we take for granted, while we are off moving all that money, information and paper around. 

David Brooks, a conservative columnist for The New York Times:

Today’s economic problems are structural, not cyclical … We’ve drifted away from the hard-headed practical mentality that built the nation’s wealth in the first place.

New York Times September 9, 2010

Where is the real value in this country?

Many Americans today have totally forgotten or never learned that it was not Wall Street or Goldman Sachs that secured the building of an industrial nation, but the skilled craftsmen that go to work everyday and actually produce something that is tangible. Value that can be touched and felt. Convential wisdom indicates blue-collar workers are expendable – too expensive to maintain – and should be replaced by lower cost workers from other countries, dumbing down valuable trades and lowering living wages for all other skilled craftsmen trying to make a reasonable living and provide for their families. Or even more deplorable, outsourcing jobs to foreign countries with their “sweat shop mentalities” and more profit margins for corporations already top heavy with overpaid executives.

We often treat trade unions today as economic encumbrances, completely forgetting their crucial influence in overcoming, balancing and controlling the glaring excesses of free market capitalism,with multi-national corporations constantly trying to bleed the last dollar out of American workers.   

It is inconceivable that we truly believe that the machinist at Boeing, the welder at Ford, the millwright at Alcoa, the pipe-fitter at General Electric or the electrician at Intel has less value or worth than anyone on Wall Street. It isn’t the people on Wall Street doing the real work of this country, but others that produce a tangible product.  We didn’t win WWII through the efforts of paper pushers in Manhattan, but the average Joe/Jane out there creating and making the war materials necessary for our survival.

How can it be that there are many people in this country, wealthy and apparently arrogant enough, who believe that they are incapable or unwilling to mow their own lawns, prune their gardens, paint their houses, repair what needs to be fixed, prepare their own meals, clean their homes and for god’s sake take care of their own children. Have we come to the point where we have to employ illegal workers from other countries, for incredibly low wages, to do what all of us should be doing ourselves?

Now there’s an indictment of a culture in serious decline! 

THE WEEK editor goes on to add to David Brooks’ op-ed:

Are we still an industrious people? Or have we become too soft to dirty ourselves making and selling things?

THE WEEK September 24, 2010

So, what do we actually do in this country anymore?

Corporate influence peddling and outright propaganda has convinced lawmakers, policy makers and the public that we don’t need the actual makers of useful products, but instead we need to ship (outsource) those jobs overseas to third world countries for substantially lower labor and production costs. If not outsourcing then bring in illegal workers who work for wages no American can live on, creating high unemployment and shoddy goods at cheap prices.

Great for corporations, not so good for the average worker in this country.

All the while we go on adding to our overpopulation woes, importing illegal workers, escalating unemployment in traditional blue-collar sectors of the economy while subsidizing an exploding Underground Economy that fuels illegal activities whose members use more taxpayer services, but pay taxes for none of them. All of this is a “fool’s game” if ever there was one, and we all go along with it! 

Undoubtedly we do need a more educated base in this country, for all of the obvious reasons.

But what is wrong with college educated machinists, college educated plumbers, college educated electricians or college educated blue collar workers of all persuasions with all the benefits for society and individuals that accrue from more education?  What is wrong with keeping high paying manufacturing jobs in this country? So what if we have to pay a bit more for a purchase if it guarantees everyone a standard of living that is fair and equitable.

Breaking soft or breaking tough?

Instead of most of us figuring out the newest application on our smart phones or playing the latest video game on our computers, what is wrong with all of us mowing our own lawns, maintaining our own houses, pruning our gardens, making our own meals, and taking care of our own children? Certainly, if we all chose to do these sometime mundane but necessary tasks we would undoubtedly make our lives simpler with fewer people, and in the end have a stronger, more equitable, fair and just American society.  

Revisiting the reasons for supporting a strong manufacturing base and the hard working dynamic people that are the heart of that system may not end all our many dilemmas in this country, but it would go a long way in mending the soul of our mental and physical toughness that for many has been squandered and lost.

And if we can believe David Brooks, whose analysis in his article also quoted another economist concluding that we would now have a 6.5% unemployment rate rather than the 9.5% if we had not moved our manufacturing sector overseas, certainly that alone is a compelling argument for a resurrected manufacturing sector.

What could possibly be wrong with traveling a proven road? One that certainly has had its share of difficulties and unintended consequences, but in the end could very well return us to a more stable and meaningful economy. An economy that is more independent of foreign influences and entanglements, American based and controlled, and doesn’t add to an already overpopulated citizenry.

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