Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day When We Despise Labor?

Blue_rail bridge

2016-09-05 – Happy Labor Day!

Well happy might not be the word that first comes to the mind of politicians who march in the Labor Day parades and yet vote against things like raising the minimum wage or in favor of repealing Obamacare. It might be “when will this be over?” or “where’s my Purell?”

Because our political and business classes despise labor. It grosses them out. They tell you how hard they worked to achieve their exalted positions. But read their resumes. See if you can find anything in their backgrounds that resemble labor.

It all starts with internships.

I recently ready a whiny article in The Core, the college magazine of my alma mater, the University of Chicago. It seems that the UofC has a scholarship program to attract students from . . . how should I put this . . . “lower-income families” [sic].

Meredith Daw, assistant vice president of enrollment and student advancement, is bummed out because students from these “lower-income families” [sic] tend to lack “connections.” And “[t]hose without connections tended to take lower-paying jobs—babysitting, waiting tables, retail work—unrelated to their majors or intended careers.”

We’re talking about summer jobs for first year student here. Not their ultimate careers. Kids with connections get summer internships. Who’d’a thunk?

Amazingly, the “effects of that early career disadvantage” gets worse as the low-income students graduate and go out in the world. So, the UofC has created the special Metcalf Internship so these kids will have a meaningful internship after their first year. (It might have been more effective for the long-term to give this kids parents with connections.)

I asked what was wrong with waiting tables. Someone responded that there’s nothing wrong with waiting table, but it doesn’t build your resume.

Maybe not, but it might build character. So I proposed an Inverse-Metcalf Internship in which the kids with connections got a chance to work for a summer in a blue-collar job.

Yuck!

It’s not just Republicans that despise labor. Democrats, too. This is why no one sees the Democrats as the pro-labor party, in spite of policies that are far better for labor than what the Republicans offer. Democrats don’t seem to have overcome the yuck factor. Their theory is in the right place, but their stomach isn’t.

The one constant of bipartisan cooperation has been the financialization of the American economy. MBAs and lawyers rule. If you want a home, you go to a bank, not a builder. If you want an education, you apply to Sallie Mae, not a teacher. If you need medical care, you go to an insurance company, not a nurse. If you want roads and bridges . . . well, forget roads and bridges!

Now, I am not saying that money isn’t important. But it loses its value if there’s nothing to buy. Life is not a video game. Things are made by . . .

Labor.

It’s a partnership. Labor and Capital. As much as Capital thinks it can go it alone, It can’t. (And the reverse is true.)

 

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