Labor Day 2013: More Than Just One Last Barbecue-Op


Labor Day 2013 brings a mixed bag for people who work for their living, and we’re not talking about hot dogs v. hamburgers, ribs v. chicken, Bud v. Miller Lite.

According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), “real” unemployment – which includes the currently unemployed, the under-employed, the “marginally attached” unemployed, and the “discouraged workers” who have given up looking for work – has dropped from 15% a year ago to a shade over 14%.

Unfortunately, median household income is only $51,000, or $4,000 below what it was in pre-recession 2007.  That suggests the jobs being created that reduced unemployment by a percentage point aren’t as good-paying ones as they were pre-recession.

Meanwhile, young adults are graduating from colleges and universities with mountains of debt but without solid prospects for the kind of employment that might provide them the kind of incomes needed to pay off those debts and begin living independently of their parents.

What’s the solution?

We don’t have one.  But we do have a few observations that might at least get folks looking in the right direction.

First, we need to stop lying to ourselves about the country’s economic situation for purely partisan purposes.  Voodoo economics as advocated BOTH by Democrats (“double the minimum wage immediately”) AND by Republicans (“Even $1 of tax increases is too much for $10 of spending cuts”) hasn’t worked in good times, and it sure won’t work today.  Or tomorrow, for that matter.

Second, any rebuilding of the middle class will require a re-commitment to the U.S. returning to a manufacturing power rather than continuing its slide toward a predominately “service” economy.  And we’re talking 21st Century manufacturing, not post-WWII rust-belt style manufacturing.  Anybody who can’t see how increasingly “intelligent” machines will perform an increasingly larger share of routine services, especially the more mundane ones like super-sizing your fries, is wearing blinders.

Third, those who demean the American entrepreneurial spirit with foolish and divisive statements like “you didn’t build that” also demean the labor – mental and physical – of the people who did, indeed, “build that.”  Thomas Edison did build General Electric (presumably with “one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”); Henry Ford did build Ford Motor Company; Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did build Apple; Phil Knight did build Nike; Jeff Bezos did build Amazon; and the list goes on and on.

More importantly, they built those businesses while learning from the same teachers, using the same roads and bridges, relying on the same police and fire protection, etc., that the rest of us did.  So, for the most part, they didn’t have any special advantages over the rest of us that the “you didn’t build that” meme implies.

Similarly, anybody who demeans the contributions of organized labor over the past 100-plus years also demeans the work-based standard of living that has made this country the most prosperous one the world has ever known, with the longest-running stable constitutional government in the history of the world.  It was the trade/industrial union movement that brought us most of the work-related laws and benefits we now take for granted, like:

  • The minimum wage;
  • The 8-hour work day;
  • Overtime pay;
  • Holiday pay;
  • The 40-hour work week/work-free weekends;
  • Social Security;
  • Paid (and unpaid) sick leave;
  • Paid vacations;
  • Paid work breaks, including lunch;
  • Child labor laws;
  • Pensions, including 401(k)s;
  • Unemployment insurance;
  • Workplace safety;
  • Employee and family health insurance;
  • Collective bargaining rights;
  • Anti-discrimination laws; and
  • Whistleblower protection laws.

Contrast those contributions with the contributions public sector unions have brought about since their rise to prominence over the past 20-30 years, which appear to be confined to:

  • Unsustainable and grossly under-funded defined-benefit pensions in lieu of Social Security and defined contribution pensions;
  • non merit-based raises that often exceed the rate of inflation; and
  • a lack of any real accountability to the taxpayers who fund those pensions and those raises

That’s what you get from a system of employment that is more socialistic than capitalistic, and which enables and actually rewards collusion between public-sector unions and the politicians who pander to those unions in return for political support – at the taxpayers’ expense.

So on this Labor Day, consider spending a few minutes contemplating how we can restore to prominence the private sector labor and management that built this country – while reducing the growing dominance of the collusive public sector labor and politics that is undermining it.

To read or post comments, click on title.

27 comments so far

Great post. All of the benefits you cite — the benefits we are taught by union teachers that some business owner woke up one day and decided to offer, were actually won by workers sacrificing life and limb. We need to stop making it our life’s work to kill off the least bit of leverage the employee has, and start acting like we really believe all work has dignity. At the very least, that all work should pay enough to keep the worker off the public dole.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Who teaches that business owners voluntarily bestowed all these betterments on their employees?

“All work should pay enough to keep the worker off the public dole” is just another form of welfare and is wrong on an economic basis – it didn’t work in the early 1970s when then-pres. Richard Nixon imposed wage and price controls. It also flies in the face of the first 150 years of this country’s history – when we grew from nothing into a world power primarily through (you’re not going to like this) basic economic Darwinism.

Wowowowowowow! Please read and circulate. Most of all of our problems neatly wrapped and delivered.

Happy Monday. PD……..sleep in.

boo hoo. Now you’re back to your knee-jerk ideology that holds pretty much everything is “just another form of welfare.” Problem is that the nurse, the barrista, the sanitation worker, the vet’s assistant, the clerk and stockboy at Brooks Bros. or wherever you reluctantly shop won’t just conveniently disappear into thin air when their function for you is done. They need to eat, see a dentist now and then, sleep indoors in the winter, and other indulgences. If you truly believe people should be fired for getting sick, or having a baby, or voting, or not being the nephew who needs a job, or anything else that makes work so tenuous these days,…if you truly believe harassment is an executive perk and we should go back to the good old days when working people had no leverage at all, well, remember we tried that. For aeons. Looks great this quarter, not so great for the long haul.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our ideology is not, and never has been, “knee-jerk.” It’s the product of more than 40 years of reading about, thinking about, and participating in our country’s form of government – observing what has worked, what hasn’t, and why.

What IS “knee-jerk,” however, is the ridiculous idea that a minimum level of pay should be set for various jobs not based on what the market is willing to pay for those services but, instead, by the cost of living.

As for our beliefs about working conditions and benefits, you might wish to re-read the post (feel free to move your lips if necessary) because we believe NONE of the things you suggest we do – as should have been obvious from our favorable recognition of all the workplace benefits private sector unions have won for working people and their families over the past 100 years or so, as contrasted with the purely detrimental contributions of public sector unions and the corrupt politicians with whom those unions collude.

A few questions.

What you thing getting rid of a minimum wage (which you appear to be advocating)would do to the already growing grad canyon like devide between classes in this country?

Do you see this as an issue??

Lastly, in your post you site the minimum wage as something private sector unions deserve credit for yet you then state that they are ridiculous and knee jerk??

EDITOR’S NOTE: A few answers:

We DON’T advocate “getting rid of a minimum wage” and never have – it’s the very first item on our list of the things we praise organized labor for achieving, which you apparently figured out later on in your next question.

As for your last question, you also might benefit from re-reading the post and our Editor’s Note to the last comment (moving lips optional) because we DIDN’T “state that they [private sector unions?] are ridiculous and knee jerk.” We said a “minimum level of pay…[based on] the cost of living” – instead of on the market value of the services rendered – is “knee jerk” and “ridiculous.”

Not a bad start. Here are some additional observations:

1> State Government can’t promise retirement benefits that they can’t fund.
2> Federal Government can’t give military personnel retirement after 20 years.
3> Raise the age of social security benefits to 80.
4> If you make more money than everyone else, you are going to pay more real dollars in taxes then everyone else.
5> Allow people to direct where their taxes are spent.


1. Correct.
2. Wrong, unless they can qualify for something other than combat.
3. Wrong, although benefit payments should be indexed to other income, but with the guaranty that you get back no less than every dime you put in, plus reasonable interest.
4. Correct, if you’re talking about some version of the flat tax – where the person who makes $100,000 pays $20,000 and the person making $1,000,000 pays $200,000j.
5. Wrong, because it’s totally unworkable.

Excuse me but the state did not promise benefits that they could not fund. They promised retirement benefits and made the choice not to fund them. There is a difference.

The 80 age is just flat out stupid!!! It is true that for a variety of reasons Americans generally (it actually depends on race and socio economic factors) are living longer but the most recent data says the average male takes a dirt nap at 76. At least the average lady will get a years worth as they live to 81.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re excused, even though you’re wrong.

The “state” (a/k/a, the politicians) colluded with the public employee unions, which is why the unions barely raised a peep of objection as money needed for pension funding was diverted to other uses, such as raises for those same union employees – all with the knowledge that the constitutional guaranty of those pensions would protect those employees from the consequences of underfunding.

What you are saying does not even make sense. The poster stated the following…..”State Government can’t promise retirement benefits that they can’t fund.”

With any program, the state makes a commitment and then has to fund it with our money (or some convoluted TIF idea i.e. the Uptown development that we end up paying for anyway).

The posters rule number 1 was never violated. Our state government did not promise retirement benefits they could not fund. They did not fund them…year after year…..until we got to where we are today.

By the way, the part of that under funding that went to union employees is dead wrong, but it infintesimal when compared to monies diverted to provide other programs or “things” to taxpayers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If the extra money WASN’T going for increased pay, top-shelf health-care benefits and other things that the unions favored, even the constitutional pension guaranty wouldn’t have been enough to keep the unions stone-quiet. But as we noted, they were complicitly silent church mouses year after year, decade after decade, that the pensions continued to be underfunded.

And why not? Even when the chickens come home to roost, if all those public employees have to pay another $1,000/year in income taxes to keep their $30-40-50-60-70-80,000-and-up pensions, the math totally works in their favor – unlike the private sector workers who’ll pay the $1,000/year and get nothing in return.

I don’t understand why you are against raising the age of when a person can receive Social Security benefits. When it was implemented, the life expectancy was lower. Now life expectancy has increased, why not raise the age of receiving social security benefits? Whether the number should be 80 or 75 or 90 is subject to debate, but not the original intent of the program.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re not categorically against raising it (although we are aware of reaonable arguments on both sides), but 80 was the suggested number; and we don’t agree with that.


The average life expectancy for a male is now 76. That would mean that men get to collect for 11 years. What do you think is a fair number?? How much do you want to give the average male….3 yrs??…5??…2?? PD talked in an earlier comment about getting all you paid in to SS paid out to you. I wonder how many years the break even point would be.

Not to be morbid but we all that part of the calculations of SS and pensions are a certain percentage passing early. But if people knew on average the were only going to get 3 years they would want to opt out and invest the money themselves…..of course that takes us to the individual mandate.

As an aside, google life expectancies and take a look at the list of countries. We ain’t no great shakes at number 33 in the world.

You’re so quick to jump on the “you didn’t build that” meme that maybe you don’t realize that, taken in the context of which it was spoken by President Obama, you are in agreement:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

While I think the very last sentence could use some finesse, like “Somebody else helped you make it happen,” the sentiment is very much about acknowledging the support and opportunities that we as Americans are privileged to enjoy and not at all about special advantages.


If it were only about “support and opportunities that we as Americans are privileged to enjoy,” then why isn’t every kid from Steve Jobs’ Homestead High School homeroom, or every one of Phil Knight’s FIJI fraternity brothers, or at least 50 of Jeff Bezos’ Princeton Class of 1986 fellow alums, equally-successful entrepreneurs? Didn’t they drive the same roads, have the same teachers, share the same weather, etc. as their less-successful classmates?

Make no mistake about it, “you didn’t build that” is a purely collectivist argument intended to diminish individual intelligence, effort and achievement in order to excuse failure and mediocrity while at the same time justifying and promoting disproportionately higher taxes and other burdens on the most financially successful. See, e.g., Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron.”

@11:17 Editor’s note: Clearly you’ve been watching too much Fox News.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Nope, never go there.

Only MSNBC and CNN.

If anything I think the ‘you didn’t build that’ is more analogous to ‘no man is an island’. Food for thought…

EDITOR’S NOTE: Of course…because the President of the United States of America, formerly a U.S. Senator and graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, somehow believed that “you didn’t build that” was a fungible substitute for “no man is an island”? Seriously?

@12:36 When I can’t use logic or reason, I try to be snide as well.

“If it were only about “support and opportunities that we as Americans are privileged to enjoy,” then why isn’t every kid from Steve Jobs’ Homestead High School homeroom, or every one of Phil Knight’s FIJI fraternity brothers, or at least 50 of Jeff Bezos’ Princeton Class of 1986 fellow alums, equally-successful entrepreneurs? Didn’t they drive the same roads, have the same teachers, share the same weather, etc. as their less-successful classmates? ”

I understand your way of thinking, as I have several left leaning, liberal, wrong thinking friends, and they’re nuts just like you.

This isn’t a Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, or Michael Savage piece of wisdom. It is common sense. Please re-read carefully, and come back with the parts that aren’t accurate or true. Thanks !

12:36 here. I’m not sure what about my comment seems snide to you. The “you didn’t build that” meme came straight from Fox News. I just felt it was beneath PWD to even use it since his commentary is usually more thoughtfully considered than most partisan-driven nonsense that’s out there, such as calling people “nuts” just because they don’t automatically condemn anything and everything that our President says.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “You didn’t build that” came straight from the mouth of then-candidate Elizabeth Warren ( and from the mouth of President Obama (

Frankly, we would have hoped that this kind of divisive, partisan rhetoric was beneath Sen. Warren and the President, but obviously it wasn’t. And WE don’t “automatically condemn anything and everything that our President says.”

I think 1:54 is right on the mark, which is what makes the “meme” so laughable.

EDITOR’S NOTE: and demonstrate just how far from the “mark” you and 1:54 really are with your “no man is an island” analogy.

Listen to Sen. Warren talk about how “the rest of us” – implicitly excluding the successful business owner – paid for things that business owner used to become successful, like roads, bridges, an educated workforce, police, etc. Listen to the President talk about how “somebody else” – again implicitly excluding the successful person – was responsible for that success.

But, unfortunately, what you won’t hear from the Senator or the President is how many/most of “the rest of us” and the “somebody else”s have been able to pay taxes toward those roads and bridges, schools and police, solely BECAUSE successful business owners have provided them with the jobs that paid the wages that paid the taxes.

@4:10 it’s a “chicken or egg” type of argument if you ask me (which, I know, you didn’t). Amazing how people can hear the same words and derive very different meanings. No one is demeaning the American entrepreneurial spirit, just acknowledging that we as a society are all in this together.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So the sentiment the Harvard law professor turned U.S. Senator and the Harvard Law Review president turned POTUS wanted to convey was “we’re all in this together” or “no man is an island” – but the best they could come up with was: “You didn’t build that”? Seriously?

Either you’re a dull-witted blindly-partisan MSNBC-er, or a dull-witted blindly-partisan Fox News groupie with a ridiculously low opinion of the Senator’s and the President’s intelligence and speaking skills. Keep up the good work!

‘Dog, your response yesterday to 1117 is spot on. People like him/her should be forced to sit in a chair and read “Atlas Shrugged” a la Malcolm McDowell in “Clockwork Orange” so they can see what is actually happening to the real world that we live in today.

“You didn’t build that” is eerily reminiscent of Wesley Mouch and the Equalization of Opportunity Bill in the book. Our economy and yes, our society, is falling apart because the “have-nots” are beginning to outnumber the “haves” and are forcefully and unfortunately successfully exerting their will to bring the “haves” down to their level.

The end result, as Rand foresaw, is a society full of “have nots” with no one generating wealth and jobs to help the “have nots” become “haves.”

Sure, “Atlas Shrugged” is over the top. But nonetheless, we are living that novel as we speak, and the future looks grim unless the “have nots” and their leaders, ie the collectivists in Washington, Springfield and elsewhere, don’t change their ways. Alas, since the “have nots” are now the majority, they decide who our leaders are and, therefore, we are screwed.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Meanwhile, the folks who hang on every word uttered by the talking-head entertainers masquerading as journalists and/or deep thinkers at Fox News and MSNBC are blowing smoke up their own kilts with that lopsided, partisan clap-trap masquerading as “fair” or “balanced” or “bi-partisan,” etc.

But thinking for oneself is hard.

The fox position on “you did not build that” is the same as yours and yet it is lopsided and partisan?

EDITOR’S NOTE: When it comes to Fox and MSNBC, the phrase “even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn” comes to mind. In this particular case the blind Fox just happened to find the acorn, while the blind squirrels at MSNBC didn’t.

Yes, those ungrateful have-nots, who feel they should be able to take their kid to the dentist or doctor when you’ve only got one sable coat and one vacation home. Where are their priorities? Don’t the nurses, restaurant cooks, cabbies, waiters, social workers, hairdressers, classical musicians, graphic designers, sanitation workers, preschool teachers and the rest of those ne’er-do-wells understand their job is to take care of whatever we don’t want to deal with and then disappear into thin air? Do they really think they should choose jobs that don’t require brilliance, ruthlessness, connections or all of the above, and still expect three hots and a cot for their kids after working 40-60 hours a week? What is the world coming to?

EDITOR’S NOTE: A return to meritocracy and accountability? The understanding that everybody is entitled to equal or equivalent opportunity, but not guaranteed equal or equivalent outcomes? That if the poor really are no different from the rich in their rights and obligations, then the poor are as accountable as the rich for their lots in life?

There are nuggets of truth in what you say PD. The problem is that many people who might be very sympathetic to some of your (or Mr. 47% Mitt’s) positions, listen to these statements and what comes through loud and clear (whether intended or not) is a glaring lack of gratitude and humility……and I know you don’t care.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We try to put “nuggets of truth” in everything we post, and note.

We normally DON’T care. But we MIGHT care…if you can explain:
– WHO is displaying “a glaring lack of gratitude and humility?
– To WHOM is the “gratitude” you write about owed, and why?
– To WHAT specifically are you referring that requires “humility,” and why?

@huh? @10:00 am, I don’t need to be forced under duress of violence to read a dystopic novel written in the 1950s to open my eyes to the realities of the world today. But thanks for the suggestion, have a nice day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Exactly right. The United States Constitution guarantees people the inalienable right to be under-educated, uneducated or even ignorant; to be thoughtless, careless, and witless; and to read or not read, and watch or not watch, whatever they choose.

I was referring to you and people who make similar statements. I am simply pointing out that, for many (not all)who might agree with you on many issues, there is a bad sound in these statements like as in…….”God I never want to sound like that!!!”

As to the second and third questions, I cannot answer those for you. You have to answer them for yourself. Apparently your answers are “no one” and “nothing”.

EDITOR’S NOTE: When you accuse somebody of a “glaring lack of gratitude and humility,” the burden of proof is on the accuser. That you choose not to accept that burden and, instead, slough it off on the accused suggests a total lack of merit to the accusation.

Fortunately, that lack of merit now has convinced us that we SHOULDN’T care about what you think. So thanks for making that an easier decision.

I was not trying to be snide in my response How on earth do you expect me to answer for you to whom the gratitude is owed??? How on earth do you expect me answer to what you should show humility?

I only know you from what I have read on your blog. I do not know your history (people, events, experiences). Even if I did no your entire history, I would never presume to identify for you people, places or thing to whom you own gratitude or humility. That is up to you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: YOU’RE the one who comments about a “glaring lack of gratitude and humility” but can’t identify to whom that “gratitude” is owed, or why it is owed, or about what this editor is not sufficiently humble?

With that kind of vague and disingenuous approach, you could be one of those mindlessly-partisan talking heads on Fox or MSNBC. Are you Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow?

@11:51. So not reading Atlas Shrugged makes one “under-educated, uneducated or even ignorant…thoughtless, careless, and witless.” Ok then. Guilty as charged.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No. But there are an almost infinite number of ways to qualify for those adjectives, if you wish to expand your guilty plea.

God 0, Mammon 100.

EDITOR’S NOTE: But that’s only at the half; and God is known to be a strong second-half, come-from-behind performer.

242…Failing to read “Atlas Shrugged” does not make one ignorant. But those who continue to believe that the best way to make poor people rich is to make rich people poor, thereby punishing those who exhibit hard work, initiative and production and rewarding those who don’t is the height of ignorance.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Let’s not go all MSNBC/Fox-y here, Huh? Even the most confiscatory taxing the Democrats are advocating will not “make rich people poor” – just slightly less rich, although that still doesn’t make progressively higher taxes on the well-off the right thing to do.

And it’s more commonly known as the “depths of ignorance.”

You can be sure that those of us who think investment bankers and insurance execs are not the only humans who deserve a basic quality of life will be awaiting God’s rebuttal to Ayn Rand et al with great interest. Compounded, even. the problem with your theory is that if nobody did the jobs that don’t pay hellaciously well, the rich would be impoverished in a very real way. Most people we misleadingly call “ordinary” are extraordinary — just not in ways you can see by their ride, their house, etc. And most “ordinary” people don’t begrudge the affluent the cruise, the multiple homes in fun places, the designer apparel and jewelry, the $20,000 sofa or the $2,000 din-din. They just want to take a hurting child to the doctor or dentist without their own stomach flipping over sideways; to help their kids go to college without going broke or weather a major health problem without losing their house. Costs for fab clothing have plummetted since we sent the work to labor camps overseas; cars and electronics are also affordable for that reason. But the stuff we really can’t compete well without — proper medical care (physical or mental), proper dental care, a four-year degree at an OK college, a home of one’s own — are out of reach for far too many. If those are luxuries, we are already lost.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Somebody will ALWAYS do the jobs, either at the current rate of pay or at whatever level the pay will have to be raised to GET people to do those jobs. That’s good ol’ supply and demand – you may have heard of it, even if you don’t believe in it.

If the “ordinary” are really “extraordinary,” are the stupid really smart, and the exceptional really unexceptional? That could explain the “you didn’t build that!” philosophy.

If all those things truly were “out of reach for far too many,” then people already would be heading to Canada, Britain, France, Germany, or wherever all that stuff is a better bargain. But we haven’t heard any giant sucking sound of people leaving the country. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while college enrollment decreased by approx. 500,000 students in 2012, the college enrollment for Black and Hispanic students – who presumably are at the lower economic levels – actually increased for that period.

So we’re pretty sure you’re just plain wrong about these things.

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