September 25, 2008
If you watch the NBC News segment below, you'll see Jack Lessenberry, a political analyst, wondering what's going to happen to us here in the Rustbelt. He says that we want to stay here, that we have lives here.
Well, yeah. We're trying to, at least.
So I've been thinking about that. Here I am, living in the so-called rustbelt. It's a densly populated area. The climate is moderate. We have few natural disasters, few poisionous animals. We have lots of rivers for transporting goods, a well developed highway system (though it could use a little work). All in all it's a great part of the country. It seems a natural location for industry. So why the heck don't we have any jobs?
We used to have jobs. We used to have big mills, where a man could make enough money so that his wife could stay home, and actually make a home. We were just getting around to making it so a woman could also get a job in the mill and make enough money to have a good life.
We had those good paying jobs because we had unions. That's right, unions. We knew the company was not our "partner". Before there were unions in this neck of the woods, things were pretty bad for us here (look it up or read Upton Sinclair). Basically, my people came to realize that they wanted a share of the pie. And they also came to realize that they wanted a pretty good-sized share, big enough to make them prosperous, not just getting by. Heck, mill workers were sending their kids to college.
So we had good lives around here. You know, small-town, kids-running-through-the-yards good lives, like you see on telivision commercials. People had 2 cars, went on vacations, had boats to put in the river.
And now? Well the steel mills went overseas so they could make a greater profit by exploiting some other peoples' misery. And now we don't make anything much here. Certainly not steel. Because our expectations for our lives are too high? Because we know how to organize a union here? Because we have an idea about how much of that proverbial pie is our fair share?
Well that idea and that expectation are my heritage. And I don't plan on walking away from that anytime soon. That's why I do political work.