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Labor’s love’s lost

BY BEAU ELLIOT | SEPTEMBER 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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Good job? Good luck. Good night.

Not to rain on your Labor Day parade or anything.

Yeah, I know, for many Americans, Labor Day means gathering your grill friends and your girlfriends and, presumably, boyfriends and charring slabs of steaks and boodles of brats while sipping (that’s a euphemism) beer and slapping mosquitoes. It’s a labor of love, I guess.

Labor Day, of course, was intended to celebrate the American worker — which, just glancing at the jobs market (that, too, is a euphemism — which comes from the ancient Greek euphemismos, meaning use of auspicious words [secretly, I knew you wanted to know]) meanwhile, back at the narrative, just glancing at the jobs market and the unemployment rate, it sure doesn’t seem as if we’re celebrating the American worker all that much.

Rather, we Americans seem to celebrate American capitalism, and the more of it, the better.

(No, I am not your knee-jerk, anti-capitalist lefty-liberal who has nothing better to do with his time than to bash American businesses. For one thing, I work for two American businesses. For another, I was privileged to witness the detritus [not to use an auspicious word] of a so-called socialist economy in the former East Berlin and East Germany — or Da-Da Error, as my friend Stefan Mensching called it.)

But as E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post put it, quoting a famous American: “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration.”

Some misguided American Marxist said that, you surmise. But as Dionne notes: Not so fast, comrade. (Well, OK, he didn’t use those words.)

Abraham Lincoln said those words about labor and capital, and Lincoln was, as we all should know, the nation’s first Republican president.

Hmm.

Doesn’t sound a whole lot like today’s Republicans, does Lincoln.

To be somewhat fair, Lincoln doesn’t sound all that much like today’s Democrats, either.

Oh, I know, President Obama is going to roll out a new job-creation proposal Thursday, which, given his previous attempts at stimulating the economy, will be far too feeble to actually do the — well — job.

To be fair to the president, the Republicans have opposed his every timid baby step on anything — including the hilarious spectacle of House Speaker Newt Gingrich demanding that Obama institute a no-fly zone over Libya, then, after Obama announced the U.S. would join NATO in instituting just that, condemned the move.

Or, remembering all the way back to more than a year ago — tough, I know — when three GOP senators proposed a bipartisan commission to come up with ways to reduce U.S. debt and Obama said, Yeah, that’s a good idea, the three Republican senators voted against their proposal.

I mean, if Obama proclaimed that the Sun rises in the east, Republicans would immediately respond that believing the Sun rises in the east is akin to believing in evolution and global-climate change.

None of which creates any jobs, but then, so little seems to. As of Sept. 2, there were 14 million unemployed in the U.S., with around 9 million part-timers who would prefer full-time work and 6.5 million who would prefer employment but have stopped looking for work, according to the federal government.

So happy Labor Day. I hope the grill was good to you.

And then there’s this note, courtesy of Google: In 1875, the director of the U.S. Patent Office resigned and declared that the department should be shut down. Why?

Nothing left to invent, he contended.

He served in the administration of President U.S. Grant, who was — you guessed it — a Republican.


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