Work Matters: America Works Best When American Workers Are Appreciated
Work is how we built this country, and this state. When we talk about the mystique of California --and this is a state with a mystique-- we talk about the weather, Hollywood, the golden hills, sometimes we even talk about the gold in them thar hills. But the media, in particular, has a tendency to forget about the genuine sweat-equity that helped make California truly great. The anemic, vapid, and frankly soulless, "values" woke talking heads talk about, when they talk about the California dream, did NOT turn California into the Golden State.
The backbreaking labor of millions of often anonymous workers made this state the stuff of dreams in the early Twentieth Century. These days, the public perception of California is that this is a state where a woke Duchess can spend her time giving interviews complaining about how she wants her privacy. (Newsflash, if you want privacy don't give interviews to the press. Just, you know, spend less time obsessing about Instagram and moaning to magazine writers, and more time doing macrame.)
If you want to see the real superstars of this state, the real "royalty," don't waste your time in Montecito. Instead, take a road trip. Take Hwy 37 over to I-80 and cruise over to Sacramento. Spend a day at the California State Railroad Museum. I dare you to walk away without a deep appreciation for the tens of thousands of hardworking ethnic Chinese and ethnic Irishmen who built the steel roads.
California is truly the stuff dreams are made of, but those dreams were all made possible by hardworking men and women. Even the movies weren't conjured into existence with a few brilliant words and a glittering smile. The stars didn't make the movies, even the moguls didn't make the movies. (And, in their day, the genuine original movie moguls, knew a thing or two about creating a product. If you start your career selling notions door to door in the Catskills and end your career making movies in Southern California, you never forget that the customer matters. Maybe if you start out the privileged child of the elite --they call them "nepo-babies" now, aka the interns that get their jobs because daddy used to be president of the United States, or mommie was a C-List actress in the early 1980s-- go to film school, and then make a so-so semi auto-biographical film about your own experience in rehab --rather than, you know, trying to be a tad less narcissistic-- you don't really understand that quality rarely just happens without a bit of hard-work.)
The stars didn't make California either. In some cases we did. Often, this magnificent state we call home, this magnificent state that has gotten more than a little tarnished, was built by men and women whose names we don't even know. The media has turned the tech titans of the 21st century into household names. Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, the increasingly embarrassing Cheryl Sandberg, the even more embarrassing Travis Kalanick, Zuckerberg, and even the now sort-of-last-century Bill Gates, are all names we know. But do you know the names of any of the men who helped build Mulholland Drive? (Other than Mulholland of course.)
Do you know the names of any of the women who worked at Marinship in 1943 helping to turn out PT boats to defeat the brutal Iron Axis? Do you know the names of anyone who picks your strawberries? Do you know the name of the guy who changes your tires? Do you know the names of the speculators and farmers who built the canal by State Hwy 152? (If you want to trace the agricultural prosperity of California back to one place, that one place would probably be that ditch. As the valley farmers say, food grows where water flows. And it took an incredible effort to make the water flow.) Do you know the name of the old guy who lives down the street from you (and pays way less in property taxes than you do because he bought his house new in 1967) and now, even though he's 80 something, he still trims his own trees and cleans his own gutters and has a pegboard in his garage where all his tools hang neatly in their places, a cabinet filled with putty cans and the miscellaneous items of a lifetime of maintenance, a flag pinned to the wall? Do you know his name? Do you know what his job was before he entered his golden years of retirement?
Work built California. And, this country used to honor work.
We work for different reasons. It is easy to take the purely capitalist viewpoint and say people work for money --which is true, but not always the whole truth. The brainiest of the pop-artist artists, Andy Warhol, basically said that work was art and art was work. Warhol was, probably, one of the greatest observers of pop culture of his day. And, although he is remembered today as the artist who partied with the beautiful people --or at least the semi pretty, very rich, and often drugged people-- Warhol's success as an artist probably stemmed from his genuine affection for the material culture of the working world. Warhol's paintings regularly fetch big money at auctions today. Although, according to some "experts" --often just another word for salesmen-- the real Warhol of today is actually named Hunter Biden and his paintings will be even more legendary as time goes by. Hmmm.... what can you say about that? Probably a lot. I recommend reading the link about Hunter's "art" --it says a lot about the business of politics. Personally, I find it fascinating that Casey Michel, writing for The Atlantic, suggested the international art market is "murky." Hmmm, indeed. Oh well, if magazine editors didn't have hypocritical standards these days they'd probably have no standards.
The reality is that money is, only rarely, the sole motivating factor that makes most people go to work. Many of us make the best friends we'll ever have at work. (Or commuting to work. Ever been in a carpool? Three women, 1 car, twice a day, 5 times a week. Beats a comedy club for basic amusement every time.) Fire fighters don't run into burning buildings for the money. Small business people don't spend 14 hours a day doing everything possible to build their businesses just for the money.
Money is one of the rewards for work. But it isn't the only reward. However, we should never assume that just because people see their jobs as vocations more than just work --how many nurses do you know see nursing as "just" a job?-- that those people don't deserve to earn a living, and don't deserve to enjoy the money they have earned.
Inflation means that working people, savers, retirees --basically anyone living on a fixed income-- will have less buying power. Long term inflation means that you won't get to enjoy the value of the money you earned. You will, literally, work harder for less.
Inflation devalues money. And it devalues labor. A collapsing economy destroys dreams. Back in the 1930s "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" became the perpetually heart-wrenching anthem of a decade of despair.
As a song it "worked" because it gave voice to the people who had, without much fanfare, done big things --built bridges, railroads, marched to war-- but were then knocked down by the Depression and stuck lined up for bread instead of lined up to go to work.
As we head in to 2023 we're not facing the Great Depression. (Yet. Maybe. Who knows!) We're not dealing with Weimar style hyper-inflation. And we're not dealing with a Venezuelan style collapse. But we are dealing with something unprecedented in American history. We now have a media, an "expert class" and a government that is dominated by shameless shills who promote narratives that are frankly at odds with reality.
Back in August of 2020 the Washington Post, a once respectable newspaper, published an article declaring inflation that inflation wasn't coming. Back in 2020 --back when Donald Trump was still president and the media was "working" full time to present a rosy view of a Biden future-- the media narrative was that inflation was just a right-wing fantasy and so totally 20th century. Guess that headline aged like milk.
Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are human. Sometimes, making a mistake is even noble, it means an effort was made. But decent people, especially decent people who hold some position of authority, are expected to acknowledge their mistakes, come to terms with their mistakes, apologize for their mistakes, make amends for their mistakes, and even learn from their mistakes.
Fast forward to the Summer of 2022 and inflation was real! Inflation is now so real we're now celebrating gas at under five dollars a gallon. Because, in California anything under five is cheap. If you could afford gas for a family trip to the beach this Summer literally EVERYTHING cost more.
Too many members of our governing classes, and far too many members of the media and pseudo academia, are taking the bold, and slightly unprecedented step, of simply denying they ever made any mistakes. When in doubt, deny! Or blame the other guy! Or deny, obfuscate, and blame the other guy. This is dangerous. Over seventy years ago the author, George Orwell, wrote his masterpiece, "Nineteen Eighty-Four" as a stark warning of the dangers of totalitarianism, and the dangers of a government that soullessly re-writes the past and destroys embarrassing past history by "memory-holing" it.
We're now dealing with a media that pushes nonsensical narratives --narratives that actually risk causing real world damage-- and then depend on our own short memories and the connivance of big social media to make the distant embarrassing past of two years ago disappear.
Take inflation for instance. Two years ago the media was pushing the idea that inflation was just a "right-wing" bogeyman. (Two years ago Republicans warned that the policies being promoted by the darlings of the Left would lead to inflation. So.... the media rolled into action, if a Republicans says something, it is the media's "job" to refute it. Preferably vociferously, continuously, and in lock-step.) But now it is 2022, reality is biting, Hunter's daddy is president, and the media is looking for relevance. Hey, serious finance magazines are talking about "retirement" being "derailed" by the new normal of inflation.
These days inflation is real. Have you bought groceries lately? Milk, chicken, beef, bread, flour and eggs are all significantly more expensive than they were two years ago. Gas, admittedly, is less expensive than it was six months ago, but still more expensive than it was two years ago.
We're not sure what narrative the media is pushing about inflation these days. We know what narrative they were pushing two years ago. We know because we have the screenshots to prove it.
We also know we were worrying about Main Street blight and the economic devastation caused by shut-down two years ago. We know, because we were writing about it.
But, we have hope. Because we have a great deal of respect for the American worker. We know "labor" isn't something the media cares about much these days. After all, aspiring "journalists" have fewer and fewer potential venues for employment. Employment options for most would-be "journalists" may be worse than they are for the average American worker. Which may explain why the media has, collectively, spent a whole heck of a lot more time over the past few years covering the soap-opera lives of the Kardashian-Jenner clan than they have writing about the bread and butter issues that impact average Americans. (On the other other hand, maybe the vapidity of the "media" has led to Americans becoming genuinely disenchanted with the "products" of journalism?)
Over a decade ago, back in 2009, the writing was on the wall for journalism, even the British Guardian --so traditionally Left-wing they make AOC look like a moderate-- knew that the "journalism" profession was becoming a playground for a "credentialed" and increasingly out-of-touch faux elite. Click here to read the article. The writing was on the wall. Journalism used to be more in touch with the American worker because journalists used to be workers, now the modern media is a playground for culturally privileged but financially unstable interns.
The modern "media" is now dominated by people obsessed with credentials and nearly devoid of talent. The New York Times is a case in point. They have writers who know how to use a semi-colon, but they obsess over shaping opinions rather than reporting stories. Which might explain why they prefer the title "journalist" to the job description "reporter."
American workers are realists, they're also dreamers. American workers are the best kind of dreamers, they get to make things happen. Right now bad things are happening to Americans. Inflation has the potential of having a devastating impact on workers and savers. But we still think the American worker can figure a way out of this. (The think-tank guy might be a lost cause for coming up with good new ideas --think-tank guy is probably too busy memory-holing the bad old ideas.)
So if you are an American worker, if you have a well-deserved day off on New Year's Eve, this day is for you. And if you are one of the many people who will go to work on a holiday, because the job still needs to get done, this day is for you. Hats off to you. You are part of a group of people who built this country. And you are part of a group of people who will rebuild this country.
And, if you are reading this and enjoying a well deserved retirement, do the next generation a real favor. Nah... don't pay off someone's student loan debt. Tell your kids and grandkids about your working life. Because most of us are going to go to work at some point in our lives. And the education system is frankly not preparing young people for the reality of the work world. Talk about your real-life experiences and your real-life jobs. Because, frankly, statistically there just isn't enough bandwidth out there for all the "aspiring social media influencers." And, although the economists might not want to talk about it, if we, as taxpayers, keep paying off "student loan debt" and funding green energy solutions that make an actual "boondoggle" seem practical and cheap, someone is going to have to work.