By John F. Rohe
July 29, 2005
Before the Civil War, John C. Calhoun's views on the equality of human beings were nurtured with a mint julep on the veranda of a southern plantation. This leading South Carolina Senator, and Presidential hopeful, had a splendid panoramic view of the jobs that Americans wouldn't do. In spirited debates, Senator Calhoun became a voice for the South in perpetuating slavery.
By 1860, however, Hinton Helper's best selling book, The Impending Crisis, demonstrated that slavery benefited neither whites nor blacks. By spurning jobs that Americans won't do, Southern whites became dependent upon others. In the South, Hinton Helper observed: "We want Bibles, brooms, buckets and books, and we go to the North; . . . we want toys, primers, school books, fashionable apparel, machinery, medicines, tombstones, and a thousand other things, and we go to the North for them all."
When cotton was king, the South believed it could rise above the "jobs Americans won't do." The image was supported by an illusion.
The slogan, "Jobs Americans won't do," has now emerged as the Presidential slogan for importing more foreign labor. The leader of the free world offers an assurance that Americans have graduated to a better life.
Who, actually, is unwilling to do "the jobs Americans won't do"? Has picking up after ourselves fallen beneath our dignity? Has caring for others lost appeal? Are our sons and daughters no longer willing to work their way through college? Harry Truman once professed that no one should have to wash anyone else's socks and underwear. Truman washed his own.
Who is claiming that we won't do these jobs? Do they have contempt for calloused hands? Is the unemployed American refusing to do these jobs? Or is this a disguised corporate quest for cheap labor?
The illiterate slave driver's view of inferior beings became a sad disillusion. Yet, this view is inherent in the President's new slogan.
What is the President's mental image of "jobs Americans won't do"? He's not claiming the jobs are unnecessary. Rather, he is pointing out that we need not perform them. Then who will? People looking different than us? Has the President been sipping mint juleps with Sen. Calhoun?
What are the jobs that Americans won't do? Laundry? Making beds? Milking cows? Picking up garbage? If this is a job that only immigrants will do, then Los Angeles should be spotless, and trash should be gathering on the streets of low-immigrant communities.
In fact, Americans do these jobs. Americans do these jobs with pride. Americans have thrived on these jobs over the centuries. The Americans doing these jobs don't look any different. They do not shrink from work. Americans just resist enslaved wages and indecent working conditions. The soul of America is still found in our commitment to a work ethic.
To restore dignity to labor we must honor it with a living wage. Flooding the job market with cheap labor forces a debate over the minimum wage. Congress has not repealed the law of supply and demand.
The "jobs Americans won't do" adage seems harmless, but it carries a hefty price tag. We become the enslaved, much like the disillusioned illiterate white Southerner of 1850.
The President's slogan is an invitation to join him on Sen. Calhoun's veranda. Mint julep anyone?
John's column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc.
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