A Perspective on Labor Day
By Freddy Ard
As with so many other holidays, Labor Day has become more of a mark of time than anything of substance. Back in the days when I was in grade school, it marked not only the end of summer, but the start of the school year. In 2011, the date still signifies the traditional end of summer, however, some students have been in class three weeks by the time the first Monday of September rolls around. For sartorial purists, the fashion rule of “no white after Labor Day” stands, however, some fashionistas are now willing to even compromise that custom.
Labor Day, in its original purpose, was to recognize the social and economic achievements of the American worker, once inseperably encompassing both labor union and the worker. Modern times have marked the decline of union participation, at least in the private sector. Interestingly, growth in union participation has been confined to the government sector. I suppose unfair wage practices, hazardous working conditions, abusive work hours, and exploitation of child labor are justifications for that phenomena. Nevertheless, the holiday is not purely restricted to the celebration of unions, but more broadly to acknowledge the ingenuity, diligence, productivity, efficiency, and skill of workers in all trades and professions. While in recent decades the American economy, and thus the workforce, has become more tilted to the service industries, our nation, fortunately, remains dependant upon the production of craft and trade jobs. For this reason, the celebration of the American worker is still relevant, worthwhile of a holiday, and an expression of gratitude for those whose toil has made this country the greatest in history.
As we celebrate this great heritage, there exists, unfortunately, a disconnect involving what is approaching ten percent of the workforce. That condition is called unemployment. According to the United States Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics “Employment Situation Summary” dated September 2, 2011, job growth was zero for the current reporting period. While that might be tolerable with an unemployment rate of 5%, it is resoundingly unacceptable for the 9.1% figure that is presently looming. The lack of recordable job growth is proof that another speech, just as with the previous speeches by President Obama, will not halt the decline of our economy nor produce the sorely-needed jobs to pull the economy out of its nosedive. It doesn’t take a political junkie to understand that, as the most casual observer can easily come to such a conclusion. 14.0 million unemployed workers should be proof enough.
This report no doubt is sending economists scrambling to make sense of it all. But it doesn’t take an economist to “connect the dots” between the latest statistics and the failed policies of the Democrats in Congress, under the Reid-Pelosi leadership, and in particular, the President of the United States. An endless array of spending sprees (TARP, bailouts, stimulus), coupled with a resilient lack of resolve to reverse the enormous expansion of deficit, debt and regulation, have yielded the results tabulated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Simply stated, the Democrat policies are theoretically flawed, politically destructive, and have been economically disastrous for the entire 959 days between the inauguration of President Obama and Labor Day 2011.
Conversely, reducing the tax burden, curtailment of out-of-control spending, diminishing the size of government, and regulatory reform – all sound Republican principles- seem like a combination that should be tested now more than ever. If not applied, it is unreasonable to think that on October 7 - the date the Employment Situation for September 2011 is scheduled to be released - the results will be any different.
One year from this date, the presidential nominees for both political parties will have been decided, and Labor Day 2012 will mark the beginning of the general election season. Other issues will certainly be included in the dialogue, debate, and ultimately the decision of the voter, but jobs are of foremost concern on September 5, 2011. Until that time, there are millions of unemployed workers in every industry, profession, and wage grade who, on payday, have little to celebrate.
Freddy Ard is Chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, a member of the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee, and has served as Shelby County Commissioner and Helena City Councilman.