One of the worst examples of Republicans mimicking Democrat talking points, particularly when it comes to immigration policy, is when some GOP officials employ the phrase doing the jobs that Americans won’t do. Rich Lowry echos my frustration with this particular bit of nonsense this weekend.
At the NR/Heritage event on immigration yesterday, I said the next Republican politician or consultant who says that there are “jobs that Americans won’t do” should be shot, hanged, and wrapped in a carpet and thrown in the Potomac River.
Not only is it not true that there are jobs that Americans won’t do, it is a sentiment that betrays contempt for those Americans who do the kind of jobs they aren’t supposed to be doing. So, it is the last thing anyone associated with what should be a party of work should say.
Lowry is right, and this highlights what is particularly wrong with some of the GOP messaging these days. Not everyone can get out there and crawl around under a house or swing a pick ax – particularly as we approach the end of our working years – but for many it is still a very viable, and honorable, option. I was reminded of a long time friend of mine who lost his job as a mechanical engineering technician back during the crash of 2007 – 2008. He was fully eligible to go on unemployment and stay there for a couple of years, thanks to the continually extended benefits being offered through federal programs.
But while there were no jobs in his current field available, and relocating wasn’t an option due to family considerations, he began applying for pretty much anything that was advertised. Within a couple of weeks he was offered a job with a local businessman who refurbished commercial properties. His job was to go in a pickup truck with a couple of other guys and empty out abandoned buildings – frequently with a shovel and a dust mask – and clean them up well enough for construction crews to come in and begin preparing them for new tenants. The money was probably 30% less than he was making before, and he came home filthy and physically exhausted every day. But when I talked to him over a couple of beers at our dart league he told me that, in some ways, he was happier than he’d been in a while.
The work was much lower stress mentally, he’d lost about fifteen pounds in the first couple of months and he was in better shape than he’d been in years. The job was also productive, producing immediate satisfaction. He related to a scene from the movie Bruce Almighty, where “God” tells Bruce that no matter how dirty something is, you can always clean it right up. He got to see that immediate result as the product of his labor.
When things picked back up in the local economy, he found another engineering job and went back to what he’d done before. But he reminded me recently that he had no regrets about taking that job. He’d had to tighten his belt a bit, but he took care of his family and never had trouble looking himself in the eye in the morning while shaving. That’s something for the GOP to keep in mind. If you are the Party of Work, you should go back back and watch a few episodes of Dirty Jobs, and you definitely shouldn’t shy away from the idea of people actually working.