You read it here first. Way back in August, when few outside the great state of Vermont had heard of Bernie Sanders, I wrote an article, “Blue Collar Workers and the Presidency” for this very publication. I said then, “… (M)y big concern about the 2016 election: Who’s looking out for our blue-collar workers and what policies to improve the blue-collar opportunity equation will our presidential candidates unwaveringly support?” Eight months later I’m happy to see folks finally paying attention.
Now everybody seems to be jumping on the blue-collar bandwagon. Recent news titles include “Trump and Blue Collar Voters” and “Trump and Sanders Win on Tide of Blue Collar Fury.”
Better late than never. So, let me repeat a stat from my earlier article. Sixty-one percent of U.S. workers are self-professed blue-collar workers. 61 percent! This super-sized voting bloc, having been deceived and ignored by policymakers for decades, has finally decided they’re not going to take it anymore.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the hourly wage of blue-collar manufacturing workers doubled from the 1940s to the 1970s but has since flat-lined. You read that right. For over 40 years, the hourly wage of blue-collar workers hasn’t budged. Yet, during the same time period, healthcare, tuition, and retirement costs skyrocketed while the quality and integrity of the government we all pay for has consistently declined.
How did this happen? Well, for one, like infatuated teenagers, our political parties went gaga over anyone with deep pockets. And it shows. Most large U.S. businesses have had a pretty good run over the past few decades: $1 invested in U.S. stocks in 1980 was worth about 28-times more by 2010. In addition to those flat-lined wages though, U.S. workers got stuck with the tab for retirement, healthcare, and foreign policies that, in corporate-speak, were dilutive for them. In other words, blue-collar Americans got the shaft while politicians and their high-wage supporters made bank.
I’m an entrepreneur and longstanding supporter of business and profitability. But we are way out of whack and at risk of imperiling our democracy when our politicians collude with the self-serving to line their own pockets at the expense of 61 percent of the U.S. workforce.
Which brings me back to the closing line of my earlier article: “How about instead, we actually asked all our candidates to come up with policy proposals to improve the integrity and efficiency of government? Oh, and that work for the vast majority of American workers. That would be our blue-collar workers. Want to take care of America? Take care of them.”
I said it then. Happy to say it again now.
Learn more about Diane by following her column here or visit American Rural at AmericanRural.org.
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