Come, Labor OnPosted 6 September 2010 by Bob Chapman
Happy Labor Day.
With the unemployment rate where it is, the celebration of the contribution of labor to the building of the United States is somewhat unsettling. Even so, there was a time it was worse.
During the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed building dams on the Columbia River during a Portland, Oregon, campaign speech in 1932. The Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams were meant to “prevent extortion against the public by the giant electric utility holding companies then dominant in the region” (Bonneville Power Administration, “History,” retrieved 6 September 2010).
The creation of public power in the Pacific Northwest is not a matter of idle historic interest to me. About 84% of the electric power used to write this blog post came from the Bonneville Power Administration. All of the power is being delivered by the Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1, the 12th largest public utility in the United States. (Snohomish County PUD, “Quick Facts,” retrieved 6 September 2010).
The law in Washington State to allow the creation of municipal corporations to provide utility services in counties was passed using an initiative to the people in November 1930. Business opposed the initiative. (Snohomish County PUD, “Public Power in Snohomish County,” retrieved 6 September 2010).
Considering the role of the Snohomish County PUD in exposing what Enron did to the American people, Roosevelt was right. Business had reason to be afraid.
Roosevelt had the right approach to lifting the United States out of the Great Depression. Build needed infrastructure. Yes, a huge debt was created, but today I am posting on the Internet using the result of that investment. Because of the nature of what was built, the United States was able to repay the debt from that investment. Not only that, the United States was in a better position when needing to participate in World War II.
Why are some people so short-sighted as not to understand the need to build and rebuild infrastructure in the United States today? On Labor Day, President Obama said this in a speech today:
But, you know, the folks here in the trades know what I’m talking about — nearly one in five construction workers are unemployed. One in five. Nobody has been hit harder than construction workers. And a lot of those folks, they had lost their jobs in manufacturing and went into construction; now they’ve lost their jobs again.
It doesn’t do anybody any good when so many hardworking Americans have been idled for months, even years, at a time when there is so much of America that needs rebuilding.
So, that’s why, Milwaukee, today, I am announcing a new plan for rebuilding and modernizing America’s roads and rails and runways for the long term. I want America to have the best infrastructure in the world. We used to have the best infrastructure in the world. We can have it again. We are going to make it happen. (Jesse Lee, “The Fight for America’s Workers Continues,” retrieved 6 September 2010).
What is so hard to understand about this? Look at our highways. Look at our school buildings. Look at our power grid. It is time to put people back to work in an investment for the future.