Troublesome Labor Day post

I’m sitting comfortably at home today, enjoying the Labor Day holiday, and wrestling with a post I want to write. Labor Day seems like a good day for it, because it’s about wage earners. But it’s giving me trouble.

Here’s what I want to say: I want to point out that most of the nation’s wealth is produced by wage earners—people who receive money in return for the productive work that they do in generating the goods and services that make up the nation’s wealth. But not everyone is a wage earner. There are other people who receive money, not as payment for goods/services produced, but because of their economic status.

Conservatives are famous for resenting the fact that the very poor are collecting welfare checks without working for them, but the fact is that the very rich do the same thing. It’s called “capital gains” instead of “welfare,” but no matter what you call it, it boils down to money you receive, not as wages for what you produce, but simply as a reward for being at either extreme on the financial spectrum. Investment, after all, is an alternative to acquiring money through earning wages.

That’s roughly what I want to say. I want to point out that liberals and conservatives (in the rank-and-file, at least) have shared concerns, in that wage earners are being asked to shoulder an unfair proportion of the burden of funding non-wage earners—an inequity that stems in large part from the fact that our laws are being written by people who are non-wage earners and who are stacking the deck in their own favor. That’s why taxes on wages are so much higher than the taxes on non-wages.

There’s an element of truth there that’s important and needs to be said. I’m just having trouble saying it.

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My new favorite slogan

You know, I think I have a new favorite slogan:

WE BUILT THAT!

Take Wal-Mart for instance. It didn’t become one of the world’s largest retailers because Sam Walton was so good at stocking shelves and ringing cash registers. The Walton family provided the leadership, true enough, but the labor, the actual building, came from millions of ordinary Americans working long hours at low-paying jobs.

Sam Walton didn’t build Wal-Mart.

WE BUILT THAT!

Or take the auto industry, the railroads, the hospitals, the universities. Take any large, successful organization or enterprise that is making some small group of people very wealthy. What do they all have in common? It wasn’t the labors of the rich that built the enterprise.

WE BUILT THAT!

Look at the United States of America. With all our flaws and failings, we’ve got a few things right. We’ve recognized (or at least, a good number of us have realized, starting with our founding fathers) that our strength comes not from imposed uniformity of religion or politics, but from a cooperative and tolerant diversity.

Jesus didn’t build America.

WE BUILT THAT!

The list goes on and on. I love that slogan.