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Chatterbox: Smoke, mirrors and the spin


Recently, I found myself watching a film that we’ve discussed before. “Newsies” is a great musical that Disney turned into a stage play. Its serious side is child labor, and how the rich just can never be rich enough.

The news boys’ strike took place in 1899. These impoverished children won their fight against Joseph Pulitzer, a billionaire in today’s money, who increased his price to them to distribute his papers, merely to increase his own profit. The boys won that battle but, unbelievably, America continues to fight these same battles today. We all love America, but recognize what’s going downhill.

Unionized labor gave average workers better safety, security and stability, bringing hard-working people the hope of an income-positive position with a few perks. This, eventually, made the people at the top start looking for their own greater wealth elsewhere. Much American working security was lost as jobs went overseas. Chatterbox, Aug. 16, 2007, discussed American jobs – combinations of production of parts, processing, assembly, shipping and distribution – being exported to countries where working conditions are severe, but labor is cheap. The desertions are numerous.

Where American workers must earn a salary balancing our cost of living, we continue to suffer from industry’s production and prosperity going off-shore. We consistently struggle against corporate influence over too much government and control of too many jobs in too few companies, as conglomerates continue to buy up or bury their competition. These controllers in the American job market manipulate employment packages, many discarding medical coverage, overtime and perks. Once again, the American family drowns in the disproportionate rising cost of everything. So, what’s new? Child labor… another issue our elders thought they had successfully conquered.

We talked last week about the dual income society resulting from an effort to create some advantage for America’s average families. A little boost for the working class, it was manipulated into yet another route for more wealth to be siphoned to the top. So let’s see … America sent the moms to work and watched that supposed financial perk become mandatory. Now, let’s offer America’s families a new option; let’s let them send their children back to the bottle washing factories, shirt waist factories, and dye plants. Then, these kids can help their parents. Doesn’t that sound like a great idea, America … land of the free, home of the brave, where your tired and your poor have liberty and justice, equal, free, quality educations, equal opportunities and a right to work hard and prosper?

It sounded like a plan to representatives from South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri and Ohio, among several others, but according to one news source, “Across the country, both violations of child labor laws and proposals to roll back protections are on the rise.”

It’s a complicated issue that can be overruled by federal interception but, sadly, has some support on that federal level. Numerous industries and corporations, many already in violation, are working hard to continue to weaken child labor laws, resurrecting that national crisis. The laws have always been manipulated; now, powerful accomplices are trying to, gradually, repeal them. We are now staring down the barrel of a nightmare we thought we had conquered.

The British invasion of this land belonging to its indigenous people resulted in the horrifying deaths of millions of natives, and their infants and children (yes). This country’s roots are deep in the subjugation or exploitation of the indigenous, the poor, the vulnerable, the trusting, and immigrating waves of children, women and men of various nationalities and certain economic statuses and, according to the government site of the National Institute of Health, an estimate of “10 million slaves … lived in the United States … between 1619 and 1865” and “… contributed [an approximate total of] 410 billion hours of labor.”

Is hard work part of success? Yes, but much more for some than others. For too many the decks have been surreptitiously stacked ... big time. The fallback phraseology of many has long been that anyone who worked hard, studied hard and applied him/her self could succeed in America. This includes many who inherited wealth and privilege, who tapped connections for: a spot “on the floor”; a leg up; or a foot in the door. Most of the privileged and connected know the game is rigged, but many perpetuate what’s only conditional truth: equal opportunity, equal education and hard work will make us successful.

Maybe that’s what Joe Pulitzer told the children who were making him rich, while he raised their price of the papers they were selling for him.