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From the Track

What Happened to us?

Kip Hamilton

(8/2012) Next month we’ll be celebrating the U.S. worker in typical American fashion by making the season-ending trip to the beach. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. Some say that Labor Day was the brainchild of Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor (AFofL), who first suggested a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold." Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.

In a demonstration of the sovereignty of the states at the time, it took 12 more years for 32 additional states to formally recognize the celebration of the American craftsman. In October of 1894, Congress adopted the national holiday we all look forward to today. The time of the American Industrial Revolution, 1820-1870 saw tremendous advances in both the labor force and technology; for example, the trans-continental railroad was completed in 1869. The crown jewel of the American worker was the construction of the Empire State building. The tallest building in the world at its completion, it was finished 4 months early - in just 14 months, and came in at a little over ½ of the budgeted cost. Can you imagine that?

What the heck has happened to us?

In less than four generations we have gone from being the world’s industrial powerhouse to the world’s entitlement powerhouse. We have morphed from the largest manufacturing giant on the planet to the largest debtor nation the world has ever known. An October, 2011 New York Times article asks, "What Happened to the American Work Ethic?" What, indeed? Hard work used to be the cornerstone of our national identity. Our great grandparents often performed back-breaking manual labor in the heat, and in cold, dusty, dirty, smelly, unsafe conditions. The half of our current society that is still working now couldn’t last a day or two in conditions our ancestors found normal. We have become addicted to comfort; a less-hardy people than they were.

In an attempt to offer temporary support to a few, we now find ourselves in a society where almost a full half of the population is living off support funded by the half that’s still working. We have made it more attractive for individuals to live off of others, rather than support themselves. I remember a time when folks who were receiving financial aid from the government were whispered about like those who had… c-a-n-c-e-r…It was something that was embarrassing and one only took government assistance as a last resort. Now, we have made it a way of life.

There are multiple generations of American citizens and others who know no other way to live. They make it their business to game the system. These people are not needy; they are just not interested in working. And why would they, if they can get the same amount in support or "disability" payments that they could make by working and they don’t even have to break a sweat? We know this is happening. Why in the world do we allow it to continue? They are living off of OUR money. It’s not "Obama Money" as that ignorant woman said a few years ago. It’s money that we have traded portions of our lives for and sent off to the government. The next time you drive along one of our crappy roads or cross a deteriorating bridge or have one of your kid’s teachers send home a list of supplies needed for the classroom, just remember the TRILLIONS of OUR dollars that the government fritters away every year.

So what’s the answer? Let’s start by everyone taking responsibility for themselves. Once that’s done, we’ll band together as individuals to care for those among us who still need some help. It’s not the government’s job to take care of the needy. They are the responsibility of We the People. Why? Because we Americans are good and decent people; that’s why.

Next, make preparations for yourself for bad times, just like our grandparents did, so that when difficult times come, and they most-assuredly will, that you will not be a burden on someone else. How much extra food is in your pantry? Do you even have a pantry? Many of us are on wells here. What will you do for water if you have no electricity? Don’t think it could happen? You should speak to my dad who lives in one of the most affluent areas in suburban Maryland and was out of power for over five days as a result of a recent night of storms. Without power, how would you cook? How would you illuminate your home at night? Stay in touch with your family and friends? What if it’s winter? If the banks are closed and you cannot use your credit cards or an ATM, do you have cash at home? Do you have extra gas for your car? A generator? If you have made sufficient provisions for yourself and your family, you will also be in a better position to help others, as well.

We have grown so accustomed to things being the way they have always been, Normalcy Bias, some say that the catastrophic event that will occur will be that much more devastating to the vast majority of the population who have made no plans to take care of themselves and are not mentally and emotionally ready.

Probably the best thing you could do is get to know your neighbors. If you are not a member of a larger religious or social organization, now is the time to fix that. Forget Facebook…I’m talking real Facetime with real people just like in the good old days. And just like they did in the "olden days", when there is trouble, it will be the community’s circling the wagons and pitching in together to help each other which will make the difference.

Our time is running out…

Read other articles by Kip Hamilton