I remember what the middle class use to be.

November 6, 2013
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I have visited every state in the Western region except Hawaii and Colorado, and I’ve visited 2 more in the Midwest.

I have been to the Space Needle in Seattle, and the San Diego Zoo in California.  I’ve been to Disney Land 7 times, and I’ve been to Universal Studios Hollywood.

I have toured Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and Craters of the Moon National Park.  I’ve seen Crater Lake, and drove through the trunk of a giant redwood in the Redwood Forest.

I still have scares on my fingers from digging clams with my bare hands on a beach somewhere in Washington State, and I remember splitting my head open on a dresser in a hotel room in Reno, because I was jumping on the bed.

I learned the hard way that the jaws of a Channel Catfish can put quite a bit of pressure on a kid’s fingers, somewhere along the Columbia River.

I could write a hundred articles and still only cover a fraction of the things I got to do when I was a kid, but that isn’t the point.

You’re probably thinking that I must have grown up with money.  Well not really.  We were very much in the middle class.  My dad worked at the lead smelter in East Helena.  He did work a lot of overtime, but he still managed to spend time with his family, and he also ran a church.  He was a Pentecostal Minister.

To be honest, when I was little I hated church, it was just too boring for a hyperactive child like myself, but I loved Sundays.  Every Sunday after church we would go out for lunch.  My parents would let my younger sister and I argue about which restaurant we wanted to go to, and I learned very quickly to argue for the one I didn’t want to go to, because no matter what I said, my sister would argue with me, and I usually got what I wanted by giving up.

I also remember going out and picking up a few paper routs when the smelter closed down for the last time.

My dad worked there for 26 years, and provided a perfectly satisfactory lifestyle for his family, and then it was gone.

The removal of lead from paint and gasoline had a significant impact, but to be perfectly accurate it was NAFTA that drove the last nail into that coffin.  Grupo Mexico bought out ASARCO and my dad’s job went to another country.

Helena’s economy never really recovered from that.  Helena is growing sure enough, but we don’t have any real industry.  Even a lot of liberals are complaining about that.

As the state capital we have a lot of state and federal government jobs.  The rest are pretty much just service jobs, retail stores and restaurants, plumbers and auto mechanics, nothing that creates any real commerce.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers manual labor, unless you can get in good with one of the ranches in the outer areas of the county, about your only option is some kind of construction, and those jobs are almost always temporary.

I think we all know this isn’t just a local problem.  This sort of thing has been going on all over the country for more than a decade, and it’s getting worse.

Montana’s economy has been pretty much reduced to its oldest roots.  Beef, wheat, and fossil fuels are our most significant exports, and all three of these are threatened.  I think we all know that our coal production is probably the one taking the most heat right now, but I’m constantly reading articles and watching news broadcasts criticizing the consumption of wheat products and red meat.  Our way of life is being dragged kicking and screaming toward a guillotine.

While the American people, our so called leaders, and especially the job creators, are all focused on the coming destruction of the so called Affordable Care Act, this far more long standing problem is on the back burner, right where the opposition wants it.

We all know a huge problem with our international trade agreements, is that we have immense overbearing regulations, that do actually improve the work environment for laborers, at huge cost to employers, but too many of our trading partners don’t have anything of the kind.

I’m constantly hearing outspoken liberals complain that the United States isn’t doing enough to address human rights situations around the world.  Isn’t this a human rights situation too?  I would like to see an ultimatum presented to our international trading partners.

Put together a specific time period for them to improve working conditions in their countries, as we have in ours, or we’ll stop buying their junk.

I firmly believe we went too far with our own regulations, but I don’t think anything is going to be done about that anytime soon.  Nonetheless, if the United States is going to be a part of the global economy, we can and we should, do so from a position of leadership.

I realize it’s a pretty lofty proposal, but so was going to the moon within a single decade.

Write your congressman and senators, heck they might even enjoy the change of subject, I know I would.

 

Glenn W. Uncles Jr.

Helena, Montana

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