I don’t often feature political cartoons on local issues, though I think it’s important that cartoonists do them, which, in turn, means it’s important that local newspapers have a cartoonist on staff.
A cartoonist whose only market is syndication wouldn’t bother to comment on a company that makes ball caps in suburban Buffalo deciding not to do so anymore.
But the Buffalo News seems to feel there is value in serving the city of Buffalo and surrounding area, thus we not only have Adam Zyglis commenting on New Era’s decision to close down its local manufacturing plant, but the paper letting readers know just what’s going on.
Zyglis does well not to overreach, but simply call it a mistake, while that well-researched article tamps down some of the usual guesswork and gossip involved.
It’s a welcome change from the empty speculation that flourished in the wake of Amazon’s recent announcements of new facilities, analysis that relied way too heavily on the commentators not understanding how tax incentives work.
And it is news when a local employer “has become a company focused on design and branding, with more of a focus on social marketing and e-commerce than on the actual manufacture of a product.”
Neither Zyglis nor the newsroom pull any punches, the latter explaining, “New Era doesn’t “have” to close this plant, nor are they doing it to fulfill a contract. They are choosing to do it …”
This is why we need strong local journalism and why that should include someone who can explain in clear graphics what the rest of the paper is explaining in clear language.
Meanwhile, up the river and down shores of the next lake over, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Wall Street owners are hurrying to dump jobs and they aren’t being terribly out front about why.
Maybe some local clothing company will explain it to the community.
Meanwhile, on a micro level, the Lockhorns explain what this means to the individual worker.
As I said the other day, it’s hard to say what a person should do when the financial walls start closing in. It’s easy for those with few strings to just pick up and go to the next place, but it’s not easy to be so footloose.
It’s also easier for someone who’s 30 to walk away from one career and start another than it is at 55 or 60.
But it does make me scratch my head to hear employers talk about how hard it is to retain good workers when they’re just as disloyal on their side. The days of 30 years and a gold watch have long since passed.
Gold watch? The days of the Christmas turkey have even passed, and that cost our newspaper nothing but some free ad space.
But there’s also this: One of our pre-press guys died of a brain tumor within a few weeks of being diagnosed and having to leave work. A retired classified ad manager and I were the only two people from outside his department who showed up for the funeral.
But we had Casual Fridays, so it’s not like the company didn’t care about morale.
All of which ties into Joel Pett‘s diagram of Appalachian water, which was beginning to get cleaned up until Dear Leader and his minions swept into office and began cancelling regulations that hampered coal companies and other dirty industries.
The trade-off for local folks is that while they’re drinking that toxic swill, they’re getting jobs. Or promises of jobs.
Or at least they’re being handed a line about jobs that will almost certainly probably happen sometime. Later.
Small wonder the opiod crisis hits so hard there.
Meanwhile, and getting back to the Lockhorns, when you come to that bridge, it’s a different thing for people who have four or five or more generations invested in a place.
When they closed first the mine and then the mill at home, it left us with no jobs, and many young people left.
But I had friends who commuted as far as 60 miles for jobs that can’t have paid for much more than the gas it took.
And we weren’t alone: When I was in Maine, an officer of a local pelletizing plant told me they were getting applications from people who would to have to spend half their paycheck just getting there and home.
Hence, as Pett draws it, the true toxic elements are despair and victimization.
I would suggest the depth of roots in these rural American communities are not unlike the depth of roots in places like Honduras and Nicaragua.
It takes a lot to abandon them, and we ought to respect the many who cannot make that move, as well as the courage of those who can.
Though it shouldn’t stop us from having a bit of a giggle over the short-sighted vanity of the fellow in this David Sipress cartoon.
Like most good humor, it’s funny because there’s an element in it that isn’t funny at all.
I remember my dad, in his late 40s, confessing to me that he wasn’t sure he’d done all he should have, which was ridiculous on a personal level but, at the time, attuned to a job that, after 20 years or so, had become unbearable and which, a few years later, he found the courage to toss aside.
Which is one cure for mid-life crisis, the other being to get over yourself.
One advantage of a blue-collar life is that your job is pretty much supposed to suck and the rewards come in your off-hours, from being with your family and playing softball and hunting and fishing or just sitting on the porch watching the sun go down over the trees.
When you are defined by your job, it better be a good match, whether that means you’re a successful artist or an avid mechanic who owns his own garage.
The enjoyment should be enough that you can shrug when you feel you’re arriving at that financial bridge.
Though you’d do well to learn to shrug anyway. Or swim.