CSotD: Workers of the World Get Back to Work

Signe Wilkinson provides nearly the only Labor Day cartoon I was able to find this morning.

Her lament over the lack of jobs is an implicit criticism of the current administration, but I like the fact that she focuses on the economic displacement caused by the pandemic and the plight of workers.

It’s certainly not hard to make the argument that things didn’t have to be this bad, that another president might have handled things better. But how much better is an open question, and while it’s clear that George W. Bush led us into an economic disaster, it’s harder to blame Trump for having sat in the big chair when the coronavirus hit.

There will be time to assess the blame tomorrow; Today is Labor Day and it’s a good day to focus on what is, and what was, and to see it in wider terms than the immediate crisis.


The other Labor Day cartoon I spotted was a retread from Bill Day, a cartoon he’d done five years ago, re-issued now with masks added. I’m reluctant to feature reruns, but, in this case, the fact that he can draw masks on the characters and make it up to date is both depressing and relevant.

Fact is, the decline of the worker goes back a great deal farther than five years, and, if you want to talk about Making America Great Again, about those lost manufacturing jobs and mining jobs, you’re opening a can of worms that not many people in Donald Trump’s circle of supporters — the upper circle, not the Deplorables — want to see opened.

Let’s begin that conversation with a

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Steve Sack)


(Joel Pett)

As has been noted here and elsewhere, the stock market is not the overall economy. It’s a scorecard for plungers that, as the background in Sack’s cartoon explains, does not reflect the economic well-being of the average person.

And, as Pett points out, you may be allowed to dabble in the shallow end of the pool, but, even there, you can’t invest in all the things that might improve your life. There are mutual funds that specialize in honest businesses, but, even then, a lot of workers are offered a 401k or (much more rarely today) a pension that doesn’t permit them to choose anything beyond “yes” and “no.”


Besides, as Robert Reich pointed out on social media and elsewhere, fewer and fewer workers have disposable income that they can put aside for retirement. And the factor he cites is based both on the outrageous growth of CEO compensation and on the relative stagnation of worker pay.

How far back should we go? I remember, in 1969, my father explaining to me how the acquisition of Jones & Laughlin Steel by Ling-Temco-Vought was going to gravely shorten the life of the mine whose jobs powered our little town.

At the time, I found the concept of “leveraged buyouts” complex, but, in the decades that followed, such financial shenanigans became routine, to the point where the term is almost never mentioned in coverage of acquisitions and mergers: It’s assumed that the purpose is to profit from the financing, not to advance the marketing of a product.

In our case, it meant the company would stop mining a mix of ore grades and would extract only the highest grade, leaving the medium-grade ore in the ground and too costly to mine on its own. The result would be higher immediate profits for LTV and the loss of a couple of decades for the life of the mine, and thus of the town. (My father resigned rather than be part of it, but he was a rare bird.)

It’s not just mining and manufacturing, either. Pharmacists, grocers, booksellers … the list of local businesses uprooted by Wall Street stock-swappers is nearly endless.

Here’s the bottom line: A half-century ago, a business owner had a goal of passing on the business to his children. Today, his goal is to pass on a portfolio.

Creating a healthy, prosperous business meant supporting a healthy, prosperous workforce.

Creating a portfolio means cutting costs to the bone and selling out the business, in both the literal and metaphorical sense of the term.

When I got my first newsroom job in 1987, we had our annual banquet the day before Labor Day, because we didn’t have a paper to publish the next morning. We also didn’t publish on July 4, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas.

On a practical level, we’d have no single-copy sales, since stores were all closed, and our paper carriers — often youngsters — would be reluctant to break away from family to toss papers that day, even if they were in town to begin with.

But the more we sold out, the more we sold out, and what a local publisher/owner had decided for decades became, instead, what was decided by the new, faceless owners at Corporate HQ.

We went to a 365 day publishing schedule and the annual banquet faded, then died.

It wasn’t just us: The kindly storeowner who gave his staff a holiday found that the corporate chain was staying open and siphoning off his business. So he began to stay open, too.

Veterans raised hell to keep Veteran’s Day on Nov 11 and not shift it to a Monday. They won that battle. But then they stopped getting the day off anyway.

Nearly all our holidays disappeared and meant only that there’d be no mail delivery.

So it goes.

So it went.

Happy Labor Day. Or whatever’s left of it.


Ironic indeed that the sheep who bleat loudest about the need to “Make America Great Again” seem also to be the ones most willing to fall in line with modern leaders like the fellow in this Christopher Weyant cartoon, who looks out at our country and sees only a spreadsheet.

During my short but instructive stint in talk radio, I used to sign off on holidays with this Phil Ochs song. Seems appropriate today:


17 thoughts on “CSotD: Workers of the World Get Back to Work

  1. When the Mafia does it, it is called a bust-out scheme and is illegal.

    When an individual or small business does it, it is called bankruptcy fraud and is illegal.

    When Wall Street does it, it is called a shrew investment.

  2. MIKE, I love how you turned a few minor incidents into the complete collapse of American cities. You should get a job in the Trump administration. Do they have a Minister of Propeganda?

  3. If it was a “few minor incidents” moving vans wouldn’t be lined up on every bridge into NYC. If it was a “few minor incidents” Don Lemon, et al wouldn’t have said riots were hurting Biden in polls. If it was a “few minor incidents” Texas wouldn’t be blowing up from Ca. exodus. You guys have to have friends/family in our major cities. I got a Mom and two kids and I hate to see this happen. No axe to grind just making appeal to your common sense. Don’t make me lose all hope for that day because this has got to be something we can agree upon.

    (yes I’m working on Labor Day and needed a break. Hope you’re not)

  4. I appreciate comments on things I’ve written and cartoons I’ve commented upon, but let’s keep it (A) on topic and (B) civil.

    Use of the Daily Mail as a source will be assumed to be sarcasm, given its century-long history of seeing violent, frightening rebels under its bed.


  5. Sorry, Mike. I’ll keep it clean. The only knowlege I have of The Daily Mail comes from the Beatles “Paperback Writer.”

  6. Mr. von nueter:
    No apology necessary.

    Mr. Peterson: So much for appealing to some commonality but here’s three cities: Pittsburgh, Rochester and D.C. all rolling over to mobs -none are Daily Mail sourced which is a ridiculous dodge given the video is widely posted / available.

    -The mayor of Portland is moving because he can’t control his own city.



  7. Come on, Mike. You’re making mountains out of molehills.

    Not every BLM protester is a window-smasher just as not every gunowner is a school shooter.

    Granted, both BLM and gunowners can be guilty of failing to stand up to the nutcases on their fringes. But it’s equally wrong to conflate a small group of whackos with the larger, responsible group they’re allied with.

    And let’s not forget you’re disagreeing with a cartoon that said people want jobs but small businesses are having problems because of the pandemic. There was no mention in the original posting of BLM or demonstrations. Stay on topic.

  8. News.com.au is a Rupert Murdoch company. As such, I trust it about as far as I could reasonably throw Rupert Murdoch.

    The sad fact of life these days is that whatever your vision of the world is, there’s enough crap on the internet that you can find something to back yourself up if you look hard enough.

    If your vision of the world is one where only the people who are just exactly like you are “real Americans” and everyone who deviates from that is potentially dangerous, there are “news” outlets aplenty that will confirm it for you.

    Throwing the sources that confirm your bias in my face does not make me more likely to agree with you. It sure as hell tells me what kind of person you are, though.

  9. “Window smashing” anywhere is too many. No dummy are you mr. Peterson and I’d bet money you’ve seen the restaurant terrorist attack scene in BRAZIL when the waiters simply reposition a screen to shield diners eyes. That’s what you’re defending.

  10. Got it, Mike. Window smashing is wrong, shooting school children is okay. I think they’re both wrong, but, then, it’s not the first time we’ve differed.

  11. @ Mike Peterson – First time reader, I enjoyed following your thought trail. I also applaude the equanimity of your response to comments, as they went south.

    @ Mike – C’mon if you’re going to present a counter argument, find better ground to stand on.
    Bad actors hitching onto the BLM movement and taking advantage of protests going on around the country and , do not equal anarchy.
    Just as Dylan Roof and the McCloskeys do not represent the beliefs of the average gun owner.
    Your exaggerated examples distort truth to the point of “fake news” (to coin a phrase), and may cause harm among the gullible.. Please, come back to reality.

  12. By the way, Rochester NY has had two straight nights of protests without injuries or arrests, mainly due to the mayor having ordered the police to stand down from the aggressive tactics that were the main cause of the previous troubles. (They’re not supposed to aim pepper balls at heads and torsos, or the press or medics.) But Sunday night’s calm didn’t stop Trump from tweeting, or Lester from posting, counterfactual nonsense.

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