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Dirty Jobs: The Neglected Foundation for a Healthy Economy (Oh, and They Pay Great, Too)

No, you don't have to work in a boring office your entire life.

by
Timothy Imholt, Ph.D. and David Forsmark

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October 8, 2013 - 2:00 pm
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Why all the hate for dirty jobs? Politicians, who express love for blue-collar workers, often seem to hate every job they do.

Every policy they have works to eliminate those jobs. Sometimes it is cloaked in lofty language about “retraining for the jobs of the future.”

Environmentalists really seem to hate dirty jobs. For them jobs that dig, drill, cut or build are not only demeaning to the worker, they are contributing to an impending global apocalypse. Eliminating them is a “win-win.” They pretend that diverting investment to “green jobs” is the creation of “new jobs,” when all it does is shift more resources to far fewer resulting. Green energy jobs are great jobs but look at where most of those green energy devices are manufactured and you will not find a US worker involved in anything other than (maybe) the installation.

Some Republicans decry such regulations and poor investments, but only recently are a few lonely voices starting to push for skilled trades education and freedom. Why? Mostly because the old guard likes to feel cool talking about “emerging sectors” and “the knowledge economy,” and because deep down they think the trades are still geared toward unionization. What they seem to miss is that if the knowledge economy designs a widget it isn’t built without a group of skilled tradespeople to do so.

This situation is stupid thinking disguised as forward thinking. Scratch a skilled tradesman and you find a wannabe business owner. Every mechanic wants to own his own shop, every carpenter thinks about being a contractor. Some just want to control their lives and work when and where they want, for whom and as often as they want.

The education establishment is almost completely geared toward the “knowledge economy,” toward everyone “working with their brains” in cubicles– no matter what their real talents may be. For many teachers, a student going into a skilled trade is a mark of failure on their part. It’s something that was “settled” for by a student because they “couldn’t get into college.”

But like Mr. Incredible in the great Pixar cartoon many people cannot stand the thought of shuffling papers for the rest of their lives and find great fulfillment in working with their hands–and directing others who work with their hands.

And here’s a dirty secret… It pays a LOT better.

And here’s another dirty secret… We need those jobs. It’s manufacturing that creates real wealth, and it’s yet other tradesmen who keep those products working. We can’t just float around on brainpower. People need stuff. Somebody has to make it, and somebody has to fix it. That’s civilization. That’s the real economy.

Next: From Think Tank President to Motorcycle Repairman

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In the end, the office wonk can't fix his or her own house, including the appliances and the plumbing. They have to hire people to do that, and the hire is never for as little as the wonk makes.

The days of the backyard car mechanic are just about done. EFI, EIC, and other computer controlled features of the modern automobile make them beyond the skill set of just about everyone, except the guy at the car dealer who you pay at least $60.00 an hour to do the work for you.

Plumbers in Long Island? The real 1%.

We may not need as many people to build stuff, but we damned sure need the ones that can fix and maintain the stuff we absolutely can't live without. And the repair types are getting almost as rare as the backyard mechanic.
46 weeks ago
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