Blue Collar Blues by Michael S.

Somewhere in between extreme poverty and boundless wealth lies another group. Some argue that they are the most fortunate. While those of very limited resources struggle daily to make ends meet, and those with too much never escape the desire to have a little more, the middle-class maintains a perfect equilibrium. The porridge is not too cold, not too hot, but just right. At a time, the middle-class was thought of as the backbone of America. One could expect to graduate high school and with no college degree work in a factory for 25 years, earn great money, own a home, support a family and retire with a very generous pension. This was a time when it was not only socially acceptable to work a blue collar job, but honorable as well. As time went on, more and more people felt the need to acquire college degrees. Suddenly the middle-class began to disappear. The fear is that if everyone goes to school to be a nurse or a lawyer, who will work the assembly lines? Who will take out the trash? Teach in our schools? Fix the roads?

Mike Rowe of TV’s “Dirty Jobs” has been a strong advocate for re-branding blue collar jobs in America. While the image in place is that there are no jobs to be had, the truth is that as of 2011 there were close to 450,000 vacant positions in utilities, transportation and other such fields. The problem Rowe says is the poor image put on the working class. “Nobody’s affirmatively against the farmer. But look at the way those industries are portrayed in pop culture. Show me a plumber, and I’ll show you a 300-pound guy with a giant butt crack and a tool belt. He’s a punch line.” In fact, most electricians or HVAC workers can early $75,000-$120,000 annually which coincidently puts them in the sweet spot of what many economists believe is the ideal income level. Rowe concludes by saying “…the idea that a four-year degree is the only path to worthwhile knowledge is insane. It’s insane.”

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