A ‘Big Idea’ to Honor Labor Day

Cynthia Bailey, MD|September 5, 2011

Rosie the RiveterHappy Labor Day!  For all of us laboring 'worker bees' who support our country with the fruits of our labors, this is our day and I've got an idea that would celebrate it all year long by giving us a voice! Labor Day is my favorite national holiday, probably because I relate so entirely to being a ‘laborer'.  Frankly, I feel doubly celebrated by having a forced 3 day weekend in September, the most beautiful month in my home state of California.  But really, I feel personally honored with a National Holiday dedicated to me and the rest of us 'worker bees'. I'm a laborer with a graduate degree, but really I'm just a laborer.  Patients often accuse me of looking like a welder at work, and for me, that always conjures up Rosie the Riveter (yes she rivets, not welds) with her strong ‘step up to the plate’ competence.  I'm a fan of the spirit she embodies and I sort of see myself like her.  All of us laborers are. Like Rosie, we laborers 'step up to the plate' everyday and send a big part of our paychecks to the US Gov where our Representatives spend it on our behalf.  But, they aren't askin' us about our priorities and running this country has gotten pretty complex.  A 'Big Idea' that would honor us and our contribution every day would be to use our Income Tax Form to ask us what we think so they can take good care of us, our families and our money.  Maybe we'd take a different view of the deficit if we actually had a say in it, or maybe the stuff we really want wouldn't cause us to spend beyond our means in the first place! So, as much as I love Labor Day, what started me thinking about writing about this 'Big Idea' was a historical piece I heard on the radio while driving into work on Friday.  The Labor Day holiday was originally created as a ‘bone’ thrown by the US government to disgruntled workers who back then had to riot to be heard.  According to Wikipedia, the history of Labor Day originates back to September 5th 1882.  Legislation for the holiday was ‘expedited’ by the Congress and President to appease union workers after a number of them were killed by the US military and US Marshals during a labor strike.  Since then, the first Monday in September is a national holiday, my holiday, and I relish a 3 day weekend to celebrate it.  Nowadays we don't need to riot, we have the web to amplify our voice. Like most of the people I grew up with, I got my first paying job as a kid and I've worked steadily ever since.  I’m lucky that I've always loved laboring and that I've managed to build a career doing a job that nourishes me.  But I also just love being  productive and responsible, like so many of us good worker bees.  As a kid I admired people with jobs and I craved responsibility.  I got a job as soon as I could get a work permit at age 16. (I might even have worked before the work permit doin’ baby sitting and such, I’m just sayin’ I worked as soon as anyone would hire me).  My dad's just retired in his 80's so I can thank my pop for this classic laborer's work ethic. Proving I'm a good laborer, my Social Security statement says that I’ve generously shared the fruits of my labor with the US Gov since 1974.  My point is that I, like the rest of us hard working ‘laborers’, send in a lot of our money every year and yet our Gov still spends more than that.  And they've been borrowing my pension, yet I don't remember them ever asking me if it was OK.  I’m confused, and maybe even 'disgruntled'.  Our county's finances are a mess and the deficit is frightening. We workers send in a lot of money yet Medicare cuts loom, schools are financially starved, roads and public buildings are in disrepair.  Where is my money going?  When I vote for my politicians they talk about these things, but somehow, when they get to Washington, they spend my money somewhere else.  Which leads me to the Labor Day 'Big Idea'.

Labor Day 'Big Idea'

Well, I’ve been talking with my patients and we've got a Labor Day 'Big Idea' that Rosie, the Unions, and the rest of us laborers who inspired this holiday might like!  Consider it a 'bone' the Gov could throw to us disgruntled workers, like back in 1882. It's this:  when we send in our Income Tax Forms every April let us tell you, our elected Representatives, what we’d like our money to ‘buy’. Give us a check-off questionnaire that asks us where, in our wildest dreams, we want our money to go. It’s a way for us to tell our trusted Representatives what’s important to us.  Nothing binding,  just a ‘message’ from the laborers, like a little yearly poll that lets us’ talk’ to our people in Washington and share our fiscal priorities. Make the questions easy for us since I’m sure we can’t fully comprehend the complexities of running this big and busy operation that is the US Gov (clandestine operations in countries we've never visited being important of course but beyond our simple and domestically focused comprehension).  Break down the budget into say 20 areas and let us choose our top 8 or maybe 12 priorities.  Then, once a year, tell us how much of the annual federal budget went to those and how much went elsewhere. It’s simple way to let us be heard, and it won't cost us anything.  And it would feel good to me and the rest of my laboring brothers and sisters to know that we had our say when we sent in our checks.  And maybe it will help us laborers better understand what we're buying and why our Gov costs more than all the money we send it.  I'm just sayin', communication's a good thing, right? Photo: Thanks and gratitude to Donkey Hotey

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