There's lots of reason Scott Brown won Teddy Kennedy's old Senate seat this week -- health care reform, cap-and-trade, the deficit, exasperation with Democratic rule. But there's one other that shouldn't be missed -- he ran as a guy and it's OK to be a regular guy again.
A month ago in a column called "Put Men Back to Work" I wrote that taking up the cause of unemployed men should be a major campaign issue of the 2010 election. I also said I thought Sarah Palin was the only candidate who could handle the issue because it would seem too hard-edged coming from a man. I was wrong. Although Brown didn't say it in so many words, the message came through loud and clear -- ordinary guys have a place in this world outside beer commercials.
First there was the truck. Ah, the truck. Could anything have been more politically incorrect? It wasn't some fuel-sipping Honda Civic or even a gas-electric hybrid. Brown didn't spend time talking about gas mileage. It was just a work-a-day truck built to get you someplace and do the job.
And wasn't it amazing how, when President Obama arrived in Massachusetts to try to save Martha Coakley's neck, he couldn't stop talking about that truck? "I'd be careful getting on that truck," he said. "He parked his truck on Wall Street." Obama mentioned it six times in his speech at Northeastern University.
Yet Brown had the perfect comeback. "I don't mind when the President came in and criticized me," he said the night of his celebration. "But when he starts criticizing my truck, that's where I draw the line."
In fact, the whole Brown campaign had a distinct beer-commercial flavor. A former juvenile delinquent, college basketball player, triathlete, and 20-year Army reservist, Brown didn't mince words about sounding like something out of a Budweiser ad. "I can believe I've just won this election but I can't believe I'm on the same stage with Doug Flutie," he said on election night. Meanwhile, Martha Coakley continually embarrassed herself with her tone-deafness about guy things. Who is Curt Schilling? Why is it important to stand outside Fenway Park? Only a few months ago, she could have dismissed all this by arguing that Schilling and the truck and whole Red Sox Nation have a large carbon footprint. Not this time.
In truth, the comeback of men in this country is long overdue. Almost 75 percent of the job losses in the recession have been to men's jobs. Women are about to pass men in the work force. All this can be interpreted as equality and progress on our forced march to a sexless society. Writing in Slate, Hanna Rosin called Brown's victory "the angry man's revenge against the rise of the working woman." But that's doesn't even come close to understanding what's going on. It's time to take stock of exactly why so many men are unemployed.
Around New Year's, the Huffington Post ran an article listing the "10 Industries That Will GAIN The Most Job Growth in Next Decade," based on the latest forecast from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here they are in order:
1) Management, scientific and technical consulting services
2) Offices of physicians (i.e., looking up medical records)
3) Computer systems design and related services
4) General merchandise stores (Wal-Mart, etc.)
5) Employment services (i.e., unemployment offices)
6) Local government
7) Home health care services
8) Services for the elderly and persons with disabilities
9) Nursing care facilities
10) Full service restaurants
Does that sound like decline or what? At this rate we'll soon have an entire economy based on pushing each other around in wheelchairs. (Note also that half these sectors get their entire income from the government.)
Even Huffington readers were appalled:
"The alarming things indicated by the growth of employment in these particular industries is that the USA seems to be winding down and the private sector will be decimated. Another matter is the obesity epidemic is very apparent and well represented."
"Industries? What industries? Industries consist of PRODUCING, MANUFACTURING companies!"
"With all the minimum wage jobs leading the pack on growth industries, it is no wonder that winning the lotto is the number one way Americans feel they can get ahead in the future."
"Hmmmm… they left out Debt counselor, Credit fixer, Poverty lifestyle expert, Shack builder, Electricity hookup improviser… Apple-seller."
Now is all this happening because men no longer have ambition? Because they lack training? Because this country no longer has any need for blue-collar workers?
If you think so, try pondering this. One of the biggest concerns about starting a new generation of nuclear reactors in this country is that we no longer have enough skilled welders. Westinghouse and American Welding Society have started up special schools in anticipation that some day nuclear construction may revive. Here's another tidbit: The giant, three-story, 500-ton steel vessels that form the core of the new reactors? We can't make them in this country. American steel mills are far behind the curve. The only place they're being manufactured right now is Japan Steel Works, but China, Russia, India, England and France are all building new mills for their own nuclear renaissance.
It's like this across every sector of the economy that doesn't involve 1's and 0's or taking care of the sick and elderly. From logging to chemical manufacturing to power plant construction, everything has been cut to the ground by environmental opposition. As David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, says, "We don't manufacture anything in this country anymore."
"Project -- No Project," is a great new website sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, cataloguing the hundreds of projects around the country that are being delayed by environmental groups. In California, even the Green Path North Renewable Energy Transmission Line, designed specifically to carry power from windmills and solar collectors from the eastern desert to Los Angeles, has been held up for four years. Those opposing it are the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Desert Coalition, the Redlands Conservancy, Friends of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, and just about every municipal government in its path. Electrical engineers tell us we already have a Third World grid. Soon we're going to have a Third World electrical generating structure as well.
All this reverberates throughout the economy. Because we haven't built nuclear plants, for example, we now rely on natural gas for 20 percent of our electricity. But burning natural gas in utility boilers is a complete waste of a resource. Natural gas's best use is for home heating and cooking and as a feedstock for the chemical and fertilizer manufacturers. Yet gas is the only kind of conventional electric generation environmentalists will allow. Because of this new demand, natural gas prices quintupled after 2000. As a result, more than 100,000 jobs in the chemical industry moved abroad. Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical, told Congress in 2003 that his company was shifting its "center of gravity" to Europe and the Middle East to be near gas supplies. "Dozens of plants across the country have closed their doors and gone away," he testified. "They're never coming back."
Now the forced march to Renewable Utopia -- driven entirely by subsidies and mandates -- is pushing us further down this road. California, which is ten years ahead on the country on this downhill roll, gets 40 percent of its electricity from natural gas, twice the national average. Industry has fled the Golden State, leaving it with a $40 billion budget deficit. One of the major reasons is the price of electricity. Natural gas is generally the most expensive way to produce electricity and renewables are even costlier.
Yet world-renowned environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is now pushing for a "solar-natural gas alliance" to push prices up even further. In October, Reuters reported:
The solar power sector and the natural gas industry need to build an alliance to get more government support and take over the energy sector from incumbents like Big Oil and King Coal, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. said on Wednesday [before the Solar Power International Conference in Anaheim.]
He said the team-up makes sense because power from natural gas can help balance out solar and wind-generated electricity on the grid, eliminating the problem of inconsistency on sunny days, for instance.
The gas industry is now quoting Kennedy in its advertisements. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, Russia is building a whole new generation of nuclear reactors so it can sell its abundant gas supplies to Europe.
The only way to avoid this wheelchair economy is to put men back to work. We need to build things, make things, and do things again in this country. Nuclear power plants are the place to start. A few more hardy Senators and Congressmen like Scott Brown and we'll be on our way.
Oh, and Mr. Senator, could I mention one more thing? Please don't let all those beautiful women in Washington turn your head so you end up the next John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Tiger Woods -- or for that matter, John F. Kennedy. Show them that real men have integrity, too.
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