Prof. Krugman’s Labor Day History Lesson

If only the American people knew their own history, and drew rational conclusions from it. Nowadays it seems that is just asking to much.

But Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman provides us with a brief but compelling history lesson on the origins of the important holiday, Labor Day. You know, the one with which we honor the workers of this nation.

Emphasis added to the salient points in the following.

It wasn’t always about the hot dogs. Originally, believe it or not, Labor Day actually had something to do with showing respect for labor.

Here’s how it happened: In 1894 Pullman workers, facing wage cuts in the wake of a financial crisis, went on strike — and Grover Cleveland deployed 12,000 soldiers to break the union. He succeeded, but using armed force to protect the interests of property was so blatant that even the Gilded Age was shocked. So Congress, in a lame attempt at appeasement, unanimously passed legislation symbolically honoring the nation’s workers.

It’s all hard to imagine now. Not the bit about financial crisis and wage cuts — that’s going on all around us. Not the bit about the state serving the interests of the wealthy — look at who got bailed out, and who didn’t, after our latter-day version of the Panic of 1893. No, what’s unimaginable now is that Congress would unanimously offer even an empty gesture of support for workers’ dignity. For the fact is that many of today’s politicians can’t even bring themselves to fake respect for ordinary working Americans.

Love for Labor Lost
Published: September 1, 2013


Author: Ron