I've followed the debate here about how the Democratic Party should be defined. There is a debate on the House floor now that I think goes to the heart of what the Democratic Party is about. At least it does for me.
And there has been hardly a mention of the debate in the mainstream media--or here.
The House is now debating the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriation bill.
There is a long list of programs that are eliminated or shortchanged--programs to close achievement gaps in public schools, education programs for disabled children, after school programs, Pell Grants, rural health care, medical research, low-income home energy assistance, and on and on.
But I want to talk about what it does to our economic future, especially for American workers who depend on manufacturing jobs.
Median family income in North Carolina fell by nine percent in the last three years, from $41,026 to $37,315. An additional 341,000 North Carolinians are without health insurance--now, almost one North Carolinian in five is uninsured. And almost 200,000 more North Carolinians are now living in poverty.
Congress will soon debate another trade deal, CAFTA. American workers lie awake at night wondering if CAFTA will cost even more jobs.
Everyone in North Carolina from the hourly-wage employee to the CEO knows that we cannot forever protect unskilled jobs in labor-intensive industries, and that cannot be our economic future. A century ago mill workers were called "hands," and that's what they were hired for, their hands.
The economic livelihood of North Carolina workers, and of American workers, depends on how much more they have to offer than their hands. We can only have the highest standard of living, the most prosperous economy, if we have the most skilled workforce. Many manufacturers now will not hire anyone to any job--any job--unless they're computer literate.
Our workers want to learn the skills they need to support themselves and their families. They're willing to work full-time and go to the community college at night. They don't want anyone to carry them. They just want a chance to learn the skills to support themselves and their families.
The bill now being debated lets those workers down. It denies our nation's workers the help they need to build a future for themselves and their families.
The best that can be said about the bill is that it is not nearly as bad as what the President proposed.
The President proposed eliminating or cutting drastically vocational education, adult literacy, and education and technology grants. The bill provides many of those programs the same funding as last year--better than the President's proposed budget, but well short of the needs.
Republicans in Congress don't pretend that the cuts and freezes are part of "reform", that they will make job training programs more efficient. Instead, helping factory workers earn new job skills is just not their priority.
The Democratic Party was the party of factory workers a long time before it was the party of DKos. The Democratic Party has to be the party that cares about factory workers. If we are not, we have no future. And we don't deserve one.