Rebuild the Value of Work With New Orleans

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET
  • Andy Stern Senior Fellow, Columbia University's Richman Center; former president, SEIU

President Bush last night, reeling from sagging polls, a sagging U.S. economy, and a sagging war effort, laid out his plan for the region.

I love government programs, and entrepreneurship, but in the long run it can't beat a good job that allows you to own a home, raise a family, and gain the dignity and self-respect from hard work.

What the President did not mention was that he has suspended the one government program that could have assisted that -- Davis-Bacon, which provides for a prevailing wage, which by the way, is less than $10 an hour in New Orleans.

He did not suspend Halliburton profits or land speculation, just made sure that people who work start out in the whole when it comes to making the reconstruction jobs, jobs you can actually afford on you own to purchase a home.

Workers in America need a hand, but not a handout. And the hand they need is a way they can share in the rewards of their work, along with the shareholders and executives---in some places we distribute wealth through labor-managements partnerships (unions).

2004 was another year where most Americans did not get a raise.

American CEO's had another record year, and before the damage, the major New Orleans hotels made huge profits, because its workers were some of the lowest paid in America.

Until America rewards work again, we should heed the words of the revolutionary economist Alan Greenspan:

The income gap between the rich and the rest of the US population has become so wide, and is growing so fast, that it might eventually threaten the stability of democratic capitalism itself.

Is that a liberal's talking point? Sure. But it's also a line from the recent public testimony of a champion of the free market: Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Let's rebuild, but let's focus on using the rebuilding to create in the South a middle class along with the houses, and jobs that reward the hard work of rebuilding, and not just executive competition.

If America is to thrive, work must be valued and rewarded.