My mother and father were teachers. My father worked his way up and eventually ran a community college. My mother was paid by the county and my father was paid by the state. So, according to the head of the Republican Party, they never had "jobs."
Here's what Michael Steele told George Stephanopoulos yesterday:
Somebody's going to have to break it to my parents that they they've never had a job - not even back in the 1940's. While they went to college my father worked nights in a shipyard as a welder while my mother picked up cigarette butts in the parking lot of a defense plant.
STEELE: You've got to look at what's going to create sustainable jobs. What this administration is talking about is making work. It is creating work. What this administration is talking about is making work. It is creating work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that's a job.
STEELE: No, it's not a job. A job is something that -- that a business owner creates.
I guess those weren't jobs either, because both of them were funded by government contracts. Then my Dad joined the service. That was government "work," too. I wonder if Michael Steele wants to break it to these two people that they didn't really have sixty years of productive service to society. (And, well into their eighties, they're not done yet.)
While he's at it, he could also talk to my childhood friend Billy. Bill and I had a rock and roll band together when we were teenagers. His Dad used to like to have a few beers and then sit around with us, hammering away at the guitar and singing "I'm going to Chicago, but I won't take you ..." Mr. M was a good guy. He worked thirty years for the Thruway, dealing with accident scenes. Sometimes he'd tell us the grisly details.
Well, Mr. M never had a job either, as it turns out. The Thruway Authority's a government agency. That means we'll have to tell Bill the bad news about his late father. Last time I saw him he told me he works for the county now (Bill, not his Dad), inspecting sewers and that sort of thing. It's a decent job, he said ... oh, wait. That's right: It's not a job.
Who knew? Before Michael Steele and the Republicans, that is ...
This isn't about playing "gotcha" with some obstructionists. Well, okay, maybe it is a little ... But mostly it's about the economic ignorance, real or feigned, underlying most GOP objections to this stimulus package. Steele seem like an intelligent man. I honestly don't know if he and the other Republicans really believe what they're saying, or if they've just made a tactical decision to oppose the stimulus and then hope it fails. It's starting to look like it's the latter.
Either way, the rest of the Steele interview illustrates a level of confusion that makes his problem with the word "jobs" seem minor. He talks, for example, about "correcting those rules in the markets that have hindered and frustrated the banking process, that have lent itself to drying up the credit markets as we see them."
No, Mr. Steele. There has been a lack of rules in the market - one that led to too much credit being extended in irresponsible ways. Then the money was all gone. And then we got in trouble.
And it gets worse. Steele asks: "How does -- how does -- I mean, I'm all for Pell Grants, but how does a Pell Grant, increasing funding for Pell Grant get me a job when I just lost mine?"
Here's how, Mr. Steele: A Pell Grant provides funding for someone to get a college education. More students can go to college, which provides more jobs to teachers. And the businesses that serve the college community make more money, so they can hire more people. Then, after the student gets a degree, they can get a job and earn a better income. That means they spend more. So businesses make more more money then, too, and then they can hire more people.
Like the guy with the cellphone says: Can you hear me now?
We're going to be hearing a lot more of this kind of obstructionist talk in the next few days and weeks, so here's what's worth passing on to politically noncommitted friends and relatives: Government-funded jobs are real jobs. They're jobs for cops, firefighters, construction workers ... all sorts of folks. And Steele's not the only one playing games.
Now, people like Billy's father and my parents weren't big political donors. They didn't have that kind of money. But they had good jobs - government jobs. Yes, some of the jobs in this stimulus package will "go away" when contracts end, just like my parents' first jobs did in the forties. But they worked their way through college on those jobs. So will some of the people who get jobs under the stimulus plan.
And all of the people who get jobs because of this bill will spend money,which will stimulate the economy. (Hence the word "stimulus," which obstructionists either don't comprehend or choose to ignore.) That means that the economy will grow and there will be more private-sector jobs available by the time the government-funded jobs come to an end. That's how it worked under FDR. (And, yes, it did work under FDR. Read the history, Mr. Steele, not the talking points.)
The final stimulus bill may be imperfect. But if it gets the economy moving again, everybody will benefit. Pretty soon enough Republicans in Congress are going to realize that. They will put their country's interest above their party's and vote for this bill, and then it will pass. There will be a side benefit when that happens: My parents, and millions of others like them, won't have to go through retirement with a blank sheet of paper for a resumé.
Follow Richard (RJ) Eskow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rjeskow