I’ll never forget the first time I caught the Discovery Channel’s long-running series “Dirty Jobs.” It was 2005, the year the show premiered, and we were visiting my dad who was already a fan. Truth be told, I wanted no part of the show. First, some background…
My father has spent his life keeping fighter jets flying in the Air Force, fixing your cars, keeping your nursing homes up to code, and remodeling your homes. At 72, there’s still nothing he can’t do, and that includes building a three-car garage from scratch and doing so all by himself. Over fifty-plus years, my father’s hands have been dirty and yet the idea of joining a union is unthinkable to him. He’s self-taught and too disgusted by the very idea of receiving something for nothing to want anything to do with the spoiled, entitled, collective mindset that infects most unions today. Therefore, I was shocked to learn that, because he felt it looked at the world of those who do physical labor for a living in a very entertaining and respectful way, there was a reality show he was enthused about .
If you recall, things were a lot different in pop culturedom in the year of our Lord 2005. This recent flurry of reality programming that portrays working class Americans and entrepreneurs as the everyday heroes they are were still on the horizon, and popular culture was still very much enamored by young, hip urbanites. When you saw blue collar men on television or in films, they were usually the butt of the joke — the moron, the buffoon, the clueless, the creep, the ignorant, the guy with the butt crack who fixed Rachel, Monica and Phoebe’s sink to hysterical canned laughter.
I was so sick of this, so tired and disgusted with elitist Hollywood and their heroic lawyers, professors, and journalists, that the thought of watching some snarky, superior television host mock and belittle those doing “dirty jobs” — or as I like to call it, the work that keeps the world turning — was the last thing I wanted to see.
Imagine my surprise as the show unfurled and I watched host Mike Rowe display a genuine respect for the intelligence and work ethic of those who do some of the most difficult work in our country. Furthermore, Rowe understood — and this can’t be emphasized enough — the importance of this work within the context of our world, how these people feed, clothe, shelter, heat and in general add to the quality of our lives.
This is my long way of saying that Mr. Rowe’s classy and respectful critique or President Obama’s craven class warfare found in a discussion thread on his Web site was not at all surprising:
“My fellow Americans. I know that many of you are suffering. And I know that many of you look around and see a country where not all things appear to be equal. Well, guess what? They aren’t. They never have been, and I can assure you, as long as liberty and freedom remain supreme, they never will be. Let’s be honest – looking for equality is a democracy is like looking for love in a wh0re house. You might see something that comes close, but in the end, that dog don’t hunt.
No, my fellow Americans, I believe our best hope for a true recovery will come not from a temptation to make all things more equal, but rather, to make all things more possible. To do that, we must rethink everything we currently hold dear in our modern economy, beginning with our obscene relationship with Debt and Spending. These are the true enemies of prosperity – not your neighbor. Our problems today were not caused by the success of others. They were caused by the mistaken belief that we could have some things we wanted – but in fact, could simply not afford.
I look now to the wealthiest among us. To the ones who have in the past, provided the jobs we need so desperately today. To the innovators and risk takers that truly drive our economy. We need your help. Even though just 1% of you pay nearly 30% of all the Federal Taxes we collect, I must now ask you to pay even more. It pains me to ask those of you who have already given so much because as any fool can plainly see – it simply isn’t fair. Alas, I believe that I must. Our country is suffering, and we need you.”
Rowe not only sees through Obama’s cynical tactics…
He wants people to see “the rich” as the problem – not him, not spending, not debt, and not some other failed policy. He wants the Rich to be the scapegoat.
…and understands the math….
What you are proposing Meg, would result in a MASSIVE tax cut for the richest people in the world. If the government asks me to “do my part” in the same way that teachers, public sector workers, policeman and fireman “do their part, then my federal tax rate will drop from 36% to 28%. So will lots of others. This will cost the government hundreds of billions in tax revenue.
The truth is simple, but really hard for people to say. It goes like this. “We don’t really want the rich to pay their fair share. We want them to pay an unfair share. We just don’t like to say it that way because it makes us sound kind of unreasonable.”
…but he’s not a big fan of unions either, though, like many of us, he admires individual union-members:
Personally, I find all of those vocations [teacher, bus driver, health care professional in a psychiatric hospital, sanitation worker, policeman, fireman] to be noble in the extreme. And I respect the people who do the work very much. But if you’re asking why public sentiment seemed to turn against them, I would suggest that it had to do with their respective Unions, and their absolute failure to persuade the masses. They took the same sort of aggressive posture that their private counterparts often do with management. In this sort of economy, that just isn’t persuasive to a lot of concerned voters. The entire country is struggling, and the issues facing public servants were old news for people in the private sector. They made a loud, strident, and unproductive case.
You can read the entire thread here.
My takeaway from this is that Rowe is as advertised, a thoughtful, intelligent man who knows of what he speaks. And while I’m sure others could make a different case, I’ve always credited “Dirty Jobs” (and “American Chopper”) for bringing the working class hero back to television.
This has been one of the most important cultural shifts in the pop culture landscape of the last 20 years — important enough that I’ve been writing about it for a few years now.