'Working people'


"I never believed in running over working people in order to benefit those who don't need the benefit."

That statement, made by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean on CNBC's Squawk Box, began a short debate between him and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker about the changes Walker made to collective bargaining in his state's public sector. But who are these "working people"? Politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, use the term but no one really defines it.

To Dean, they were the union public employees of Wisconsin, and only them. One immediately wonders: Are they the only "working people" in Wisconsin? What about the 2.7 million private-sector workers who pay the salaries of those public "working people? Or the non-union public sector workers? Or retirees living on pensions? Are they not also "working people?"

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To Dean, Wisconsin's other working citizens must not figure into the equation. What he implied was that he believed in running over one group of "working people" to benefit another group of "working people" who were more suitable to him. That at least would be accurate.

"Working people" must be a term thoroughly tested in focus groups, because my mailbox is filled with mailers from politicians using the term or something similar. The well-vetted phrase is supposed to mean you, the recipient, everyone. But let's be clear. Rhetorically it refers to only blue-collar workers earning wages. It seems to leave out any number of people: small business owners, corporate executives, doctors, lawyers, politicians, investment bankers, lenders, and people over a certain income level. Why the omissions? Aren't these folks "working people," too?

Have you ever spent a day with a practicing physician, shadowed a resident on late-night 12-hour shifts, or put in the hours of an associate lawyer or investment banker? Eighty-hour weeks would be a vacation for these young people?

As a former small business owner, my wife would have thought we'd gone bankrupt if I ever came home before 6 p.m. Even on vacation the business issues do not stop, nor the risk, the responsibility, the interest payments, or the payrolls.

The point here is simple: The "working people" of the United States are all the folks at every level who make this great country work. They drive school buses, teach our children, run the local 7-11, build our homes, finance them, make the appliances we use, keep the peace, guard our nation, etc. Each has an important role, so let's not let politicians use such terms to divide us into warring classes.

Especially as Christians, our churches should be shining examples of organisms where CEOs and auto mechanics of every color can join together as equals at the foot of the cross and celebrate our appointed callings. I praise and laud all the "working people" of America. Keep it up-all of you!

Bill Newton
Bill Newton

Bill is a pastor based in Asheville, N.C. He also serves as a member of God's World Publications' board of directors.


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