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Allentown is so 25 years ago


Obama is convening a jobs summit and then heading to Allentown, PA for the start of his Main Street Tour.

Jeez, didn’t Obama get the memo?  Allentown’s been in a state of Depression for decades.  It started back in the late 70’s when the Japanese started dumping cheap steel on the market and the US steel bossies used it as an excuse to gut their unions.  And lest someone start quoting Niemoller on me, let me just tell you that I lived in Pittsburgh at the time the US steel industry went south.  I have uncles who lost their jobs permanently.  The mills that banged and clanged all night and lit up a sandblasted sky suddenly went silent.  My grandmother’s house, perched on the heights above McKeesport’s mill, became part of a neighborhood in decline.  The stores shuttered up and the town center became desolate.  The water system became compromised with giardia and the tax base disappeared so it couldn’t be fixed.  It was a hard, hard time.

Oh, sure, industry has occasionally sputtered back to life but usually at vastly reduced salaries.  Employees have attempted to buy back the factories, not always with the best results.  The steel mills in Pittshurgh were torn down leaving a riverside view of amazing beauty.  The city has attracted a more technological workforce but went bankrupt not too long ago.  The city coffers were empty.

We younguns saw what happened to our uncles in the steel mills and decided that that wasn’t going to happen to us.  So, we went to school for biochemistry and genomics and cheminformatics and physical chemistry.  People always need medicine, right?  And the science was and is developing so rapidly that we wouldn’t ever become obsolete.  We’d just exercise our flexible minds and read and do and read some more and, gosh darnit!, isn’t this the best country in the world for scientific discovery??

Mebbe.  But we ain’t cheap enough.

The REAL “Main Street”, Mr. Obama, is in Princeton, NJ and Nyack, NY and Groton, Connecticut and Bridgewater, NJ where pharmaceutical companies are shedding tens of thousands of jobs because the CEO’s have decided to abandon the discovery of ‘traditional medicines’ for the trendiness and newly acquired patent extensions on biologicals.  Now, they can get rid of the chemists and biologists that are weighing down their bottom lines for the cheap labor in Hyderabad.  Forget discovering any new reactions in the lab.  The US won’t have any need for that kind of knowledge.

What are you going to do about the loss of intellectual infrastructure, Mr. Obama?  There are no startup companies for us in our future because that would require capital and we haven’t got it.  The bankers do, F^&* you very much.  Why don’t you come to New Jersey and talk to my former colleagues who have their jobs until January 31, 2010?  If you go to Allentown, the newly laid off scientists are going to think you are avoiding them.  They’re going to think you don’t want to draw attention to the people who got educations and are now more or less permanently underemployed.  Why don’t you tell them how they are going to support their families now?

Yeah, right.  When it comes to the bean counting, golf playing, arrogant, thoughtless, short sited corporate CEOs that are throwing us out of work, it’s easy to see that you are one of them.

Take your act to Allentown.

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