Opinion

A labor of love

As we mark Labor Day, I’d like to salute those women who keep our economy productive by their labors in the home.

Scripture refers to the first time that God said that something was not good. “And the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him’” (Gen. 2:18). By “an help meet,” the Elizabethan writers of the King James Bible meant someone who is able to help a man work. Even in paradise, there is much work to be done. Naming and exercising authority over the plants and animals, making the garden fruitful — these are labors of the first order. Thus, we see marriage between man and woman as part of the natural order. In thus creating and honoring marriage, God also dignified labor.

It may be no coincidence that we use the word labor in two senses. Daily work is labor, as is childbirth. My wife, the beloved mother of our two children, and who is now a grandmother, is my helpmeet. I thank her for her labors, too.

Millions of working women deserve special honor this Labor Day. When organized labor began in this country, Samuel Gompers, the head of the American Federation of Labor, famously rejected revolutionary schemes and socialist utopias. What did labor want, he was asked repeatedly. “More” was his succinct answer. More pay, more benefits, more safety on the job and off. Labor unions claim credit for being “the folks who brought you the American weekend.”

That’s largely true. But today, organized labor also brings us America the weakened. That’s because liberal labor union leaders have too often ignored their members’ values as they’ve pressed for abortion-on-demand and the ending of marriage. Whenever labor union members get to vote on these matters, they line up with supporters of traditional family values.

Education researcher David Armour was an early skeptic of the No Child Left Behind proposals of a decade ago. His 40 years of work on early childhood development had shown him that it would require $100,000 per child per year to make up for the education deprivation that too many of America’s children experience when they report for kindergarten. Think about that: Half a million dollars per child to get them ready for school. No society has ever been able to afford that. Even America, the richest nation in the history of the world, cannot afford that.

So this Labor Day, I want to pay my tribute to organized labor. That is, the labor organized in millions of homes by millions of married couples. Those mothers’ labors — labor in childbirth, in making homes, in training children — are indispensable. James Carville famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid!” Political philosopher that he is, Carville may have stumbled upon a truth: The Greek root of the word “economy” translates as “management of the household.”

The federal government will spend billions this year futilely trying to remedy the causes of education deprivation. They say it’s all about equipping young people for jobs and ending poverty. But according to the Heritage Foundation’s respected senior analyst Robert Rector, since the 1960s the federal government has spent $13 trillion in a vain attempt to eradicate poverty. The problem is that the government can’t replace mothers and fathers in the home. Let’s honor those mothers in the home and their unstinting labor of love.

Robert Morrison served in the Department of Education under President Ronald Reagan. He is now a Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at Family Research Council in Washington.