Why are the most obvious things sometimes ignored?

Over the weekend, The Associated Press carried an article with the headline, "Income gap widens as factories shut down."

The article was written by Michael Rubinkam, a Schuylkill County resident who has established himself as an excellent and accurate journalist.

In the article, Howard Wial, an economist with the Brookings Institute and the University of Illinois at Chicago, says, "A loss of manufacturing has contributed to the decline of the middle class."

Du-uh.

If only politicians were so astute. If only those selfish, corporate bigwigs who pad their paychecks while depriving the peons a livable wage would be as observant.

Instead, they use any reason they can to eliminate jobs, to close factories, to downsize.

People who worked at the former Bethlehem Steel, New Jersey Zinc Company, and Atlas Powder Plant managed while employed there to keep food on their tables without Access cards, to buy a decent car every few years, and to buy a house for shelter for their family. They paid the taxes that kept our school districts and boroughs solvent.

Politicians will tell you that many jobs have been created in Pennsylvania over the past few years. What they don't tell you is that they are mostly retail jobs; jobs which pay minimum or only slightly higher wages. Jobs that make it difficult to afford a car payment and impossible to purchase a home.

Among the nation's wealthiest families are the Waltons, of Wal-Mart fame. Yet, many of their full-time employees make poverty-level wages.

Although we have a plentiful supply of coal, our politicians are making it difficult for us to utilize it ourselves. There's no compromise in politics.

Locally, scores of garment factories have closed. While these jobs might not have been as lucrative as many other industries, they paid better wages than most retail outlets pay.

Politicians use "global warming" as their trump card as argument for shuttering factories. The lack of a sustainable economy can be just as devastating.

Incidentally, remember when the big claim to environmental destruction was "acid rain?" There's a term you don't hear anymore.

Now, more than ever, we need to reinstate our manufacturing base. We see the political mayhem that's occurring around the globe. We can't rely on manufacturing from third-world countries to keep America safe.

Rubinkam notes in his article how in Berks County, "some 9,300 jobs evaporated between 2001 and 2011 nearly a quarter of Berks County's manufacturing base."

He points out, "Nationally, manufacturing declines accounted for 40 percent of the increase in joblessness from 2000-2011."

We just saw thousands of local students graduate from high school.

What is their employment future?

Not everyone will be an engineer, accountant, doctor or lawyer.

Where will they find jobs?

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com