Thank all essential workers, and especially these two groups

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We often hear that after the coronavirus pandemic ends, a new normal will set in, involving everything from more hand-washing and less hand-shaking to increased remote work. But I hope that whatever new normal sets in, it includes a renewed appreciation for people whose work is often taken for granted. I’d like to thank a few people.

To the cop on the beat who continues through this crisis to keep our streets safe; to the National Guard deployed to New York, San Francisco, and other big cities to protect people who are sometimes disdainful of men and women in uniform; to the doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel who are working long hours to heal the sick. To the ingenuity of America’s entrepreneurs, who are coming up with new ways every day to provide desperately needed supplies and protective gear; to the flag fliers in my neighborhood and yours whose simple act of patriotism reminds us of the great country we are blessed to live in; to each and every one of these people, a grateful country is thankful for your work.

But I’d like to single out two groups of people for the work they’re doing in this difficult time.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down much of America’s workforce, the nation’s farmers, the most essential of America’s essential workforce, have been hard at work, producing the food we need to keep going. These are people whose days often start before 4 a.m. and don’t end until after sundown. They’re doing this at perhaps the most tumultuous period for farmers. Many small family farmers have been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy and beyond. Adding to farmers’ difficulties, the pandemic has sent crop and livestock prices plummeting and concerns over labor shortages soaring.

Sadly, many coastal elites seem to hold farmers in outright disdain. A prime example was evident in a recently unearthed 2016 video from a conference in which billionaire former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg contrasted the difficulty and complexity of the “information economy” with farming. “I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer,” he says with a smirk. “It’s a [process]: you dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn.”

But the ingenuity of our farmers is the reason that the average family spends just 11% of its household income on food, the lowest in the world.

So, to the farmers who get up each morning to plant and sow and reap the food that provides the beginning of the food chain, thank you.

I’d also like to thank the approximately 1.8 million truckers who deliver vital goods to every community. They are the ones who we are counting on to ensure that shelves stay stocked with toilet paper, canned goods, and everything else we need. Truck drivers are among those who are risking their personal health and doing the hard work to keep products moving to stores, hospitals, and elsewhere.

They’re working longer hours, and are having difficulty finding food, bathrooms, and rest stops on the road. The federal government has eased limits on the 11-hour limit drivers can spend on the road in order to ensure that demand is being met. But that means many are putting their lives at risk by driving 12 hours a day or more.

Whenever you hear a public official tell us not to worry amid thousands of coronavirus deaths and a blown-up economy that our supply chain is stable, you can thank America’s farmers and truckers for that.

A truck driver I saw being interviewed recently said how much he appreciated how much kinder and more polite people were being on the roadways. He said that there seemed to be a newfound appreciation for the work of truckers. Sadly, he predicted that things would likely return to the way they were once this crisis subsides.

I hope that one outcome of the coronavirus pandemic includes a renewed appreciation for the value of these workers. They don’t have the luxury that many of us enjoy working from home. They work all day long to produce the food we eat and deliver those products to our local grocery stores and even to our doorsteps.

Let’s hope that whatever “new normal” emerges from this pandemic, it includes a renewed and permanent respect and appreciation for groups of people who are too often underappreciated and overlooked. Let’s also make sure that our economy gives these workers the compensation that reflects the contributions they make and which we now more fully appreciate.

Gary Bauer is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is president of American Values and chairman of Campaign for Working Families. He ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.


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