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Money For Nothing



When I was a kid, my dad and all the dads who worked for Kennecott Copper, from the Bingham Canyon mine to the Magna smelter, regularly got in the mail their issue of the company newsmagazine, Kennescope. Whenever it arrived, it was read to the finest detail, and any time a kid could go to school and brag up that his dad was featured in an issue, it was cause for what we used to call a “big head.” “Oh, he has a big head because his dad was in Kennescope,” we might say. If the dad was mentioned in an article, it made for a big head on little junior. If the dad was not only mentioned but pictured, it made for a really big head.

What finer way for a kid to feel good about his dad—and his own future—than to see him featured in the company magazine, perhaps waving from an ore haulage train, or standing over a newly drilled hole and holding the explosives that would blow it up, or taking part in some safety first exercise, or smiling with a drink in hand during some old-timer’s retirement party?

My dad found his way into Kennescope several times—plus all my uncles, too, as every one of them, on both sides of my family, worked in the Bingham Canyon mine. And for a brief, magical period stretching from after World War II until the late 1960s, Kennecott was the greatest company in the world, and the towns in and along the Oquirrh Mountains that it supported comprised the best citizens and neighbors known to man. I was there. There was nothing finer, and I can attest to that.

When a dad did something good for the mine, it was big news. Not as big as if he got run over by a runaway train or had his hand blown off or fell stumbling drunk from one of our fine taverns, but big news nonetheless. When our dads made it into Kennescope, we felt like the Kennedy kids. Within Kennescope, there was one area that really said your dad was special: If your dad had figured out some way to save Kennecott some money, he got his picture in Kennescope alongside his invention while holding a check that indicated the value of his cost-saving idea. A good idea might get a miner an extra $25 bucks; a really good idea might have been worth $100 bucks. Fortunes in those days.

I remember my dad working on some device on his workbench, bending and riveting pieces of tin into some newfangled way to measure the powder explosives used to blast big rocks into little rocks. He got around $50 for his efforts, and I was very proud to be the son not only of an inventor, but one who could also use a table vice, tin snips, pliers and a soldering iron—talents I still don’t possess. Not only did his work ensure that Kennecott would save so much money they could one day hire me, he was certifiably rich, as well. His picture proved it.

It strikes me that maybe we can bring back some of that one-for-all, all-for-one effort that used to define America’s blue-collar workforce. Since that would require we turn back the clock and renege on the billions that the white-collar Wall Street scoundrels and their checkbook friends in the U.S. Congress have drained from middle America, it may be too late for an anachronistic warm fuzzy to change the corporate culture of today’s beleaguered and cynical American workforce—it’s a rare employee today who works toward a career instead of a paycheck. So, instead of changing the American workforce, maybe we can save time and money by changing American government instead. And I have a money-saving idea.

It was announced today that Utah will be “blessed” with a fourth congressional seat. Starting with the 2012 election, we will have the opportunity to send not three, but four complete idiots to represent us in Washington, D.C. (OK. Jason Chaffetz isn’t an idiot, but you get the idea.) Those men (Utah will never elect a congresswoman from Kanab or Vernal or Tremonton) will enter Congress as broke as you or I and leave it as well-to-do as an Arab prince, with a full pension and health package, to boot. And in between, they will do nothing to make your life better except to tell you that they are against big government, gays, Obama-care and the people who are lying about global warming. None of which you can take to the bank.

People are already busy figuring out how to screw Utah’s liberals, progressives, Independents and Democrats by gerrymandering Utah’s voting districts into ones that ensure the new seat goes to a Republican. The chances of a Democrat winning in a restructured district are nearly impossible (prediction for 2011: Jim Matheson comes clean and changes parties). The new voting districts would give us four Republicans in Congress—which is exactly what the national Republican Party wants, by the way—you know, the good guys you can trust. Our four Republican representatives will be expected to vote in unison, and they will.

So, why send four when one will do? Downsize the buggers. Utah should give up three of its seats. Just say no. Let’s save the money and put it to good use here at home. We only need one district, anyway. It costs millions to send a yokel to Congress. Spend it on schools and roads. And this idea is a twofer—not only will we save money, we won’t have to say the three scariest words in the English language: Congressman Carl Wimmer.

John Saltas

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