- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Mike Rowe said Tuesday that politicians and pundits have a rendezvous with stupidity if they continue to refer to 33 million lost jobs across the nation as “nonessential.”

The popular American “everyman” made famous by the show “Dirty Jobs” spoke with Fox News’ Dana Perino to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, specifically comments by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to newly unemployed or financially struggling citizens.

“You want to go to work? Go take a job as an essential worker,” the governor told reporters on April 22. “The illness is death. What is worse than death? Economic hardship? Yes, very bad. Not death. Emotional stress from being locked in a house — very bad. Not death. Domestic violence on the increase — very bad. Not death.”

Mr. Rowe said that Mr. Cuomo’s rhetoric on that day was both out of touch and logically shoddy.

“When I was doing ‘Dirty Jobs,’ things were flush and very few people were paying very little attention to these anonymous, unsung workers who were making civilized life possible for the rest of us,” he said. “Well, we’re in a different world right now. People got the memo. And so, as we attempt to define essentiality, if that’s a word, we need to think a little bit differently about the world we’re in.”

Mr. Rowe, now the host of Facebook Live’s “Returning the Favor,” noted that the sheer volume of jobs lost must force commentators to rethink their language on the issue. 

“Thirty-three, 34 million people are out of work right now and, by definition, those people are out of work because, according to the governor, they are nonessential,” he said. “But if you look at the impact of removing those workers from our economy, you know, our macro-economy, you can see that they’re absolutely essential. So, language always matters. … This is one of those instances where the headlines have caught up to our vernacular, and if we don’t make some tweaks to our lexicon we’re going to wind up sounding really, what’s the word? Stupid.”

Mr. Rowe concluded by saying it was time for officials to abandon “cookie-cutter” logic and acknowledge that it is possible to responsibly reopen the economy while coming to grips with various risks. 

“Safety obviously is very, very, very important,” he said for “The Daily Briefing” segment. “But the notion that nothing in the country is more important than staying safe, that’s not something common-sensical people embrace. That’s something you hear from people who are trying to sell you something or politicians who are trying to get reelected. We have to get away from the cookie-cutter bromides and platitudes and start dealing with one zip code at a time.”

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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