Tom Purcell, 10/1/2013 [Archive]

Needed Blue-Collar Horse Sense

Exclusive Excerpt from: "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" by Tom Purcell

(Editor Note: A prior version of this column was distributed by Cagle Cartoons in 2010. If you run this column, please mention that it is an excerpt from Tom Purcell's new book, "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" available at Thanks!)

Needed: Blue-Collar Horse Sense

By Tom Purcell

The article in The Washington Post filled me with hope: There's a trend toward college-educated people getting into the trades.

One 29-year-old fellow in Washington, D.C. — he has a degree from Notre Dame — considered going to law school, like many others in the lawyer-saturated town.

After watching his friends work long hours as paralegals — and watching his lawyer pals sign their lives over to their firms — he did something sensible.

He became an electrician's apprentice.

He's not alone. The Post says more 20-somethings are forgoing the white-collar world to become plumbers, electricians, mechanics and carpenters.

I think it's great.

This country was designed by people who worked with their hands.

Ben Franklin started off as a printer's apprentice, a messy job. His trade helped him master communication, business management, politics and human nature.

George Washington, a farmer, toiled in his gardens to cross-breed the perfect plant. He was forever trying new ways to cultivate and harvest his crops.

Many of our Founders were farmers. They were humbled by the unforgiving realities of nature.

Hands-on labor made these fellows sensible and innovative. Their good sense is evident in the practicality of the Constitution.

We have lost touch with such common sense.

The shift happened over many years, of course. Industrialization moved Americans to the cities and, gradually, to paper-pushing jobs in the service industry.

Now we're a country of white-collar snobs with an underdeveloped understanding of how things work.

The snobbery starts in high school. Parents and guidance counselors both point kids toward college and white-collar careers — they save the blue-collar careers for the kids whose grades aren't so hot.

It makes no sense.

A skilled laborer earns more than many lawyers do — and likely enjoys his work more. Show me a dozen lawyers and I'll show you 11 people who have considered driving a cab for a living.

Skilled laborers are good for our country — white-collar folks are not always so good.

Consider an important white-collar maxim: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle then with BS."

I've seen highly skilled BSers establish long careers without producing anything of any value.

Blue-collar workers cannot BS their way through their work for very long.

An electrician mixes up the hot wire and ground wire only once.

A carpenter is kept honest by his level — he measures twice, cuts once.

A plumber's skill is evident when the water valve is opened and the pipes don't leak.

Blue-collar workers have no choice but to develop horse sense — to develop efficient ways to solve real problems.

There was a time in America when many white-collar jobs were also infused with horse sense. An employee started as a bank teller right out of high school. He'd work his way up, through performance and sound judgment, to the highest levels of the organization.

Now any old Ivy League graduate can become an investment banker and put his company, and country, at incredible risk as he pursues a multimillion-dollar commission.

I hope more college-educated folks leave the white-collar world to become skilled laborers.

I hope we stop glamorizing careers on Wall Street, the legal profession and many other paper-pushing businesses.

I hope more people use their hands to produce something of value every day — and use their practical, decision-making abilities to help resolve other challenges we face.

If we don't get a serious infusion of blue-collar horse sense, God help this country.

© 2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales at Send comments to Tom at

Download Tom Purcell's color photo - Download Tom Purcell's black and white mug shot photo
Why not run a cartoon with the column? We recommend the cartoons below as a good compliment to Tom Purcell's topic.
Click on the thumbnail images to preview and download the cartoons.

Related Cartoons

 Con  Part-Time Jobs
By: Nate Beeler

August 5, 2013

 Con  Part-Time Jobs COLOR
By: Nate Beeler

August 5, 2013

Employment Numbers COLOR
By: Mike Keefe
The Denver Post
August 15, 2013

By: Mike Keefe
The Denver Post
May 16, 2013

Graduation COLOR
By: Mike Keefe
The Denver Post
May 16, 2013

We do not accept and will not review unsolicited submissions from cartoonists.
Sales & Information: (805) 969-2829
Billing Information: (805)
Technical Support:

FREE cartoons for your website if you're already a paying print subscriber!
Artwork and columns are copyrighted by each creator. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service