Out there in Nebraska, where the air is clean and pure, up there in Minnesota, where they have those gosh darn cute accents, federal investigators found 30 teenagers working overnight shifts at meatpacking plants. The kids, some of them as young as 13, were alleged to be employed cleaning all sorts of shiny dangerous equipment. As a treat, the company let the kids handle caustic chemicals, too.
Suddenly, the air is not so pure, and the accents aren't so cute.
The kids had not-so-cute accents, too, by which I mean they were all Spanish speakers. If you want to start exploiting people in this country, a good place to start is with those damn foreigners who take all our jobs.
Without little 13-year-old Juan, you could have been on the graveyard shift, cleaning bone saws and playing, "Oops, my skin is gone" with dangerous chemicals.
Not that they could get you to take that job. I wouldn't take that job. And, since you and me were too proud to take honest work, it was necessary to rope in some knock-kneed skinny foreigners who hadn't seen the inside of a high school yet.
The contractor providing the, uh, labor, to the plants is pretty sure they didn't know about the situation. After all, a lot of Spanish people aren't nearly as big as regular white people, so a Hispanic 13-year-old can easily be mistaken for a burly white American working man.
Happens to me all the time.
I'm 6 feet tall, 200 pounds and pale in the complexion, but every now and then, when I'm standing around in a bar, someone will come up to me.
"Hey, Paco," the guy says to me, "Shouldn't you be in junior high right now? Habla Espanol?"
"No," I say. "I'm a 65-year-old white guy."
"Damn!" the guy says. "I thought you were a 13-year-old Spanish kid. I was going to offer you a job in my abattoir."
As we used to say, "There's laws against this kind of thing."
And there are, just more of the "overregulation that makes American businesses unable to compete."
And that's true. In a lot of countries around the world, they're not too proud to chain a 12-year-old to a sewing machine. That's the kind of robust free market capitalism that wins the game.
Somebody should tell the company doing the hiring to toughen up their interview process a little. If the kid brings an action figure to the interview, you might want to send him home. Also, give the kid a wedgie. If he's wearing Spiderman underwear, tell him he didn't get the job.
Maybe the company could have one of those height charts on the wall, like they do in the amusement park.
"You must be this tall to take this job," the sign would say.
Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president this week, but I wrote about this because it's more important. America has to care for the people at the bottom because, if we don't, then we don't care for anyone, and the whole damn noble experiment is a grim joke, just like the jokes I wrote in this column.
One of the kids told the federal investigator interviewing him he needed to leave the interview because he had to go home and get ready for school. Junior high school.
About the only terrible thing the company didn't do to these kids was have a drag queen come to the plant and read them stories.
If the company had done that, 60 believing Christians would have been out in front of the place waving picket signs and chanting Bible verses.
Jesus, he doesn't like drag queens, but he likes child labor.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion, and read features by Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a collection of his best columns, is called "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle, and iBooks.