The sculptor, 110 granite stones and 100 Chinese laborers and stone masons were shipped in to complete the work, while American firms that employ American workers were bypassed.
And, adding insult to injury, the U.K.'s Telegraph reports that it remains unclear if any money was actually saved by sending the job to China. This wasn't a decision rooted in savings, it was rooted in a lack of respect toward our own working people. It represents betrayal and contempt.
While the King memorial was being crafted, 13.9 million unemployed Americans - more than 9 percent of our country's population - were sitting idle. That's 9 percent of all men, 7.9 percent of women, 8.1 percent of whites, 11.3 percent of Hispanics and a stunning 16.7 percent of blacks, according to an August report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another 2.8 million were categorized as "marginally attached" to the work force, unable to find a job capable of sustaining themselves and their families.
With Labor Day occurring so close to the dedication, you have to wonder about the reaction was around the country to this slap in the face to American labor.
What must they think in Youngstown, Ohio; Pittsburgh; Bethlehem; Detroit and other places that have experienced a catastrophic economic loss of manufacturing sectors over the last three decades, thanks to policies generated by our own leaders?
What is the sentiment among organized labor throughout America, the people whose families and friends King stood with in organizations such as the AFL-CIO and AFSCME?
We know only too well that King had visited Memphis, Tenn., to stand with the striking sanitation workers who were seeking the right to unionize when he was struck down in 1968. Today, the descendants of these very people - working American men and women - have been told that their labor is insufficient to craft a monument to the very man who gave his last breath standing shoulder to shoulder with them.
This is a blunder of the highest order, telling U.S. workers that their skills and expertise are no longer sufficient. The dictum that American workers are capable of achieving any goal has gone the way of the dodo bird, only to be replaced with an assumption that China (or someone else) can do it better. It seems to be outsourcing just for the hell of it - even if it no longer means saving money - American firms and workers, and economic patriotism be damned.
This situation should be instructive to those in Washington and around the nation who lament our inability to recover from this endless downturn. When we can't even commission U.S. firms and workers to build a national monument, we shouldn't be surprised when there is no recovery.
Or shocked to find a dwindling belief that our problems can be resolved.
America First seems no longer to be an acceptable attitude.
We're told that we have to settle for and accept America second, third or fourth. It's now one year after we were promised a "Recovery Summer" and America continues to stand still. Meanwhile, economic patriotism and self-help remains a fantasy.
Consider the facts. Despite the president's speech, there's no real vision to build or grow America's potential beyond the current or next election. There's no serious effort to protect or enhance our own industrial base. The corporate leaders responsible for shipping jobs abroad have not been reined in. The policies needed to restore jobs for Americans are not on the agenda.
Meanwhile, our policymakers continue twisting the knife into the backs of the American economy and the nation's work force.
The sad truth is that while King marched with American workers, our own government and our own business leaders march over them.
Nathan R. Shrader has been a member of three labor unions and is Republican committeeman in Philadelphia, working on his Ph.D at Temple University. Reach him at NRS@Temple.edu.