In 1983, as he was running for re-election, former Gov. Dick Thornburgh faced a firestorm of criticism when he told the people of western Pennsylvania that the steel industry and all of its jobs were never coming back.
He almost lost the election even though he was telling the truth.
Steel was dead.
Fast-forward three decades and hear Hillary Clinton, the soon-to-be Democratic standard-bearer in this year's presidential race, tell the voters of West Virginia that coal is dead. She then proceeds to lose the state's Democratic primary.
So it's no surprise to hear Bernie Sanders on the left and Donald Trump on the right – or in la-la land, depending on the day of the week – tell the voters that they hold the secret of bringing good, family sustaining jobs back to America.
Unfortunately, the secret they're keeping is the kind of jobs that sustained the middle class up into the 1970s are never coming back.
And it's not the fault of Mexico or Guatemala or Bangladesh or China. The machines have taken over pretty much everywhere in the world. The machines – and computers – are pretty much the reason
Oh, there are jobs. Plenty of them.
They're just the kind of jobs that aspirants to a middle class lifestyle shun or denigrate. Middle America is trapped in a hate/hate quandary. They hate immigrants for coming into the country and snapping up menial, dead end and service jobs that they themselves hate to do.
The new world order, where computers and machines do most of the heavy lifting outside of areas related to food preparation and distribution and a couple of other service industries, has led to a different kind of path to prosperity – or relative security – for many American families.
We could call it "multi-jobbing." To achieve a middle class family income, mom and dad both work and maybe one or more of their grown kids still lives at home and contributes to the family budget.
It's a far cry from the "Father Knows Best" world that dominated the television schedule when Trump and Sanders were growing up.
Jim, the dad, was the sole breadwinner, and Margaret was the stay-at-home mom who held the family of five together with her savvy homemaker and parental skills.
Still, Sanders and Trump foster and feed the myth.
We would be better served with political leaders willing to tell the truth and opening a discussion on how to move forward in a new, less job-dependent world.
The reality is the jobless economy that economist John Maynard Keynes was predicting 80 years ago has been creeping up on us for several years.
Keynes predicted that by now most Americans would be working a 15-hour week and that would be enough to produce all the goods we needed.
It would seem that if we divided up all the work to be done and spread it out among all of the men and women in the workforce, we could be hovering around a 20 hour average work week.
It's just that families could not survive on part-time paychecks.
Retired labor leader Andrew Stern, who cut his union negotiating and organizing teeth as head of the SEIU in Pennsylvania before moving on to head the labor organization in Washington, has written a book proposing a Universal Basic Income as an alternative to the current stretched and darned and sagging safety net offered by the national government.
The book, "Raising the Floor," offers a view beyond Sanders' call for a $15 an hour minimum wage and murky promises to use government leverage and tax policy to "bring jobs back" to the USA. (The jobs have to continue to exist in order to bring them back.)
Stern envisions a nation where every household receives a government check for $1,000 per month (kind of the way residents of Alaska get a monthly stipend from the state's share of royalties from North Slope oil revenues.
Stern would fund the initiative by amalgamating funds currently spent on a range of federal anti-poverty programs including food stamps. He also admits that "some" additional funding would be needed.
Before anyone is tempted to dismiss Stern's concept as pie in the sky, we should point out that UBI isn't all that new.
In 1969, President Richard Nixon championed a Guaranteed Annual Income plan built on similar foundations. The GAI passed the House of Representatives, 243-155, before dying in the Senate.
And, to put it all in perspective, the idea of a 40-hour work week isn't mandated anywhere in the Bible.
In fact, anthropologists estimate that our earliest ancestors only spent an average of 20 hours a week "hunting and gathering."
The development of agriculture and the industrial revolution changed all that. And now it's changing again.