Recently I had the privilege of getting to know an immigrant from Eastern Europe. The man told me a story of survival and escape so incredible that it had me on the edge of my seat—literally—for the duration.
He and his family fled the Soviet Union’s grasp with little more than the clothes on their backs, and came to the United States to begin a new life. He told me of the many jobs (often dirty) he held along the way as he worked tirelessly to support his family in his new homeland. He also spoke of pay.
Quite simply, if he didn’t like what he was being paid, he’d go and find himself a job that paid better. Or, he’d work all the harder in the job he had, in order to ascend through the ranks. Little by little he worked his way up the financial ladder, never caring if the job was terribly hard or particularly dirty. He cared about making something of himself and providing a new life for his family.
A supporter of the MLK Jr. Workers Center carries a sign as he and others start to march in Portland, Ore., Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Organizers and supporters of the hiring site, intended largely for Hispanic day laborers, are pushing to preserve the center after the city declined to extend its' long-term lease. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
Today, he runs his own successful construction company.
Sadly, we live in a society that scoffs at hard work, and yet demands the very best pay.
Brandishing the infamous pen he so adamantly threatened to us, President Obama signed an executive order this week that raises the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour for government contractors, in an effort to push Congress to do the same for the entire nation.
Aside from the sickening unconstitutionality of the move (then again—this is a president who has unilaterally changed the health care law over and over again, circumventing Congress a shocking 10 times), this action sheds light on a growing problem facing our nation.
The very same politicians and pundits who tell us that job losses or job reductions—thanks to the health care law the president can’t seem to keep his pen away from—are actually a “good thing,” (we’ll get to that momentarily) are the very same ones who demand more pay for less work. So, despite whether or not the employers (or in the case of federal contractors, the taxpayers) can afford it, or whether or not the employees actually deserve it, President Obama has spoken.
Graduates of the University of Alabama's class of 2011. The economic downturn has hit recent college grads hard. New data show only half of those who graduated from 2006 to 2011 are working full time.
Reactions to the Congressional Budget Office’s report that Obamacare will result in 2.5 million fewer full time jobs over the next decade were truly jaw-dropping. Rather than protesting the appalling results, politician after politician, and pundit after pundit went out and touted the report as “liberating.”
Indeed, the American worker will be “liberated” from having to work so hard . . . because Joe Taxpayer down the street will foot the bill so the less industrious can rely on the government. To be certain, liberals are quick to point out that these “fewer” jobs are the result of people voluntarily working less or leaving jobs all together, because they’ve got a government subsidy on which to lean.
That’s right—sit back, cook for your family, practice your art, or retire. The taxpayer’s got this one; never mind that they won’t be coming home early for dinner as their tax burdens rise in order to pay for this monstrosity of a law.
[sharequote align="center"]We are fast becoming a society of people who scoff at truly hard work; at true grit.[/sharequote]
We are fast becoming a society of people who scoff at truly hard work; at true grit.
The average college graduate today expects that their first job had better be snazzy, easy, and pay well. University of Iowa professor of (ironically enough) Leisure Studies Benjamin Hunnicutt penned a disturbing piece this week in which he declared that “the idea that ‘full time’ work is something foreordained and the bedrock of morality is new, mostly a product of the last century,” and that the “ [American] dream has not always been just about striving to consume bigger houses, fancier clothes, faster cars.”
(Note to Hunnicutt: you might want to remind the president; he seems to have forgone that idea amidst the opulence-on-display state dinner this past week.)
A Jobs sign is seen on the US Chamber of Commerce Building in Washington, DC, on August 2, 2013. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Nobody is suggesting that we return to a, as Hunnicutt put it, “Dickensian” era in which the worker barely receives Christmas Day off from his or her daily toils. Nor is anyone suggesting that we shouldn’t embrace the genius of scientific inventions which lead to the improvement and streamlining of our jobs. These advances, however, were never meant to eliminate the need to work; rather to make the work we do all the more impactful.
Hunnicutt brings it full circle when he admits that the idea of “higher wages and short hours” was something no one expected to end, ever.
So where does it end? And just how do we pay for all the delightful indulgences and merriment in which the good professor suggests we all partake, if not through hard work first?
Indeed, this is where someone like Hunnicut would undoubtedly cut in, reminding me that raising the minimum wage would allow those workers to earn the same as they do now, but in fewer hours . . . and viola: Utopia. Never mind the fact, of course, that this money does not simply appear out of thin air; employers bearing a new minimum wage are forced to make critical reductions in staff in order to be able to pay for the rest.
The truth is, in embracing such a worldview, we’re killing the American spirit. We’re raising up a generation to expect results from very little effort; we’re raising up a generation of people taught to believe that they deserve a life freed from the burden of being responsible for their own destiny. After all, someone else will pay for it.
We became the greatest nation in the world for a reason. We worked hard. We weren’t afraid of struggle. And we kept our eyes on greatness earned by the sweat of our own hands.
Protect this ethic, America, or your fate will fall in the hands of those who artfully deceive you into thinking happiness and prosperity can be achieved in the arms of dependence.
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