The Cost of Not Working

In my last post, I reported that fewer Americans are working – because the government is paying them not to work (Poverty in America). There are consequences to this cultural shift as we will discuss today.

Andy Kessler is a business columnist who writes for The Wall Street Journal. In a timely article, he writes about the decline of work. He says, “When you slack off and withhold your human capital, you steal from everyone.”

He says that work has become a dirty word. The New York Times just ran an opinion piece titled, “How to Fight Back Against the Inhumanity of Modern Work.” When comparing today to the early days of the Industrial Revolution, Kessler says, “Paper cuts are a bigger risk these days than losing an arm in a loom. Still, I thought the piece would be about dirty jobs – the hardships of coal miners, the plight of burn-out nurses or the inhumanity of waking up at 5 a.m. to milk cows. Nope. The author complained about digital monitoring – coders, cashiers and others being tracked by evil bosses, who are measuring productivity. Gasp! Has society become that spoiled? Apparently so. The prevailing thinking is we’re all Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz wrapping chocolates on a conveyor belt.”

This is not your grandfather’s, or even your father’s, economy. Only 8.4% of U.S. nonfarm payroll positions are in manufacturing. Many of those jobs were exported long ago to cheaper labor markets such as – you guessed it, China. Frankly, if those jobs tried to return to the U.S. many workers aren’t qualified.  Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame said, “We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist.” Combine that with the generous transfer payments from the government and it’s no wonder our labor participation rates are lower than ever. With over 11 million jobs available, there are more than 2 jobs for every person still looking for work.

Kessler says, “Unions want to arm-wrestle value from capital and force higher wage payouts than is economically sound. This blatantly disregards human capital – what workers learn on the job is theirs to keep. We increase productivity and wealth by having workers figure out how to do more with less from the bottom up. So please stop paying people not to work. (emphasis mine) The best antipoverty program is a job because a job’s value comes from this increase in human capital.”

Too many young people are getting meaningless degrees for which there are no jobs, while racking up enormous college debt bills that Joe Biden wants the rest of us to pay. Students should consider other careers in fields with great demand such as electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians, or nursing. These are meaningful careers that pay real money and provide real purpose in life.

The bible says, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (II Thessalonians 3:10) We’ve turned that biblical advice on its head and taught people they’re fools if they work because the government will pay them more not to work. But there is more to work than the paycheck you take home at the end of the day. There is dignity, self-confidence, self-esteem, and learned skills. None of these come with government hand-outs.

Here’s some advice from Mike Rowe: “Stop looking for the ‘right’ career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable.”

Become indispensable. There’s no way to measure the value of believing you’re indispensable, no matter what field of work you choose. Stop spending your time looking at your cell phone all day and go get a job. Both you and the country will be better off.


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