First job, age 12, 40 dollars a week – toilet scrubbing, dirt shoveling, box stacking, lawn mowing – for a summer camp. Loved the work. Why? Got trusted to do things, got them done, felt good about it. Met people, earned, learned, advanced. That experience is why today’s “labor shortage” – created by mass state and federal payments to “stay home” – some over $1000 a week – is hard to fathom.
Even with federal add-ons dropping from $600 to $300 per week, states like Massachusetts offer a weekly payment of $771 dollars. These are on top of $1400 COVID checks. Many states are paying able-bodied citizens over $600 to stay home. See, e.g., $300 Unemployment Bonus: How Much Could You Receive In Your State?.
The point – This is madness. As the Biden team spins poor economic news, facts speak volumes. Due to excess federal unemployment payments, employment remains 5.7 million jobs below February 2020. Due to excess federal spending, inflation just hit 5.4 percent in July – more bad news.
Now, to lure people back into the labor force, Congress plans “bonuses” – with your tax dollars – to get people to reconsider working. “Enhanced” federal unemployment benefits may soon end, but will they?
If extended, we could see tax dollars for “bonuses” that compete with tax dollars for unemployment top-ups over free rent – after Biden (unconstitutionally) extended the eviction moratorium.
Again, this amounts to the mad economic policy since job openings jumped to 10.1 million in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. See Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. That rise in job openings suggests anyone who wants work can get it – even as the federal Government disincentives it.
Adding to labor market madness, federal policies that encourage people not to work are now pushing the private sector – which faces higher taxes, inflation, supply chain disruptions, and COVID restrictions – to push up wages. Private non-farm wages rose $0.20 in April, $0.13 in May, and $0.10 in June.
Sometimes common sense is needed. If the Federal Government continues to reward those who choose not to work with tax dollars from those working, and if the private sector is punished by competing with a federal government that pays people not to work, the corporate and individual tax bases both shrink.
Worse, under increasing pressure, more small businesses will go bankrupt – and more individuals will choose “easy street,” leaving their jobs for well-paid non-work. To those who say this will never happen, facts say otherwise: In June 2021, those leaving jobs voluntarily rose by 164,00 to 942,000.
Defenders of Biden giveaways for non-work offer several comebacks. First, they say the federal unemployment benefits will run out. Second, they say the Federal Reserve has studied it and thinks people will choose work over non-work. Third, they say only some get more money from non-work. Finally, they say many will not go back to work, even if benefits cease.
To this, one response – bunk. If federal unemployment benefits end, which they may not, other federal largess continues (i.e.. no rent, no eviction, debt relief). What the Fed thinks, often as not, is dead wrong; life teaches that people pick luxury overwork. If some get “more” from non-work, many get “same” – and pick that. Finally, arguing benefits must continue since people will not work – is lunacy.
Missing from this entire discussion is the pride, self-respect, a sense of purpose, productivity, can-do, day’s mission, outcome sought and achieved – the powerful, purposeful impact work has on our lives.
Sages for the ages have told us –, and we know from personal experience – that work is good for our soul, mind, heart, family, and society. Laziness – being paid for doing nothing – is corrosive. Wrote Thomas Edison, to whom we owe light by which we work, “There is no substitute for hard work.”
Wrote Ginger Rogers, light on her feet, “the only way to enjoy anything … is to earn it.” Wrote Stephen Hawking, who finally explained light, “Work gives you meaning and purpose … life is empty without it.”
In politically skewed times, giants of our recent past agree on work. Wrote Martin Luther King: “Whatever your life’s work is, do it well … A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.” Likewise, Ronald Reagan, who trusted America’s love of work – reminded us to value work, our self-respect, self-reliance.
On the humorous side, Reagan wrote: “Government’s view of the economy is … if it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it.” Biden is doing all three.
The contrary view is to trust yourself, love your work. Biden, Congress, and those subsidizing non-work should stop this government-funded madness, let the labor market – and Americans – work.
Returning to my youth, $40 dollar per week did not buy a lot, but it taught what it ought. I learned that hard work is a blessing, a privilege, a chance to excel, get ahead, and take pride in what you do. No amount of government spending, not a mountain of benefits, can replace what the human heart longs to feel – the satisfaction of a well-done job. Edison, Rogers, Hawking, King, and Reagan knew it. So do we all.