Working Hard or….

There is nothing much more satisfying than falling into a nice comfortable recliner after coming home from a hard day’s work.  Sleep often comes best after an exhausting day, but even then, no one wants to spend every day sweating out eight or more gruelling hours.  There is a saying that gets bandied around a lot in the work place: “Work smarter, not harder.”  This implies that by using one’s brain and thinking through a problem, one might be able to expend less energy in accomplishing one’s task.  It sounds logical and laudable.  However, in an appearance on Huckabee, Dirty Jobs host Michael Rowe suggested that one problem in society is that no one is willing to work harder; that everyone is too busy trying to figure out ways to get out of hard work.  He suggests that society has deemed hard work as something to be avoided at all costs.  He is both right and wrong in this assertion, and part of the problem has nothing to do with the jobs at hand.  It has to do with the way we value the labor in question.

Doing the jobs no one else wants or will do is one of the loudest arguments for amnesty for illegal immigrants.   The flaw in that logic is that we end up rewarding criminals for doing undesirable jobs.  What we should be doing is altering the public perception of those jobs.  The perception that a specific job is “beneath” a person is an old one, rooted in the class hierarchy, but young people today seem to think most jobs are beneath them.  This is really what is driving our unstable economy and driving inflation.

So many young people are entering the workplace these days expecting to get the six-figure salary and corner office right out of college.  No one is just starting out expecting to work their way up anymore.  Once was a time when young people (boys mostly) would apprentice with a professional (often a father or family member) to learn the business from the ground up.  These people would start by doing menial labor until they were ready to take on more responsibility.  This process would take years, decades even, before the apprentice was considered a craftsman and even longer before he could claim to be a master of the craft.

wageToday, no one stays at a job for more than two to five years anymore, before moving on to a higher paying job elsewhere.  This practice artificially inflates their salary and leads to higher labor costs which in turn leads to higher consumer costs.  Now the pure capitalists will say that if a person is successful in elevating his earning potential by jumping from job to job in this fashion, then the market is driving the salary and that is what he is worth.  Fine, I can concede that point in a purely free market system.  But the deliterious effects are still the same.

Another problem is that in job jumping, there is no loyalty built up between the worker and the manager.  Management comes to see the worker as a faceless commodity and the worker sees the job as a stepping stone.  There is no relationship built and that can hurt both parties in the long run. Once upon a time, a person was hired by a company young and they grew up and grew in seniority, rank and salary in that same company until they retired and were given a gold watch as a send off.  People knew their coworkers names and everyone attended retirement parties, because they were like a family.  No one wants to stick around anymore, leaving companies as nameless, faceless entities with revolving door staffing.

It also means that no one wants to start out at the bottom.  When I was young, I got a job at 15 years old as a buss boy in Bud’s Cafeteria in Humble, Texas.  It was dirty work and not at all a fun way to spend one’s summer.  That was the first of many such jobs at fast-food restaurants I would endure for my high school years.  I never thought I was “better” than that at the time.  It was expected that a young man of 16 should get a part time job to fill his days during the summer.  It was one way of keeping him (me) out of trouble, but it was also–more importantly–a way of teaching him (me) a work ethic.  Of course, most of my work ethic was drilled into me during my 9 years in the employ of my Uncle Sam; an apprenticeship that taught me many things I still use to this day.The problem as I see it is that young people are being coddled by their parents and even by society; telling them that they are too special for menial labor.  There is still a need for people to dig ditches, to sweep streets, to pick up trash and any number of other so-called “blue collar” manual labor jobs.  No one wants these jobs because people think the jobs are not worthy of the effort.  This is not true.  These job need to be done, and what better person to do them than a young person needing to learn the value of a hard day’s work?

Ted Cruz, the presumptive candidate for the republican nomination for president in 2016, spoke at a breakfast for a real estate conference and said that he noticed that there were no hispanic pan-handlers.  His point was that hispanics are willing to do almost any work to earn money to take care of their needs.  I concur, for the most part. While I have seen at least one hispanic pan-handler, most hispanics who do not have a regular job are gathered at specific spots around town looking for day labor.  This feeds the liberal view that illegal aliens are willing to do jobs that citizens are unwilling to do.

While this idea gains approval from liberals who think their kids are too good for the jobs, it goes to show that there are jobs to be had if only people would accept them.  Fast food jobs abound.  These are entry level, low skill, manual labor jobs that are perfect for high school students trying to learn a work ethic.  These jobs are not career builders and should not be viewed as a means to self-sufficiency.  No one could ever expect to support a family on minimum wage burger flipping at a fast food establishment.  Those jobs are supposed to be part time.  It keeps high school kids employed and keeps the menu prices low.  Washington is trying to raise the minimum wage to more than $15 an hour.  This will only serve to either put fast food restaurants and small businesses out of business or at best, raise the price of goods and services to a cost prohibitive level.   On August 28th, many fast food workers across the country participated in an organized, non-union strike for higher wages.  During the news coverage, it was reported that Texas has the largest percentage of low-pay fast food jobs in the country.  These workers evidently take exception to being paid low wages.  The part that they seem to forget is that they agreed to those wages when they were hired.

The wage for a low-skill, manual labor job has to be low in comparison to other jobs.  A burger flipper cannot be paid the same was as an office manager.  It just doesn’t make sense.  To increase these wages would inflate the cost of goods and services across the entire economy.  A big mac could easily cost ten dollars or more.  At those prices, people would stop patronizing those businesses and they would go bankrupt, all because workers think the lowest job should be paid enough to support a family.  The minimum wage is not supposed to be a “living wage.”  It is supposed to help young people learn job skills at an entry level part time job while going to school.  They can even continue to work while going to college to learn the careers that can pay enough to support a family.

Not every person is cut out for college.  Not every person has the talents to be the next CEO or hedge fund manager.  There are some people who are uniquely predisposed to flipping burgers or digging ditches and would find the challenge of any more complicated job too great.  I know these people.  I’ve met them.  I’ve taught some of them.  Liberals tend to think every person should go to college.  Imagine the world if everyone had a college education!  To the liberal, this would be utopia, since everyone would then be indoctrinated with the liberal mindset and think like they do.  This doesn’t work however, because some people just can’t handle college.  Or thinking for that matter.
We need to understand that some people will always have to do the menial work, the hard work-a-day labor, the blue collar stuff that young people now think is beneath them.  It shouldn’t be illegal aliens (yes, I went there and said that–it’s what they are), it should be high school kids trying to develop a work ethic that will lead to a career that they can hold onto for more than two years.  Perhaps they can even work at one job long enough to earn a gold watch someday.  This could be a job where they bosses actually remember the names of their employees because they stayed around long enough and worked hard enough to be memorable.  Unfortunately while people know hard work should be valued, they seem to think it should be valued by someone else.

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