Welfare over work: too close to the precipice

Sen Doug Whitsett

Sen. Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls)

Gail and I hope that everyone enjoyed a pleasant and safe Labor Day weekend. The national holiday was created to celebrate the social and economic achievements of America’s workforce.

It is the ability and the dedication of the American worker that has propelled the United States to the status of a super-nation. In fact, it is largely the skill and the productivity of American labor that causes our entire free market system to function and thrive.

Ask any candid businessman, and he or she will tell you that it is the work of their employees that ultimately makes or breaks the company. They understand that no business can flourish and grow, without the productivity of well educated, trained and dedicate employees.

Labor Day also celebrates the security of having a family wage job.

Most adult Americans measure their success by a defined set of standards. First and foremost, they must be able to provide for themselves and for their families. They want to be well trained and be able to perform a job that they view as socially and economically useful. They need to feel that their work adds value to the community. Not least, they want to experience the pride that comes with their ability to be accountable for providing for their own sustenance.

The accumulation of material things can be exciting and gratifying. Most people do enjoy their nice homes and autos, their toys and the social status that comes with having them. But it is ultimately the ability to be self-sustaining, and to provide useful social and economic input to society that drives personal satisfaction.

In my opinion, much of the malaise and discontent suffered by so many American families today is caused by their inability, or their unwillingness, to find and maintain meaningful employment.

Nearly twelve million working-age Americans have no job at all. Almost that many more are working less than full-time. The number of people in the American workforce that currently have a job, of any kind, is at the lowest percentage in over half a century.

Our public education system has failed to prepare our younger generation for the workforce. A near consensus of business entities agree that most high school and college graduates alike have not learned the skills necessary for productive employment. Their most common criticisms include the lack of a positive work ethic, the inability to think critically and the need for better problem solving skills as well as deficiencies in writing and communication competence.

Moreover, state and federal labor laws generally forbid paying entry-level wages to inexperienced potential employees. Many businesses simply cannot afford to pay regular wages to employees while also training them to work. For this reason, many potential employers avoid hiring the younger unskilled and inexperienced workers.

Unfortunately, it is no accident that these young people, that should be starting useful and fulfilling careers, suffer the highest rates of unemployment since the Great Depression. Too many members of the current generation may never experience the pride and pleasure of performing a job well done, a job that provides them with the ability to be both self-sustaining and a contributing member of their communities.

Instead of participating in useful employment, we have more people living on food stamps than at any other time in our nation’s history. The number of Americans drawing disability benefits has more than doubled during the past five years. In fact, nearly 50 percent of the families, in our entire population, receive one or more monthly benefit checks from our governments.

Too many citizens, that are capable of working, see little value in having a job. They look at all of the other folks, who are getting by nicely on government benefits, and wonder why they should work and pay taxes, when others are getting a free ride. The fact of the matter is that many folks, who do not work today, receive more cash and other government benefits than they would if they held a useful job.

Our nation as we know it, and the free market economy that created our world economic dominance, will cease to exist when the majority of our labor force no longer sees value in having a job. From my perspective, our current workforce situation is too close to that precipice for comfort.