Call to rebuild America’s once proud and productive workforce

Sen Doug Whitsett

by Sen. Doug Whitsett

Labor Day is a national holiday that is set aside to commemorate the working public. It is a day dedicated to celebrating being gainfully employed. It is meant to honor the myriad attributes that “having a job” provides for individuals, families and communities.

The survival of this great nation is dependent upon a well-educated, talented, productive, innovative and dedicated workforce.  That dependency is two-fold. An employed, self-sufficient workforce contributes to a healthy and growing gross domestic product. For the past six years, our chronically unemployed workforce has subtracted from that productivity, resulting in the poorest post-recession growth in our nation’s history.

The growing number of people who are now reliant upon government entitlements is one of the greatest dangers to our economic future. The cost of those entitlements is now by far the largest expenditures in our national and state budgets. For instance, the combined budgets of the Oregon Department of Human Services and the Oregon Health Authority have more than doubled since 2007. Those budgets now stand at nearly $25 billion, equal to more than $3,000 per year for every man, woman and child residing in the state.

To be clear–I do not consider Medicare, Social Security and other retirement benefits, or the first 26 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits, to be entitlements. Those are generally benefits that have been “bought and paid for” through years of payroll deductions.

My concern is for the rapidly growing number of adults who are dropping out of the workforce. The percentage of employment-age adults who are not working is the highest in at least four decades. This is happening, even though literally tens of thousands of Oregon job opportunities are going unfilled.

To be sure, a significant number of people are unemployed because they cannot find work. Others are unprepared for the jobs that are available. Still, others have physical or mental impairments that make finding and holding a job difficult. Too many have addictions to alcohol, or to illegal drugs, that make them unemployable.

But tens of thousands Oregonians are not even attempting to be self-sufficient. They have chosen to make their survival reliant upon food stamps,  welfare,  Medicaid,  subsidized utility services,  public funded housing and myriad other government assistance programs. In fact, those assistance programs are so lucrative that many welfare recipients believe that they cannot afford to go to work.

Many of these Oregonians also receive philanthropic welfare from the private sector. They access additional food, utility supplements, housing aid, child care and myriad other assistance through the faith-based community, food banks and community action services.

Equally troubling is that our cultural expectations have shifted. Those who refuse to work for a living are accepted as a normal segment of our communities. Moreover, we are expected to feel obligated to provide them sustenance. Those that dissent are labelled heartless, bigots and even racist.

That culture of refusing to work has become both familial and generational. Children learn from their parents that working at a job is no longer necessary, desirable or even honorable. The result is a growing dependency on welfare entitlements that is rapidly bankrupting our nation.

That “government owes me a living” mentality is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. Historically, people who are employed have enjoyed the pride of performing useful labor and being self-sufficient. For instance, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King made these comments regarding the importance of working:

“Whatever your life’s work is, do it well.” “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity, and importance.” “It should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

Dr. King knew that parents, who work, are better able to carry their own weight, to provide for their families and to set an example for their children. Further, a good work ethic provides the opportunity to progress into better-paying positions and even into business ownership.

He also understood that parents who refuse to work are much more likely to abuse alcohol and illegal drugs. Moreover, they are several times more statistically probable to engage in domestic and child abuse.

Adults who are consistently employed are much more likely to pass on those family values, by teaching children to work and to be self-supporting. Whether self-employed or working for another, that pride in contributing to the community and of being self-sufficient can only come from a good work ethic.

Moreover, virtually all successful businesses are dependent upon the work performed by their employees. In fact, business efficiency, output and profitability are reliant upon the work ethic and productivity of their employees.

The world of business is a competitive enterprise. It is a symbiotic relationship, where both job creation and employee compensation are limited by business profitability. The salaries of valued employees are competitively driven higher as business profits improve. Employee retirement plans, medical insurance, sick leave and vacation pay are all dependent upon the synergism between a good business plan and productive, innovative employees.

The pride of ownership, and the pride of a job well-done, are mutually beneficial. That balance, between workforce development and business profitability, is the driving force behind American exceptionalism.

We should dedicate this, and all future Labor Days, to rebuilding America’s once proud and productive workforce. I believe that it is the only way to “restore” America.

Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls

  • Sol668

    In light of the generations of stagnate wages for workers, while we’ve seen those at the top of the economic pyramid reap larger and larger rewards, you’ll forgive me if I no longer see work as a path to prosperity

    The expectation of sneering elites like Doug Whitsett that the american public will work ever harder ever more productively for a shrinking piece of the pie is unrealistic.

    Naturally those on the right will seek to rip away the social safety net, to ensure desperation forces the public to accept this deeply unjust situation, laboring not for a better life for themselves, but instead for ever larger profits for a shrinking minority at the top.

    You want people to go to work, come up with a set of policies in which its once again seen as a rewarding enterprise….but of course you oppose the tax rates, unions and trade policies which in the past ensured that all Americans shared in the fruits of their labors

    • wfecht

      You and Mr Whitset are from the same cloth. both of you think the Gov (state and or Fed) can solve the unemployment issue. Central banking caused the current crisis and continues to follow policies that interfere with Free markets. the safety nets are an illusion. if you want a real safety net save it yourself and don’t depend on the government to provide it. As for the entitlements of Social Security Mr Whitset perhaps you should really take peek behind the door. the vault is empty it contains IOUs. Money borrowed by congress to buy votes. Those special Treasuries have to be purchased by the Fed in order to finance those programs when there is not enough income to pay the current retiree bill. Who provides the money? taxpayers. and by the way there is not enough income from SS and Medicare to fund those programs. Just in case you have not been following the news from the Social Security Administration.

      • sol668

        I rather think Mr Whitset would take issue with your statement that we are “cut from the same cloth”

        I do not believe there is a solution governmental or otherwise to the unemployment situation, the future is rather bleak for those of us not fortunate enough to be rich.

        Incidentally simply lifting the cap on SS contributions currently set at 100k and applying those payroll taxes to every source of income (ie capital gains) would ensure the programs solvency for at least the next century.

        But I don’t really feel like the right wants solutions, it wants us in the underclass to accept poverty servitude and inequity, and as Mr. Whitset makes clear, to accept it willingly and with gratitude towards out betters

        • guest

          sol668, you steam to be Marxiing in lockstep with precarious socialism. Mind you be reprimanded government does not solve problems, it is, in itself becoming a Michael moore machinational problem than ever. Sadly, you don’t seem to comprehend that!

      • guest

        OMG, what blithering synchro-nazi nuancy fallows from sol666 quips. Again the time worn reminder/remainder: “Those who forget the past are CON-DEM’d to ‘replete’ it.

  • Bluebaer22

    When have the Republicans ever attempted to rebuild the nations work force except in the service industries. The Republicans want the people to be subserviant to them and their rich donors. Under the Republicans our industries were rewarded for sending the maunfacturing jobs to foreign nations. This is the reason right now why the ecomony is so weak. We need good paying industiral and construction jobs in our nation! We don’t need to be sending the jobs to other countries to make the rich richer. The people of our nation need to be paid a living wage! That is something else the Republicans refuse to do! Doug Whitsett is another damned Republican fool!

    • CherryAnn1000

      And do you think John Kitzhaber has done a good job in encouraging private industry in our state? Methinks not.

      • Bluebaer22

        Governor Kitzhauber has done a pretty good job at keeping compamies in Oregon. Much better than any Republicans have done. If it were not for the obstructioniosm of the Republican Party we already would have had the tax incentives for sending work over seas recinded!

        • guest

          Awe, nuts sent from Brazil implantations, Bluebaer ‘cache’ 22.

  • CherryAnn1000

    Excellent article. And let’s call it what it really is–it’s not an “entitlement,” implying somehow you are owed this. Welfare bennies are a handout, nothing more. And until we see this handout mentality buried for good, we will continue to churn out worthless adults who take no responsibility for their actions or lives.

    • sol668

      So let them eat cake huh?

      or preferably just starve…..

      the fact is employment is a bi-product of capitalism, not its end goal…the fact is there will never be enough good paying jobs, under our current system…each year inequity only grows…but I don’t suppose you know what its like to work your ass off and still come up short at the end of the month

      now if you’re willing to labor ever harder every more productively to remain in poverty, well the GOP and every robber baron backing them certainly have a job for you!

      • guest

        Sew say you. Clemcanoodle ComradeTsar, buy folly!

  • HBguy

    It would be helpful if Mr. Whitsett would cite the source for his theories about the coarsening of American workers. Otherwise it seems like so much bar talk,
    Perhaps there are more people getting foodstamps because the minimum wage hasn’t kept up with inflation over the years.

    • sol668

      Dividing the underclass is the GOP’s only real hope, they win only with the narrowest of demographics, white males and married white females….as such the “welfare queen” who fritters the day away with no intent of bettering themselves is a wonderful lightening rod to foment resentment…and sure there are problably 1-2% of the population who won’t work under any circumstances, take away welfare they’d turn to crime…but that tiny minority in no way represents the majority of foodstamp and welfare recipients

      ooh and food stamp usage is in decline

      • guest

        Bull malarkey!

  • Bob Clark

    Margaret Thatcher once summed it up pretty well: The problem with socialism is eventually you run out of other people’s money.

    I would go significantly further: Tribal competition among nations and other tribe types doesn’t allow even a prosperous country to destroy its work ethic without losing in physical battle to its adversaries.

    Ultimately the strength of a country comes from its citizens excelling in making most of each of themselves. We as a community should strive to encourage and nudge our individual members to make the most of themselves through productive effort.

    We should not strive for equal outcomes because prosperity requires unequal outcomes to direct the flow of capital and human endeavor. This is how resources flow to what is working from that which is not working. Steve Jobs and Apple being a prime example of success attracting additional success.

    The old Soviet Union lacked this ability to allow for unequal outcomes, and as a result imploded. It took a few generations but the outcome is demonstrated over and over again by those adopting an ever relatively, enlarging welfare state.

    As Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) might say: “kid you got spunk. So, use it.”

    • sol668

      “prosperity” lol you mean inequity…what do I care if companies reap record profits year after year, while my wages stagnate?

      Sure unequal outcomes are a natural result of a capitalist society, but they can also be its undoing, plenty of nations have fallen due to the impoverished underclass finally having had enough…the french revolution comes to mind most directly

      • MrBill

        Unequal outcomes are also the result of different levels of effort, levels of training, people skills, physical and mental ability, and a million other variables. Nothing wrong with a little inequity.

        • Eric Blair

          Unequal outcomes is also, and I would say primarily, the result of unequal power. I think you see this no more evident than in the GOP’s desire to finally eradicate unionism.

          What happens when a little inequity becomes massive inequity?

          • guest

            Boo, desist uncommonrade!

          • MrBill

            Like what? Like you and I vs Bill Gates?

          • Eric Blair

            yeah, that’s exactly what I had in mind. Or, perhaps declining or stagnate real wages. Combine that with the fact that corporate profits are doing just fine, as is compensation for management. People can do the right thing all their lives, work hard, and never get ahead. The system is rigged against the little guy.

          • MrBill

            Once upon a time Bill Gates was the little guy. But he helped found Microsoft and suceeded spectacularly.

            People still get ahead. Maybe not as spectacularly as Bill Gates, but most people do finish ahead of where they started.

          • sol668

            But thats what INEQUITY means

            There are fewer and fewer people who through hard work good fortune timing and a host of other variables, achieve success. A population stratified between a large number of low wage earners and a few bill gates.

            So, do you take the whitsett view, inequity is the result of individual deficiencies in the personal characteristics which engender success.

            Or, do you take the view that there is a systemic issue to our society which makes such outcomes inevitable, the american dream out of reach for many who work harder more productively than ever..while even more have no meaningful opportunity for employment, and end up on welfare

          • Eric Blair

            Not anymore they don’t Bill.. or at least they now finish behind where their parents were. You don’t see a problem with stagnating or declining real wages? Don’t you see a problem if that trend continues?

            I think you’re too enamored with the trees to see the forest.

          • MrBill

            No doubt employment has been stagnant. But I still think the solution revolves around free enterprise and giving people as much freedom as possible to innovate, create, and make a better life for themselves.

            That we haven’t seen much of that in recent years is, in my opinion, the fault of a government that is increasingly trying to pick winners and losers, and generally restricting people’s ability to act freely in their own interests.

            Free markets and free enterprise are still the best means of distributing scarce resources that have alternative uses. The more we do that (and the less we try to control outcomes through gov’t agencies or policies), the more Bill Gates we’ll see. And the more people we’ll see who benefit from the wealth people like him create.

          • Eric Blair

            I’m not talking about employment, I’m talking about wages. Given record profits that many corporations are enjoying, why isn’t that money trickling down? The ratio of what CEO’s earn compared to their workers has been increasing in favor of CEO’s. That’s not a government problem, that is a greed problem.

          • Eric Blair

            Do you have some examples of how government is generally restricting people’s ability to act freely? I’m not quite sure what you are talking about.

            For every Bill Gates (and you seem stuck on him) there is Kenneth Lay. Bill Gates hasn’t always had a shiny halo either, and Microsoft is not necessarily benevolent. Now, or under Gates.

            Ask yourself this, how many innovators were stymied to maintain market share? I don’t think the problem is big government as much as it is big business… and the market is absolutely horrible when it comes policing big business… the market (and I hate talking about it as if it were a person) simply doesn’t care about justice, ethics, morality, or legality.

          • MrBill

            Dodd-Frank comes to mind. Here’s a good link to a WSJ editorial that demonstrates this.


            Instead of regulating financial markets Obamacare style, we’d be better off allowing financial institutions make the loans they deem prudent and not having GSE’s like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac taking them off their hands. Let the banks be responsible for the risks as well as the rewards.

            You wonder why I used Bill Gates as an example of a little guy who got ahead? No particular reason other than he’s a good example. I could have just as easily used Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Sam Walton, or any number of others.

            You mention Ken Lay. Do you recall what happened to him? He did some things he shouldn’t have and got caught. Allowing free markets isn’t anarchy. There are still rules to follow, and penalties for not following them.

          • 3H

            And those rules are called…..

            Deregulation is what allowed for the most recent financial collapse. And, laws were broken, but no one has gone to jail or even been held accountable. Catching the Ken Lays after the fact doesn’t go any good for the people who get ruined in the mean time.

            Focusing in on the Bill Gates, etc…, doesn’t do any good. That also doesn’t help the regular working folk that just wants to get by and provide for their family. The economic system is increasingly being gamed against them, and then they are blamed for not working hard enough.

            I agree, I’m not a fan of Dodd-Frank either. Let’s go back to Glass-Steagall. You think Dodd-Frank is bad? Lets go back a little further and blame the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act for the mess we got in to.

  • ChillerfromManiller

    I would work if I could get $15 an hour. Otherwise, I am just going to chill.

    • guest

      Con-Dem…howl about Chile mining out in that thar hernia-sphere. “`Lo, It might do a whorld of good to expecto-factor left wing soc-shillism foraging here, pilgrim.