Thursday, September 16, 2021

Is There Any Hope For The Great American Work Ethic?

We should cultivate in ourselves an ethic that sees work as part of a bigger picture rather than an end itself, and values work more highly because of it.
On Labor Day, a local ABC News affiliate in Alabama published the dejected headline “Jobless Americans have few options as benefits expire” with what we could only wish was a tongue-in-cheek photo of a giant, all-caps “NOW HIRING” sign. The post garnered deserved mockery on Twitter, pointing out that businesses desperate to hire workers offer a straightforward option to many jobless Americans.
Meanwhile, even corporate news outlets admitted that August’s jobs report, published Friday, was measly. Unemployment fell by only 0.2 percentage points, and the U.S. economy added a mere 235,000 jobs over the course of the month: small beans in an economy where you can’t drive down Main Street without seeing marquee boards peppered with “apply now” signs. Since June 2020, the labor force participation rate has sat between 61 and 62 percent, meaning a sizeable number of Americans aren’t even looking for work.
In the face of such a discouraging outlook, days after the country celebrated work by taking another day off, it’s worth giving a moment’s thought to the famed old American work ethic. Is it dead, or — as a Wall Street Journal op-ed asked in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns and inflationary handouts — “Is the American work ethic dying?” How should we as a country, or at least as caring individuals, cultivate it moving forward?
It’s been in vogue for a while now to critique the idea of an American culture of hard work. An American Dream that can be achieved in the face of circumstantial hardships doesn’t compute with the narrative of systemic economic oppression.
“The idea…has become more mythology than reality in a country with yawning income inequality and stagnating upward economic mobility,” wrote Bryce Covert for Longreads in 2019. The Atlantic blamed rich men for setting a tone of workaholism for the rest of the country, and used the conversation to conclude that America needs government health care.
With the American work ethic under barrage from both sides — philosophical criticism from the media and very practical discouragement from government handouts and bad jobs reports — what are those who want to keep the American Dream alive to do?
Read the resr of the story HERE

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