Two good columns today on an undercurrent of fear that the American dream is slipping away.
Noonan writes on the value of work, and its integral place in the American character. She writes that concerns over work and unemployment numbers are about more than some Gradgrindian obsession with statistics and fancy charts. Work has a spiritual component:
A job isn’t only a means to a paycheck, it’s more. “To work is the pray,” the old priests used to say. God made us as many things, including as workers. When you work you serve and take part. To work is to be integrated into the daily life of the nation. There is pride and satisfaction in doing work well, in working with others and learning a discipline or a craft or an art. To work is to grow and to find out who you are.
In return for performing your duties, whatever they are, you receive money that you can use freely and in accordance with your highest desire. A job allows you the satisfaction of supporting yourself or your family, or starting a family. Work allows you to renew your life, which is part of the renewing of civilization.
Work gives us purpose, stability, integration, shared mission. And so to be unable to work—unable to find or hold a job—is a kind of catastrophe for a human being.
The Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability talked about this when we convinced the Department of Social Services to cancel a contract it had which would have encouraged Missourians to apply for disability who might otherwise be able to work. A life without work – or a sense of mission – is not a full life.
Bill McClellan gives a particular example from St. Louis in his own column today. McClellan tells the story of Tom Nutter, a 67 year-old attorney in St. Louis, who, despite experience, education, and a willingness to work, can’t find a suitable job – and has moved into a small house just about a mile from where he grew up – where he benefitted from a stay-at-home mother because his non-college educated father was able to support a family of six kids and put them through private school.
In his typical style, McClellan just tells his story. Noonan asks for hope – real hope this time:
What is needed now is a political leader on fire about all the possibilities, not one who tries to sound optimistic because polls show optimism is popular but someone with real passion about the idea of new businesses, new inventions, growth, productivity, breakthroughs and jobs, jobs, jobs. Someone in love with the romance of the marketplace. We’ve lost that feeling among our political leaders, who mostly walk around looking like they have headaches. But American genius is still there, in our garages. It’s been there since before Ben Franklin and the key and the kite and the bolt of lightning.
I’m with Peggy. The American people don’t have “hope” that bigger government is going to swoop in and save the day. And, to be clear, neither do they believe that government should just let the Wall Street financiers continue to wreak havoc on the economy with no restraint and no consequence. Noonan’s is a hope based on actual productivity – the building of real businesses.
There are a number of different policies to encourage this: we could start by dramatically reducing our federal corporate income tax rate – which is the highest in the entire developed world. It would continue with tax reform led by Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich) which removes special interest tax breaks from our tax code and reduces the tax burden on small businesses. There are other, of course, but those will wait for another day…