“Living at the center of an opioid crisis, and in the aftermath of a decades-long surge in the nation’s disability rolls, Hess had long perceived a resistance to work. He had seen it when he couldn’t find anyone to hire who could pass a drug test and had a driver’s license. Or when someone complained they couldn’t find work, and he knew fast-food restaurants were hiring. Or when he saw someone claiming a disability despite having what he thought was a mild condition. He would come away thinking he worked 60 hours a week — despite a thyroid condition, despite two bankruptcies, despite the depressed local economy — not because he felt like it but because that was who he was. And now here was another person who didn’t want to work.”
I find this sort of thought process problematic.
For background: I’ve worked more than my entire adult life. My first cash payment was for mowing a lawn. For my first summer job, I cleaned the neighborhood pool, a job I held before I had a worker’s permit. I got my first work permit as soon as I was able (15 ½, in California, a million years ago). I worked summer jobs, odd jobs, ¾ of full time most of my way through college. I’ve been unemployed twice, once long enough to collect unemployment insurance to make rent.
Jobs I’ve held include: pool cleaner, household worker, yard worker, cashier/stock boy, data entry clerk, driver/shop floor worker, slaughterhouse worker, food service line worker, food service manager, office dogbody, IT helpdesk worker, IT manager, systems administrator, telecommunications manager.
I have met thousands of people through the jobs that I’ve had. Very few of them actually were “happy” because of their jobs. The vast majority of them worked not because working gave their life value, but because working made the parts of their life that gave it value… possible.
I don’t claim that I started working because I had a strong work ethic. I didn’t. I started working because I had a $20/week comic book habit and my parents didn’t dole out an allowance for such things. I didn’t work because I had to do so to survive, I worked because I wanted things that cost money. Those were the good old days, eh?
There’s something to discuss here, sure. But I think you’re going down a difficult road when your approach to this conversation is anchored entirely on your own sense of how you interact with your job.
Particularly if you’ve hated every minute of it. Especially if you’ve always had to work to survive. This can reset your perceptions to where “hating every moment to survive” is a normal baseline expectation, to say the least.
Maybe “back in the day”, when you expected that your kids would do better than you would, “hating every moment to survive” becomes a workable model, because you’re investing your hope in your own next generation. “Noble self-sacrifice” can be a powerful reward on its own. When the kids these days aren’t expecting to do better than their parents (let alone their grandparents), “hating every moment to survive” seems like a particularly, spectacularly bad deal, though.
This isn’t supposed to be a piece about how Millennials are the worst (because they aren’t), so try to refrain from going down into those weeds in the comments, mmmkay? I don’t want my kids to have to hate every moment to survive, either.
This is also interesting:
“Nearly two-thirds of rural Americans say it’s more common for irresponsible people to receive government help they don’t deserve than for needy people to go without assistance, compared with 48 percent of city residents, according to a recent Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Rural Americans are also more apt to say poverty is the result of laziness.
“I’M JUST TIRED OF BEING RIPPED OFF BY PEOPLE!” another person said.”
A note to most of America: when you see your fellow Americans on assistance, they are probably not ripping you off. Not even remotely.
Your contribution to the tax base… very likely… is less than your aggregate benefit. We run a structural deficit. We’re not ripping each other off, if anything… we’re ripping off… the high-middle to middle-high earners out of the next generation, who *might* be my kids, but they probably won’t be, either, so you probably can’t even complain “you’re ripping off my kids”.
In any event, “ripping someone off” is a terrible way to look at this in the first place.
This is not only probably true, but particularly true for the rural states, however… just like it’s particularly true that inside every state… the urban areas subsidize the rural ones.
When it comes to most of America… in a very real sense you *are* on assistance. Indirect, but it’s there, under the hood.
If you work in farming, you almost certainly are subsidized by the Food Bill. Even if you produce “luxury” grade food… you’re indirectly subsidized because the vast number of farmers – your competition – are doing mass-produced food production, which means fewer competitors for your high end organic quinoa.
If you work in mining, you probably are subsidized by lower-than-market licenses for mineral extraction from the feds. If you ranch, you’re probably subsidized by lower grazing fees (cough Cliven Bundy cough). If you work in energy, you benefit by tax incentives to oil, gas, and coal companies. Those are subsidies.
If you do service work in any community where any of those are the common source of employment, you effectively get pass-through subsidies, because all of those folks can afford to pay more for your services because they’re paid partially by federal subsidies.
If you live in a rural community, you’re subsidized by lower rates on telecommunications, because bridging the digital divide was a big project of the last decade. Goods shipped to your local mom and pop shop (or Wal-Mart, if they’ve already come for your mom-and-pop shop) come on boats that operate on subsidized fuel, through ports that are subsidized by tax money, on rails that are subsidized, to a reasonably close distribution center that is subsidized through a sweetheart deal with a local county tax policy, on a truck that was subsidized by a program to increase owner-operators as they transitioned out of old jobs that were rendered obsolete, on roads that were subsidized… I could keep going.
None of this means urban America isn’t subsidized, too, because it is, so don’t get too high on your high horse, urban America, about how you’re paying the vig for the rural folks. Yes, we transfer a lot of money to the rural states.
But mostly we don’t want to live there and we still want them around, because we need them doing their thing for our cities to be around, so paying them is something we’d be doing directly if we weren’t subsidizing them, directly or indirectly. Or they wouldn’t be there… and we’d have food riots.
Urban American is subsidized by the fact that our food is cheaper for us because the rural folks get paid more for it by the feds, which reduces our direct cost – if they had to get paid market rates, they’d have to charge more to us just to break even. Also a bunch of the rural folks stay there to work, and don’t compete with us for wages.
We’re subsidized by cheaper gas, which comes from the crude that blue collar America probably got out of the ground. Our power is cheaper because they’re the ones that live with contaminated groundwater from fracking.
Again, you can do turtles all the way down, here. Are all of these *direct government* subsidies? No, but it’s pretty easy to draw your system boundaries where it’s convenient for your ideological preferences, so I suggest you stretch ’em a tad to consider that money exists to facilitate the exchange of goods and services, so when we take some from one area of the economy and move it to another, under taxation/spending, it’s not just the first dude that gets the check that benefits from economic activity.
There’s a reason economists default to not liking subsidies: they make all of this vastly more complicated than it would be if none of those subsidies existed in the first place. There’s so many market distortions in place that sorting out the actual true supply/demand price points is incredibly difficult.
But this is where we are.
If you don’t understand how the system works, in practice, or if you’re unrealistic about where your tax money is going in… you’re going to see a justice problem that frankly… probably isn’t there.