If you are conservative, you believe that this nation is the greatest country in the world, largely because its citizens have an unbeatable work ethic and strive feverishly to achieve the American Dream.
Also, you believe that Americans are lazy bastards who must be whipped unceasingly just to get them off the damn couch.
And there is nothing contradictory about that. Nope.
In any case, you have no doubt heard about the worker shortage afflicting American businesses. As the country lurches out of the latest recession to occur under a Republican president, companies across the nation have had trouble filling vacant positions.
According to conservatives, this is because the federal government has made unemployment so majorly awesome. As many economists have pointed out, however, there is little evidence that “generous” unemployment benefits are causing American workers to sit around getting high all day rather than look for work.
There is, however, ample evidence that the continuing issues of the pandemic—childcare coverage, lingering health issues, and so on—have combined with a worker awakening that is long overdue. Many people are just now starting to ask why they have to toil in a shit job for shit pay, all because it’s the American Way.
For generations, Americans have been told that it’s patriotic to sacrifice their health, wallow in misery, and struggle to pay their bills, because at least then they were “free” from big government. Well, the reward for this faith in unbridled capitalism is historically low wages that have grown slowly “for decades for every income group other than the affluent.” In fact, as a share of gross domestic product, worker compensation “is lower than at any point in the second half of the 20th century.” But don’t worry, because corporate profits, “on the other hand, have been rising rapidly and now make up a larger share of GDP than in previous decades.”
So now that many workers have taken that age-old advice of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps — in this case, by holding out for better pay — we’re hearing that “nobody wants to work anymore” and that our society will crumble under the weight of freeloaders and miscreants. Clearly, we never wanted people to rise out of poverty, if it meant our Big Macs might cost a nickel more.
Perhaps “instead of blaming the worker for making a rational choice during an ongoing pandemic, maybe it’s time as a society to look at the jobs we are trying to create.”
Ha, no, we won’t be doing that. It’s a hell of a lot easier to just say Americans are indolent and then cut off their unemployment benefits, even if many economists believe this tactic will only backfire.
You see, conservatives are outraged that Americans don’t want to work for low wages, but this “is not a sign that something is wrong with the American economy.” Rather, it indicates that “corporate executives have grown so accustomed to a low-wage economy that many believe anything else is unnatural.”
However, it wasn’t always this way. For example, in the 1950s, about two-thirds of Americans “thought the government should guarantee a job to anyone who wanted one and provide a minimum standard of living in the country.” And a majority of white Americans in the 1950s “believed in an activist government in a way that is even more radical than today’s average liberal.”
So what changed?
Well, Republicans realized that nobody was going to vote for them if they were honest about their intentions (i.e., giving taxpayer money to corporations and millionaires). So they found a way to terrify white people into hating the government and clamoring for the so-called free market. This method, of course, was to convince white people that ethnic minorities were sponges who were getting government handouts, effectively stealing from the good, honest white people.
That shit worked.
By the late 1960s, white support for “big government guarantees for everybody cratered, went from nearly 70% to 35%, and it stayed low ever since.”
However, that may be changing. Recent polls gauge support for infrastructure improvements at 70% to 80%. About two-thirds of Americans want the government to support renewable energy with tax credits, and to increase taxes on corporations and big businesses.
As we all know, “Republican lawmakers oppose all of these popular measures.” But with statistics like these—and with American workers coming to a fledgling, flickering awareness of how they’ve been ripped off for decades—perhaps the era of the big scam is ending.
Maybe people will see that it’s OK to ask for a damn raise.
Featured image: “Income Inequality” by mSeattle is licensed under CC BY 2.0