America is exceptional because of its foundational principles.
Rooted in a radical mission statement that protects property rights, promotes the rule of law, champions free market capitalism, and fosters equal opportunity, America is an anomaly.
It’s escaped authoritarianism and low standards of living that plagued civilization for so much of human history.
But the continued prosperity of America is not a given.
It’s dependent on a driven populace that values an honest day’s work and an entrepreneurial spirit that drives innovation.
Unfortunately, this lifeblood that fuels American prosperity is being compromised by government policies and regulations that disincentivize this innovation machine.
It all started with Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society—a set of domestic government spending programs aimed at eliminating poverty. A good intention to be sure, but an initiative that fell flat.
Poverty levels have remained relatively unchanged over the past five decades.
And with the lackluster results have come lasting negative repercussions, proving that government is not the solution—productive individuals are.
The initiative opened the floodgates for politicians to make large government spending programs the default for addressing any societal issue—breeding generations of politicians that are addicted to spending taxpayer dollars and instilling a reliance on the government.
At no time in U.S. history was this on bigger display than during the coronavirus pandemic.
Governments forced businesses to close—leaving entrepreneurs and their workers with no other choice but to accept government financial aid.
And once businesses reopened, enhanced unemployment benefits—which cost taxpayers some $800 billion—incentivized workers to stay home and form a habit of doing so.
In addition to inflated jobless benefits, the federal government also stood-up a generous monthly payment regimen for parents, paused the ability of rental property owners to hold tenants responsible for paying on time, and distributed multiple rounds of stimulus checks.
Although anyone in their right mind will take free money when offered, the environment it creates is not without consequence.
Substance and alcohol abuse issues soared.
Suicide and other mental health problems plagued America’s populous as government handouts replaced a purpose-filled life that a job typically provides.
And the government’s actions shook the economy to pieces. Notably triggering crippling labor shortages.
After government policies pushed 22 million Americans out of the labor force, it took more than two years to restore pre-pandemic job levels.
And to this day, some industries have yet to fully recover—notably restaurants that remain understaffed.
Beyond the pandemic blip, the ballooning welfare state has triggered concerning long term trends. For example, a smaller proportion of Americans are employed or actively searching for work now than at any time since the 1970s.
To get the country back on track, we need to restore the dignity of work in America. It provides purpose, meaning, and a sense of accomplishment in life that fuels the pursuit of happiness.
Providing a reasonable government safety net for Americans who fall on hard times is welcome and necessary. But we need to reform government-offered programs so they act as a temporary hand-up, rather than a prolonged hand-out that results in destructive dependency. It’s a plague that dampens creativity and destroys innovation.
In practice, that means, one, refraining from offering broad government giveaways. Two, tying work requirements to government assistance programs for able-bodied people.
And three, promoting trade and technical schools that provide skills-based education as viable paths to achieving the American Dream.
The three-pronged approach will accomplish much more than revitalizing America’s labor force. Restoring the dignity of work will spawn motivated individuals with high self-esteem, foster stable communities built on strong values, and cultivate a happy and civil society. This is the ultimate equalizer.
America works…well…because America works. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get back to it.