Gut Check: Rung Out to Dry

We've got problems. Serious ones. We've heard enough about rates of single parenthood among whites and blacks. For most of us, this is not news. The residue from the feel-good 1970s was more toxic than realized. What we once saw as a delightful toy is now a choking hazard.

While high-status whites could weather any or all decisions, minorities who appropriated the same lifestyle choices aren't so lucky. Only Candice Bergen can be Murphy Brown. But like I said, most of us saw this coming. It's not news; it's just sad.

I’ve been thinking about the latest job figures for black teens, which are tragic: four in ten are not working.

For people who struggle at math, that’s like 40 out of 100. Or 400 out of 1,000. I could go on, because I am drunk.

This is a statistic that shakes the brain, and it reflects a problem that cannot be fixed by government programs that allowed such problems to fester in the first place. 

This is a question that never needed to be asked but must be asked now: if you can get by without working, why work at all?

It is a question rich layabouts would ask themselves sunning on their daddy's yacht, sipping blender drinks and pawing eastern European pole dancers. But now just about anyone, of any color or stripe, with access to unemployment benefits, welfare, or food stamps can ask themselves that question too.

Decades ago, work wasn't about survival, but about pride and principle. Without work—whether it be inside or outside the home, in an office, or the backyard—life had no meaning. We often mistake the hollowness from lack of constructive activity for boredom. That’s a crock; it's just our soul wanting to fill up that bucket of whatever we love to fill every day. It's why so many men croak after they retire. When you're no longer filling up that hole, you end up in one, under a gravestone and freshly-picked flowers.

Our view of work has changed, and it cannot be solely blamed on political charlatans and race baiters who seek to cement careers through corruption. But the Sharptons of the world certainly don't help. The idea that they care is a hoax of Brawley proportions. 

The fundamental cause of our dying society is our steady elimination of the financial and spiritual necessity for work of any kind.

I am not referring to the middle aged witnessing their industries fade before their eyes. They know why work matters, and their souls are crushed. I speak of new generations who have never heard the phrase "work ethic" in their lives.

As one generation of moms and dads abandons its only real job (parenting) for the more immediate gratifications of disposable culture (white and black, everyone is guilty), its offspring haven't fared any better. They’re just smaller versions of bigger things that didn’t work.

But they aren't even the real culprits. I blame those who denigrate minimum-wage work, as they seek to destroy that one entry point to the workplace, open to all.

The message to teenagers and recently-arrived immigrants is destructive—that hard, tedious work just isn't worth it. Ultimately it’s better to hang out at McDonald's than to work at one. Even if that employee waiting on you, on that lowest rung of the ladder, is just like you—but saving for his future. And learning how to work.

That's the point: you must learn how to work. It just doesn't come naturally. Getting up early. Looking presentable. Showing up on time. Taking guff from customers. Feeling satisfaction from repetition. Slipping on that special sauce, but still getting back up again. This must be learned, but it is learnable, fairly quickly. We gave up this instruction, because we think it's too much to expect.

I argued against doubling the minimum wage recently on The Five and was taken to task for it by The Daily Show.

John Oliver lurks in the same media tank that I do: a place where you can happily tell people how to run a business, without ever having to run one of your own.

That's the joy of deciding how much someone should get paid—the cash is not coming from your bank account—but from some old white jerk who runs Arby's or KFC.

And after you decide that it's cool to double the wages of others, you can move on, never having to observe the consequences of your feel-good, do-bad ideas.

If Oliver got fired tomorrow, what skills would he have? Roughly the same as mine, but at least I'd be honest about it. I’m incapable of real work. The hardest things I push are words.

But there are consequences to this “livable wage” crusade—two of them actually:

  • The concept of a living wage (which is essentially dramatically increasing the minimum wage) will create entry-level workers who never move up or off that first rung. Why bother moving up if the wage moves up for you? There ends up being less available rungs for new workers, in the long run, if a 28-year old mom won't move to make room for her 16-year old sister.
  • We create a brutal assessment of menial or service work—that it is so awful for your soul, you are better not working, period. I guess the only way a liberal can live with the idea of such work in their world is to reward these poor souls with cash and punish their evil bosses. (Remember, most lefties have no idea where things like oil and hamburgers come from, so they see no consequences to changing the process involved in making stuff).

And God, that is wrong. The only way to enjoy the higher rungs of the ladder is to have climbed those lower ones first, as a teen, a college kid, or new "resident" to this country. Not only do you feel the pride of achievement through the upward climb, but at the top you can look down at everyone else and say, in an annoyed voice "You know, when I was your age..."

I wonder if we’ve created a generation of kids who are now incapable of saying that—not because they never got paid minimum wage, but because they never applied for the job. And that’s because idiots and comedians told them the first rung was beneath them.


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