Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valuing or Devaluing Work

Give the Democrats credit for messaging. When they got the news that more and more people were quitting their jobs because Obamacare had provided them with affordable health insurance, the Democrats put a positive spin on it.

Roger Simon quotes the Reuters report:

Democrats sought to turn the latest controversy over Obamacare and the economy into a positive political message on Sunday by casting an expected decline in American work hours as a boon to worker freedom and family values.

In a new partisan tussle over election messaging that is likely to color this year’s congressional mid-term campaign, Democratic lawmakers said a predicted drop in work hours brought about by Obamacare would mean more family time for mothers, more study opportunities for college students and less job stress for older workers.

“The single mom, who’s raising three kids (and) has to keep a job because of healthcare, can now spend some time raising those kids. That’s a family value,” Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said on NBC’s Sunday program, “Meet the Press.”

He was responding to a fiscal report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Tuesday that said President Barack Obama’s healthcare law would bring about a drop in work hours equal to the loss of 2.5 million full-time workers over the next decade.

You might ask where the single Mom was going to find the money to pay her insurance premiums, but you would be missing the point. If she doesn’t work she qualifies for Medicaid, food stamps and other forms of government assistance.

The more important point is to note how unprincipled Democrats are. But, they are supporting their constituents, in this case the stay at home mother, living in poverty on government assistance. And, Democrats are very, very good at supporting their constituents.

One is slightly taken aback to see today’s Democrats, imbued as they are with the spirit of second-wave feminism, supporting women who choose not to work. Remember that Betty Friedan famously argued that women could only fulfill their true human potential by having careers.

That was yesterday; today is a time to marvel at the skill Democrats have shown in unprincipled messaging. It isn't bad messaging, either. How are you going to attack Schumer and company for defending stay-at-home mothers?

I am not, of course, accusing the Democrats of rank hypocrisy. They are doing what it takes to win elections. And they have had some considerable success at it.

Republicans, on the other hand, like to portray themselves as the party of principle. It’s well and good to be principled, but, keep in mind, being principled in all things is not necessarily the best way to fight a political opponent who is perfectly unprincipled.

Didn’t a recent presidential candidate say that it was like bringing a knife to a gunfight?

The two Bush administrations tried to be principled. They tried to be more genteel and to put themselves above the fray. They looked weak and ineffectual, absorbing far more blows than they were dishing out. Their strategy damaged the Republican Party.

Today’s young Republican politicians occasionally make stands on principle. They especially like to attack their fellow Republicans on principle. They diminish party unity for principle. They overcome party loyalty for principle. At times, some of them sound like they would  happily jump into an empty swimming pool, on principle.

If you start looking bad or foolish or ineffectual because you are following your principles, you are going to lose elections.

Principle doesn’t have a vote. Denouncing your opponents as unprincipled hypocrites never seems to work… because the public believes that all politicians are unprincipled hypocrites. When you resort to name-calling it looks as though you do not know how to develop an effective strategy to fight with people who are unprincipled.

Roger Simon offers a more cogent objection to the new Democratic defense of family values. He suggests that the Democrats are peddling an ethic that that devalues work in favor of sloth and thus that producees depression.

In his words:

If you undermine our ability to work, to be gainfully and fully employed, you undermine our self-respect, virtually no matter what our occupation. When our ability to contribute to society and to the welfare of our families is curtailed, we become depressed, sometimes unable to function or even be creative with that vaunted free time. The vast majority of us anyway.  People on the dole are almost always a depressed lot, sometimes terminally.

Over at Mother Jones, Kevin Drum also defends the psychological advantages that accrue to those who are gainfully employed. This means that commentators on both sides of the aisle can agree on the value of work:

Even people who hate their jobs take satisfaction in the knowledge that they're paying their way and providing for their families. People who lose their jobs usually report intense stress and feelings of inadequacy even if money per se isn't an imminent problem (perhaps because a spouse works, perhaps because they're drawing an unemployment check). Most people want to work, and most people also want to believe that their fellow citizens are working. It's part of the social contract. As corrosive as inequality can be, a sense of other people living off the dole can be equally corrosive.

It is worth noting, as Simon adds, that when countries coddle their people with cradle-to-grave government largesse rates of depression tend to rise.

He writes:

And America is already a depressed country, according to a study by researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, although not as depressed as France.  The French are well known world beaters in that regard.  And we all know the French work less and brag incessantly about their lengthy vacations.  Interestingly, the least depressed nation in the study is China where we also all know they work like beavers, sometimes to extraordinary hours. Go figure.

 Yet, the number that matters, the number that defines the Obama economic policy is the work force participation. Under the Obama economic policy the unemployment rate is dropping but the workforce participation rate has not budged. The lower unemployment rate reflects the fact that fewer and fewer people are even seeking work.

Is it because they see no tangible advantage to work or is because they have simply given up hope? Or else, Simon suggests, they are simply working off the books.

Simon says:

As with many things, I don’t think these liberals believe what they are saying.   They have to have a “War on Work,” because if work were good for you, they’d have to explain why the labor participation rate is at or near all-time lows.  Ninety plus million have given up even trying to find employment or, if my guess is correct, are working part time under the table and not reporting their income to the IRS,  who are too busy harassing conservatives to notice anyway.

We are moving toward an era like the old Soviet Union where the joke went: “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”  All power to the black market.

Well, it’s not that bad yet.  But we are coming to a crunch point where the American people are going to have to make a decision between the welfare state — and its attendant depression — and self-reliance — and its attendant self-respect.


Lastango said...

"But we are coming to a crunch point where the American people are going to have to make a decision between the welfare state — and its attendant depression — and self-reliance — and its attendant self-respect."


Mr. Simon is too polite. We WERE at a crunch point where the American people had to make a decision between (a) the hard work of keeping the Republic, and (b) national suicide.

The people, and their political and cultural leaders, chose suicide. So, confronted with the necessity of concealing the ugliness of our death throes, we elevated "messaging" to an art form.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...


They produced a big ball of yarns, so twisted and convoluted that not one of them know how to unwind it without breaking a few dreams, or the whole ball of hope.

n.n said...

I guess devaluing human life was insufficient to reduce the problem set. It's just a clump of cells. I believe in spontaneous conception. I want to believe.

So, they are intent to also devalue capital and labor. While money does indeed grow on trees, only a limited amount of wealth can be extracted.

Perhaps they don't know the source of wealth. People seem excited by the prospect of recycled... I mean, redistributed change, and the progressive corruption it sponsors.

I wonder how long before the latest bubble bursts.

Well, as redistribution unbacked by productivity causes corruption, so does self-esteem unbacked by achievement cause depression.