Among the many "Nita-isms" that frequently fly from my mouth is one paraphrased adage surrounding work and work ethics.
I've often heard the phrase of earning your way through life "by the sweat of your brow." I've also heard it said that you sometimes must "sing for your supper." Since sweat seems to offend many people and I've thought I might lose my hearing at some karaoke contests, I added to the latter by saying, "If you can't sing, get a job."
Our county is in a dilemma right now because people simply aren't looking for jobs. The jobs are there - but people aren't interested in working. Reasoning behind that is attributed to the enhanced unemployment, tax refund season and the recent government stimulus checks. While this is understandable to some point, it is sad to think that many Americans are content to remain in poverty or rely on government assistance for their income rather than seek and keep a job.
It is understandable that those working for minimum wage would rather draw their unemployment that exceeds what they would make on a job. The extensions of unemployment haven't inspired many to return to the workforce until their benefits are depleted. Tax refunds and stimulus money further complicates the inspiration for employment. A single parent with two or three children is far better off with the new government system of "free money" than they are trying to buy gas, pay for child care and go to work.
I've long said that our government encourages lack of motivation. Not everyone is fortunate enough or makes enough to invest in 401K. Those on Social Security only draw half of what they made working. Slashing the monthly household income in half makes a huge difference, regardless of the amount. Many older couples live with others because they are unable to meet the financial obligations in their "golden years" that don't look very bright. Young people profit more from government programs as single parents, thus discouraging the traditional marriage relationship. Someone with three children can draw hundreds of dollars in food stamps, money and medical benefits that quite often net more than the average working person can earn. Free medical care is definitely a consideration in those situations, as most employed persons have to pay their monthly premiums, a co-pay and a deductible. Low rent apartments, free food, free medical coverage, free Christmas supplies for children - free government benefits definitely have a factor in how our society views the fine line between poverty and prosperity.
While the stimulus packages that Americans have received have certainly benefitted many struggling families and individuals, the consistent outpouring of free money has had an adverse impact on our society. The shutdown and closure of many businesses was devastating, but it will be interesting to see how this extended unemployment and stimulus packages affect the nation's economy. Businesses across the country are begging for workers. First that effort was hampered by drug testing that barred many applicants from landing the available jobs. But as those requirements were lightened, our world was plagued by free government money that many fail to realize will either run out or will have to be paid back by the working people for generations to come.
Many businesses, for example, have raised their wages to entice new employees. That will inevitably result in increased prices - and after the shortages of building supplies, food deliveries and commerce in general during the pandemic - there will be another financial crisis among the lower paid working class. The lack of skilled workers such as electricians, plumbers, heat and air conditioning specialists will have a long-term effect on the economy as well when those high-tech mechanisms malfunction and there is no skilled workforce to repair or replace them. Food prices at restaurants will see increases to compensate for the higher wages paid to employ people to carry on the businesses. Without truck drivers, we will see food shortages and higher prices with shipping costs and deliveries of all supplies.
It is fortunate that there remains a few work-oriented people who carry on the economic status that has marked our country. But unless we change the attitude of many Americans, that - like the American Dream - will fade away into tradition and memory.
Our government needs to refocus on rewarding those who contribute productively to society rather than continuing the generational "government draw" regime that our nation has slipped into since government assistance became easily available in the 1970s.
Any successful musician will admit that the road to success was paved by hard work, starting small and moving to larger arenas and opportunities. They literally had to sing for their supper before achieving their goals. Perhaps if we more closely scrutinized the policies that our government is setting we would have more people willing to work rather than expecting another handout from a government that seemingly penalizes those who try and rewards those who don't. Because if you can't sing for your supper, you should probably get a job.
Nita Johnson is a staff writer at the Sentinel-Echo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.