Quote of the Day:
At its core, the American dream is about the opportunity to earn happiness. This kind of happiness is only made possible for most Americans by the dignity of work. If we do not rediscover and embrace that simple truth soon, low-paid rootlessness will be the future of work, and our nation will suffer for it.
–Senator Marco Rubio in “America Needs to Restore the Value of Work” in The Atlantic
Senator Marco Rubio has written an important essay entitled “America Must Restore the Value of Work.”
It appears in The Atlantic, and it is well worth reading and pondering (good weekend reading!).
Rubio writes about his own family. His two immigrant parents, by dint of hard work, were able to give their children middle class childhoods.
Soberingly, Rubio says this would no longer be possible today:
When I was born, in the early 1970s, the median income for families like mine, with a few kids and parents with only high-school degrees, was nearly two and a half times the poverty line.
Today it’s less than one parent’s paycheck away from the poverty line. Simply put, if my family faced the exact same circumstances today, we would not be middle class; we would be falling behind. And if hardworking Americans don’t have stable jobs that pay enough to buy a home and raise a family, our nation is in very serious trouble.
According to Senator Rubio, the education system inculcates all the wrong values about work:
There is perhaps no greater cultural expression of what we consider dignified work than the priorities of our education system. We praise the achievement of a four-year-college degree, but look down on technical-skill certifications. We count ridiculous classes on pop culture as credits toward college degrees, but not wood shop. We subsidize high-end universities’ tuitions and endowments, but tax the paychecks of young workers gaining experience in the field.
Higher education has gone from being an accelerator of opportunity, as it was after World War II, to being a main driver of economic and social inequality today.
The status quo model of higher education stifles competition, encourages soaring tuition costs, traps competent potential workers in unproductive academic bureaucracies, and limits opportunities for nontraditional students, such as working parents. Families and students need a system that embraces the new ways people can learn and acquire skills without having to go the traditional four-year-college-degree track.
Rubio writes about specific policy prescriptions (some of which he himself has put forward).
But the meat of the essay is a recognition that we no longer value work as we once did, and that this is devastating to American families.
In a nutshell:
The “dignity of work” is both a recognition of how hard it is to achieve the American dream, and the reward for getting there.
I urge you to read this essay.
Given increasing attempts to make more and more families dependent on government, it is a good place to start a much-needed conversation.