In the U.S. we have created a “pay as you go” society. Every individual is supposed to “earn” enough money to pay his “bills” in support of his existence. Obviously we don’t extend this requirement to children or people with severe disabilities but able-bodied adults all have this requirement. (Anybody who is a child or is severely disabled must have a sponsor who earns enough to pay their way, though.) The conundrum is that if “pay as you go” is to be the basis for our society, everyone should earn their continuing existence, that is everyone should have a job. To deny anyone a job is to condemn them to a shadow existence or even death.
So, the conservative outlook should be embracing requiring folks to pay their own way through work but conservatives do not; they instead simply claim that people unable to find work possess a moral failing and tsk, tsk “those people.”
This is in sharp contrast with my upbringing. My parents (both Republicans) had each of their three children doing “chores” from quite an early age: school work had the highest priority, but household chores were not far behind. As a small child I had responsibility for assisting with the dinner table set up or break down (the dreaded “doing the dishes” but later cooking, too), which was expanded to include mowing the lawn and weeding the gardens, and while in high school I cleaned the common areas of the house (vacuuming and dusting, etc.) weekly in addition to keeping my own room clean and all of the rest. It was made clear that I had to contribute to the total effort of supporting the family.
Upon graduation from college I was gainfully employed for 35 years. Others are not as lucky. Through accidents of circumstances (such as poverty, lack of parental support, etc.) and mistakes such as failing to take their educations seriously or other big mistakes, their employment skill sets are such that they have fewer employment opportunities than others have. This is exasperated by the fact that our society is not post-racial in that hiring studies show that our black and brown citizens are hired less frequently, even with the same or even better qualifications than white applicants. And sometimes it is just crushing indifference in the system. An older worker loses his job in an economic downturn and then no one wants to hire them because they’d rather invest training in a younger employee who could serve them longer. The ultimate insult is to not be hired because you have been “out of work too long,” a logical position hard to support. Would not such a person be desperate for a job, be inclined to keep their head down for fear of losing their job, be loyal to the employer who gave them a second chance? Surely our experience with the Great Depression proved that. As just one example, my best friend’s father, having lived through the Great Depression, worked for forty years in a job he did not like because he had the attitude that having a job was a good thing. He did not take a single sick day in those forty years. Now he might be criticized for not looking around for a better job but he cannot be criticized for not doing the one he had.
So, conservatives are in the incredibly shaky moral position of wanting a “pay as you go system” but also in favor of large numbers of people being out of work so they cannot pay their bills. Would it not be a better conservative position to provide labor for these folks through useful public works? Surely our roads and bridges need a great deal of repair and I don’t see any corporations stepping up to volunteer to fix them for free. There is a great deal of work needed doing and would not all of us be better off if all were gainfully employed and paying taxes rather than stressing the abilities of charities and governmental safety nets?
Conservatives answer “no” to that because that is “socialism” which is just name calling. They don’t go further and explain why that is “bad,” it just is. What if we were to call it “workism” or maybe “pay as you go-ism” or “responsible work-ism?” or maybe “no freeloading-ism?” Would that help? Would it, conservatives?