Business/Economy, Columnists, Featured, Jon Caldara, Politics

Caldara: Disincentivizing work a dangerous political game

Do you remember your first paid job? Even if you hated it at the time, you likely remember it fondly now.

I worked customer service at a bank and learned how to talk with people and meet deadlines.

I loaded trucks and learned the importance of teamwork; the guy holding the other end of the crate depends on you to hold up yours.

I worked as a stagehand and learned how to tell dirty jokes and that aching muscles don’t kill you. In fact, they make you feel like you accomplished something.

I worked as a check processor endlessly feeding bank checks into a machine, reading what amount people wrote on them, and tapping it into a ten-key. I learned dyslexics like me should never do that job.

Oh, and I made money to pay rent and buy groceries, but it’s funny how that part doesn’t stand out in my memories. The experiences, the people, the lessons do.

If someone back then handed me a wad of money for my rent and groceries I would have snatched it up. Living day-to-day, hand-to-mouth was scary.

But if I did take that hypothetical free cash, I would have missed out on all those experiences, the pride of earning my keep and all those lessons that made me who I am today.

I might not have learned that work, all honest work, is creation. And man was built to create, it feeds our very soul, and I say that as a non-religious man. Without work we are empty, listless and unhappy.

We are committing moral crimes today by both paying people not to work and denying work to those who want to but can’t because they refuse to have a newly developed vaccine shot into their flesh.

The fallout from the government-forced lockdowns and vaccine mandates is distorting the economy and personal incentives in ways that boggle the mind.

Employment rates are getting close to what they were pre-pandemic, but that statistic is misleading. A troubling amount of people have dropped out of the workforce altogether and are not looking to get back in.

You feel it everywhere you go. People just don’t want to work. And it was the government lockdowns and luscious unemployment benefits that wet their addictions. Like any good drug dealer knows, always give the first one away for free and you’ll make a customer for life.

I’m writing this at home. I can’t go into work because the school district closed all schools today, Friday, citing a “lack of staffing.” Interesting that this lack of labor comes the Friday after no-school Veterans Day, making a convenient four-day weekend.

Our kids again are being denied education due to perverse incentives forced by government.

In late October, Denver International Airport held a jobs fair for all levels of employment — baggage handler, to food service, to TSA. They planned for 5,000 people to show up. Only 100 did. One concession company had 38 positions to fill. Only two people even applied.

Amazon put out a TV ad to get people to apply with them. I thought it was a parody commercial from Saturday Night Live (really, YouTube it: “Amazon TV Commercial, You’re Hired”). It features people who plainly despise work listing demands for them to even consider it. “I can’t work early, or late… I can only work two days a week… it would be nice if you paid for my tuition, like all of it.”

Congratulations all. We have empowered the entitlement generation. Look to the UK in the 1970s to remember what it looked like.

Jared Polis and his crew of Faith Winter progressives must take a large part of the responsibility for this new addiction in Colorado. He could have ended the extra $300 a week unemployment benefit, but he didn’t. He could have led a real effort to stop the family leave initiative which goes into effect next year, heaping even more incentives not to work, but he didn’t.

Joe Biden and his crew of AOC progressives must take the largest responsibility for making it profitable to avoid work and making it shameful to work. In their mind, to work is to be exploited.

In mine, to work is to be empowered.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.

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