A Non-Essential Economy

Politics

A Non-Essential Economy

If we’re honest, there are many people who do unnecessary work.

These flyers started appearing around town in the summer. They say, “We need school bus drivers!” They say, “We are desperately seeking school bus drivers!”

With the school year about to begin, it’s unlikely that they will fill these positions. We can only hope that they won’t. I have this vision of Ron Paul laughing maniacally as the Department of Education collapses because they can’t figure out how to shuttle your 17-year-old to their nearest daycare center.

Employers are struggling to fill low-wage or part-time positions. Covid’s aftermath has seen many businesses cut back or close down because of “labor shortages.” My wife and I went to see my parents on Tuesday. They offered to take our daughter out for dinner. Because they didn’t have enough staff, the first three places we tried were all closed. Dear reader, I am certain that you have experienced the exact same situation at least once within the past few months.

But, where is this “shortage?”?

At first glance the numbers are confusing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment has now returned to pre-Covid levels. The employment rate among teenaged workers is slightly higher than it was in February of 2020.

The problem is that the BLS statistics do not account for “missing worker”: people who aren’t employed or actively looking to find work. According to one government study, there are over two million missing workers in the United States today, though the real number is almost certainly higher. This means that one in 100 adults have decided not to take up a job. And it’s a safe bet that the majority of them are under 30.

Thus, there is a labor shortage.

Now, stop and think. We’re enjoying the worst economy since the 1970s. We may soon find ourselves enjoying the worst economy since the 1930s. You would expect to see young men standing on the side of the road with signs that say, “Will Work for Food.” Yet, the reverse has occurred. In reality, they are quitting their job and don’t want to look for new opportunities.

My colleague Micah Meadowcroft wrote about the rise in NEET culture last year. NEET is an acronym for “not engaged to in employment, education or training.” Young men and women are escaping wage slavery by becoming NEETs. These young men are happy to accept the fact that they will be living off their parents or the nanny state. Meadowcroft started his article with a quote from their battle song:

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Wagie wagie get in cagie. You sweat, ragie all day. NEET is comfortable. NEET is trendy. NEET does not require you to go to school or work. Wagie traps and wagie dies. NEET loves sauce and fries.

Among those not yet brave enough to go full NEET, we now have the phenomenon of “quiet quitting”. TikToker stated that “You’re not quitting your job outright, but you are quitting the desire to go above and beyond.” While you still perform your job duties, you’re not submitting to the hustle culture mentally that requires work to be our life

In my years working in food service and retail (on and off from 2013 to 2017), I never met anyone who believed that work had to be our life. No one was a doe-eyed loyalist who didn’t care if we received a memo at headquarters.

We knew the rules of how this game worked. If you wanted to get anywhere in the company, you had to at least pretend to be a company man. You worked two shifts on inventory day. You wore antlers and an elf cap at Christmas. And you smiled.

But, we weren’t concerned about promotions because none of our goals were to work in retail. In a few years, we all expected to be able to get a better job. We also knew that our “career progression” would be capped at the store manager. Everyone who made more than $50,000 was an outside hire with a business degree from Penn State. We spent our inventory day behind dumpsters. We sure didn’t have the antlers.

Despite that, I do not think NEETs or quiet-quitters have abandoned the idea of hard labor. There are three other worthy opponents.

First refers to the routine degrading of employees by their employers. They make your holidays miserable with the little costume suggestions they give you. Anyone who has worked in sales or as a waiter will tell you. If a customer starts chewing you out because there’s not enough parking or their coupons expired in 2003, you’re expected to grin and take the abuse. You have no dignity. You don’t have any rights.

Second is the fact that, for many young people, there’s little prospect of ever finding a decent job. About 20 percent of American workers are engaged in retail and hospitality. This doesn’t even include jobs such as driving Uber or walking dogs. These young professionals are often saddled with debt because they have a degree that isn’t useful. Their highest goal in life is to get purple underglow on their 2011 Honda Civic. Watch their faces glaze over when you ask them about purchasing a home. It might be a good idea to ask them about their tan.

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Third: The NEETers, quiet-quitters and the rest refuse to be excited about work they don’t like. This is the core of this whole mess. They don’t have to do their work, so it doesn’t really matter what they do. Their jobs don’t give them a sense of purpose because the jobs themselves are bullsh*t.

Think hard about it. A country experiences a shortage of labor when one-third of its able-bodied young men die in war, or become ill. Ours is not the case. Because workers decide not to work, we are the first society with a labor shortage.

It’s incredible that they can get away with this. It’s not slowing down. These slackers don’t live on the streets. Others are living in their parents’ houses. Some are living in a shared apartment with four welfare queens.

How can that be?

The answer is simple. We began to separate our countrymen into essential and non-essential workers during Covid. They’re now acting like they are no longer needed, having been officially declared ineligible.

Put it this way. When the Covid pandemic began in 2020, the government began ordering businesses to close. To help people get by, they increased welfare benefits and gave out Trump Bucks. In other words, they paid the pizza-delivery boy not to deliver pizzas.

Eventually, the lockdown orders started to ease up until they were lifted completely. The pizza guy is now asking, “Why should the government pay me to not do my job?” “If my work is not essential, why should it matter?” I don’t think we can give him a satisfactory answer.

I believe Andrew Yang to be the greatest politician in our age. Mr. Yang would give everyone in the country a universal basic income (UBI) of $12,000 a year to start. That’s more than a pizza boy who works 20 hours a week at $11 an hour. We don’t have to force him into a useless, low-paying job that is pointless and degrading.

Some believe that an UBI will discourage people from seeking out essential jobs. But police officers make around $55,000. Registered nurses make over $70,000 a year on average. Of course, they deserve better. But I don’t think R.N.s are going to take an 85 percent pay cut just so they can sit at home and watch TV.

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A UBI would render it difficult for us ever to solve the “labor crisis” in hospitality and retail. Is that a good thing? Is it possible for every American town to have three pizza shops, two burger places, and one Chinese restaurant? I mean, for most of our country’s history, few towns had even one pizza joint. Although it may be hard to believe, this is true. Yet, we survived. Not only did we survive, but also thrived. We invented jazz. The Nazis were defeated. We placed a man on Mars.

Maybe we have been seeing this in the wrong direction. Employers who can’t pay their workers a fair wage may not be able to afford business costs.

The problem isn’t “non-essential employees.” Our non-essential economic system is the problem. This is because many of us work when we don’t need it.

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To be precise, UBI is not something I support. I have a more radical vision: A society where every man is able to support his family through a job or making useful things. That’s opposed to the current system, where 99 percent of wealth is owned by men who perform evil tasks (like investment banking) and create evil things (like Facebook).

Regardless of what, there is no place for “non-essential” work in the United States. This is an historical anomaly that is rapidly disappearing from the planet. We can only find real work for these young men. They can be paid to do actual work like cabinetmaking or farming. They’ll choose to vote for people who don’t do any work.

True. We may be forced to choose one local pizza place. It is possible that we will have to order our pizzas ourselves. But I am confident in America’s intelligence and resilience. We’ll eventually find the way.

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