America in Blue Suede Shoes: Obama vs. the Work Ethic

Our strange government is at it again:

It began when the head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the interplay of taxes and subsidies in the law “creates a disincentive for people to work.” The report predicted the mix would lead to fewer hours worked, costing the equivalent of nearly 2.5 million jobs.

In response, President Obama’s spokesman pleaded guilty — with pride and pleasure.

“Opportunity created by affordable, quality health insurance allows families in America to make a decision about how they will work, or if they will work,” Jay Carney said. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi applauded the law for freeing people from “job-lock.”

Traditionally in this country the idea is that people come here, work hard and get ahead.  (One group didn’t come here for that reason, as we saw recently.)  Also traditional in this country is health care coverage tied to work.  There’s no doubt that many continue to work to keep their coverage.  Both of these are going out the window.  One end result wrought by Obamacare is that people have the option of leaving the work force and continuing to have health coverage, presumably by lowering their income to the point where they go on Medicaid.

This is another hippie dream come true for this administration.  That hippie dream is best expressed, IMHO, by Kevin Ayers’ “Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes”:

That was the message of the 1960’s: we worked too hard.  We forgot about it in the 1980’s, but it’s back with a vengeance.

Darwinian as it may sound (yes, I’ll use that term) running down the American work ethic is going to have some unpleasant consequences.  The most serious of those are our inability to either keep up our standard of living (another hippie dream was to pitch that too) or to pay our debts, public and private.  Failure to do so, as many have found out the hard way during this economic downturn, will put the country in a “death cycle”, as too few productive people will be unable to carry the load.  Having that kind of conflict in a society is destabilising as well.

The usual response to this criticism is to point to Europe.  They have generous welfare systems and yet their people work, don’t they?  That’s the crux of the tug of war going on between the efficient Germans and everyone else to the south.  I’d remind Americans that the two greatest “mediterranean seas” are the original one that separates the EU from Africa and the Middle East and the Gulf of Mexico that separates the US from Latin America.  What’s happening around one can easily be repeated around the other if the circumstances are right (and we’re already seeing that by the expansion of the disability system).

As much as we’d all like life to be sweeter, hippie dreams have a way of crashing after the party’s over and the bongs are gone, and that’s where we’re headed.

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