Politicians have always been eager to claim credit for job creation. But these days, they seem interested only in creating “good jobs.”
Take Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who says her $2 trillion government spending package would “create more than a million good jobs”; not to be outdone, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the Trump administration “has fulfilled its promise to create good jobs for American workers.”
This type of language shows how disconnected many modern politicos are from working-class Americans. These statements send a heartbreaking message, implying some people have “bad jobs.”
Entry level jobs aren't 'bad jobs'
Orwellian politicians rarely specify what they mean. Even so, we can assume that they are referring to often thankless jobs — cashiers at McDonald’s, janitors or almost any blue-collar job. The implication is that these jobs have no future or, worse, they are not worthy of a person’s effort.
Imagine how those who determinedly clean bathrooms feel when they hear our elected officials demean their work. Whenever I see someone cleaning a bathroom, I thank that person. I want the person to know the work is worthy and appreciated.
Not only are our politicians insulting millions of hardworking Americans, they often push policies that undermine jobs not deemed to be “good.” Increasing the minimum wage, a well-meaning move that hurts entry-level workers by locking them out of opportunities to gain valuable experience, is a major culprit. But there are others.
Politicians give subsidies to well-connected companies that create “good” jobs.
The website Good Jobs First identifies almost 400 megadeals, or subsidy awards with a total state and local cost of $50 million or more each. Governing magazine has articles dedicated to policies that create “good” jobs. One notes: “Indeed, there aren’t enough good jobs — even though we see plenty of work that needs to be done” — there are jobs, but not good ones, in other words.
Yet the poor schmucks who run companies that make the food, clean our yards or do many other services must pay higher taxes to subsidize those “good” jobs.
Most calls for good jobs are based on the view that certain jobs offer no future. A column in the Harvard Business Review claims that “society must offer promising employment opportunities for all its citizens.”
What the “good” jobs champions in politics and the academy cannot grasp is the inherent nobility in work itself. They haughtily believe that only certain jobs — the ones they find dignified — can be fulfilling to people. They also seemingly cannot grasp that all work experience can prepare a worker for the next step forward.
During my waitressing years, I quickly learned the pecking order. I started as counter girl. Next I was able to waitress in a modest restaurant. After a few years, I was qualified to work as a server in upscale establishments. Even back in the 1980s, I was bringing home $100 a night in tips.
Don't tell Americans to get 'good' jobs
The “good” job concept pushes Americans to go to college and into debt. It makes no sense for everyone to go college. Particularly when there are millions of jobs that do not — or should not — require college. Many go to college out of fear they won’t get a “good” job. It’s not socially acceptable to brag about children who are baristas, in retail or even in a trade.
It also may encourage businesses to require a college degree for positions that do not need liberal arts training. Requiring a college degree now puts the position in the “good” job category.
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Ironically, the “good” job concept is partly the reason some may not find upward mobility. After all, if someone believes his job is not worthy, why put in effort? As a manager, I saw entry-level employees who had little interest in their work. Consciously or not, these employees thought the job they were performing was deemed to be unimportant — not “good.” Those employees never moved up. They learned bad habits. They certainly would not get a good reference. The irony was that employees who performed entry-wage jobs as if they had no value ended up being in dead-end jobs.
We can show our politicians that we appreciate the work of every American. We can smile and genuinely thank the person who rings up our orders, cleans the bathrooms or delivers our stuff. Or we can just say thanks for the good job.
Frayda Levin is a member of the board of directors of Americans for Prosperity.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Politicians only seem interested in 'good jobs'