Donald Trump says if he were president, he would force companies that outsourced jobs to bring them back to America. Bernie Sanders says he would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour to put more money into people’s pockets. Occupy Wall Street activist Harrison Schultz said we should all get free houses and he shouldn’t have to work a “menial” job as a dishwasher or a waiter.
All of them share a common viewpoint: Americans should be entitled to material benefits from somebody else. It’s time somebody told them there’s no such thing as a free lunch and no one deserves anything by virtue of his existence.
Sanders has done the best job attracting entitled student protesters, who hold glowingly favorable views (and uninformed definitions) of “socialism.” But it’s not just the young who are swept up in self-esteem mania. Fast-food workers protest with signs that read, “We are worth more,” and workers at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis were recently recorded booing as their company announced it would outsource 1,400 jobs to Mexico for reasons of competitiveness “in a price-conscious industry.”
The plant closing will take place in phases over a few years. Scattered comments could be heard over the din, and one worker shouted, “F— you.” Zero Hedge previewed the video with: “Watch below as 1,000 soon-to-be Donald Trump voters react to the announcement.”
But it is really Trump’s (or President Obama’s) responsibility? Is Trump running for CEO of Carrier? No, he’s running for president, and the president isn’t in charge of the business decisions of private companies.
It’s Not Government’s Job to Employ You
It’s never a happy thing to see people fired (although the Mexicans living in or around Monterrey might be happy about new job opportunities), but 20 million people are laid off or discharged per year. It’s a fact of life. Former NBC CEO (and current CNN president) Jeff Zucker said “Nobody is entitled to any job” when rumors of his eventual dismissal were circulating in 2010.
But many Americans and their elected officials assume government should do something to help find a job for us or take care of us in the event that we lose a job. Whether it is extending unemployment benefits indefinitely or threatening to slam 45 percent tariffs on imported products put together by people we don’t think deserve a job because they aren’t Americans, the idea is the same: Many want to try to use the government to solve an individual’s problems.
Economists and columnists have pointed out the practical problems with Trump’s and Sanders’ proposals. More than doubling the minimum wage would increase prices and make it harder for companies to hire. Jared Bernstein, who served as Vice President Joe Biden’s top economist, said it didn’t make sense to be implemented across the country. One-quarter of the employees at Carrier’s Indianapolis plant made $1 per hour less than Sanders’ proposed minimum wage. Increasing it could hasten job loss.
Increasing our tariffs astronomically would similarly raise prices on consumers and violate World Trade Organization rules and start a trade war. We live in a globalized world, and many products, like computers and smartphones of brands Trump likes to mention, have international supply chains. Most manufacturing job losses have been due to greater efficiency, not outsourcing. Ball State Professor Michael Hicks, quoted in an Indianapolis Star article about Carrier’s plant closing, said 90 percent of manufacturing job losses are due to productivity increases.
He also said the other 10 percent was due to outsourcing. It’s true that, while global trade is generally good for America’s economy and for the average American, some studies have shown that in the short term it can have negative impacts on some groups of Americans by displacing jobs.
Freedom Means Running Your Own Life
It’s not the government’s role to solve that problem. As Frederic Bastiat wrote in 1849, “Government is and ought to be nothing whatever but the united power of the people, organized, not to be an instrument of oppression and mutual plunder among citizens; but, on the contrary, to secure to every one his own, and to cause justice and security to reign.” A government’s principal role from a moral and just standpoint is to protect the rights of its citizens to live their lives in a free state. What we do with that freedom is up to us.
Mike Rowe, host of “Somebody’s Got to Do It,” wrote about getting fired from QVC and rejected by hundreds of gigs, noting that successes and failures are part of life:
From 1984 to 1990, I auditioned for at least 500 jobs. I booked less than a dozen. That’s one ‘yes’ for every fifty ‘no’s.’ In 1993, after losing my steady job at QVC, (deservedly,) I returned to the freelance life. For the next eight years, I lived in New York and Hollywood, and auditioned for no less than two thousand gigs. I booked roughly three-hundred of those. In other words, I did very well. But along the way, I was rejected two or three times a week. That’s every week, for the better part of a decade. That’s a lot of rejection.
Like Occupy’s Schultz and many recent college grads, Rowe missed out on a dream job earlier in his career: “The Daily Show.” After doing two rounds of auditions in two years, he was passed over both times—first for Craig Kilborn, then for Jon Stewart. But he wrote in 2015, “Reading it [the second rejection letter] today though, I can’t believe how lucky I was to have been rejected. It was a critical step in a long series of failures that got me to the sewer, where my redemption awaited, and a new level of job satisfaction that I frankly, never imagined.”
When Rowe was fired, he didn’t ask government to step in and give him “his job” back. He didn’t have the president promising he wouldn’t face competition from Jon Stewart at auditions. Competition is the hallmark of capitalism.
There will be struggles in life. Maybe you might even think it is unfair at times. Life is not a cakewalk. But we must work hard to overcome adversity. Throughout history humans have shown exceptional fortitude to survive and prosper in circumstances much tougher than having to change jobs and move. People can and do find new jobs every day. It’s a mark of bad character to demand the fruits of other people’s labor rather than fulfilling your responsibility to support yourself.
You Can Get Yourself Employed
Since at least 2012, new jobs have been created each month at a rate surpassing job separations. In December 2015, there were over 60,000 new job openings in both the construction and nondurable goods manufacturing industries. Even as 58.8 million people left a job in 2015, 61.4 million people began a new job.
Bob Funk, the founder of leading employment company Express Employment Professionals, told the Wall Street Journal during the height of the recent recession, “Anyone who really wants a job in this country can have one.” Unfortunately, too many people aren’t willing to put in the work to find one. Sometimes that is as easy as showing up on time, being responsible, following directions, and passing a drug test, which Funk says are all you need to get a full-time U.S. job quickly. Other calculations show that if you work full-time you will not live in poverty. So, in other words, essentially every American is capable of supporting himself and his family.
Too many people are “functionally unemployable,” Stephen Moore wrote of his interview with Funk, because they have chosen to not fulfill the basic job prerequisites of showing up on time, working steadily, and passing a drug test. Directors of temp agencies say between 10 and 25 percent of applicants they work with can’t even pass a drug test.
State representatives in Ohio said some counties have tens of thousands of jobs open for months but “staying on unemployment or in a treatment program is often preferable to an out-of-work individual over gainful employment.”
If some people feel overly discouraged about the prospects of finding a job, that could be because of a number of factors, including hurtful messages put out by media, society, and government. Politicians and groups have been proclaiming for years that government should be able to protect everyone, exaggerating the difficulty of finding a new job at the same time they exaggerate the capabilities of government.
At the same time, government regulations increase the cost of hiring, taking around a third of every new employee’s salary off the top with taxes and red tape. Wouldn’t it be nice to earn a third more than you currently do? Thank meddling politicians and the people who voted themselves a part of your wallet for the fact that you don’t. Finally, the education system isn’t doing a good job of preparing students or setting expectations for what is needed in the real world. As Rowe has said, “We’re churning out a generation of poorly educated people with no skill, no ambition, no guidance, and no realistic expectations of what it means to go to work.”
Force Can’t Bring the Jobs Back
Time magazine’s Martha C. White recently reported on the persistent large gap between many open positions and the skills of people looking for jobs who might otherwise fill them: “Jobs are going unfilled as a result, which hurts companies and employees. The annual global Talent Shortage Survey from ManpowerGroup finds that nearly 1 in 5 employers worldwide can’t fill positions because they can’t find people with soft skills” (such as showing up on time and following simple directions).
But now Trump says, “We’re gonna get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country, instead of in other countries,” and “I will bring the jobs back,” and “I heard last night that Ford is moving back to the United States — they may not do that deal [which they decided to do in 2011]. I get credit for that.”
To wield the kind of power, unheard of in American history, to be able to compel a company to open shop in America would have disastrous consequences Trump doesn’t want voters to consider. Just as governments can use power for good, they are easily tempted towards self-interest, corruption, and abuse of the citizenry. Unlimited power entrusted in the hands of a megalomaniac, who considers himself the most important man in the world, who personally attacks companies and individuals he dislikes by name, could easily be used for ill against the leader’s enemies.
Even just in terms of forcing companies to open shop in America, such actions would violate the rights of the owners and investors of corporations. As a businessman whose products were made overseas, surely Trump knows capitalists have rights, too, to invest as they see fit. No jobs exist naturally. They are only offered by companies. What kind of a company would want to ever hire anyone in America if government held them responsible for the perpetual employment of every single person they ever hired?
Politicians like Trump, Sanders, and Clinton promise something to us for nothing. But even in politics, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If a politician doesn’t tell you who is going to be paying for something that is “free,” you ought to be scared.
Bastiat wrote that the idea of a government that claims to offer something for nothing “is chimerical, absurd, childish, contradictory, and dangerous. Those who parade it, for the sake of the pleasure of accusing all governments of weakness, and thus exposing them to your attacks, are only flattering and deceiving you, while they are deceiving themselves.”