Labor Day in the U.S. marks the unofficial end of summer. For the past few years, the holiday hasn’t been as much about celebrating the contributions of working men and women as it has been about lamenting the high unemployment rate. Leonardo da Vinci, the genius of the renaissance, quipped, “God sells us all things at the price of labor.” When work is hard to come by, however, even the price of life’s necessities can be too high. During the mean season of the upcoming presidential election, you will hear a lot of rhetoric supporting jobs and middle class Americans. Candidates from each party will blame the other for the current state of the economy. And every candidate will be the working person’s friend. As the old joke asks, “How do you know when a politician is lying?” The answer, “His lips will be moving.”
The truth of the matter is that the middle class has been declining for some time. Conor Dougherty reports, “The middle class — defined as households with between two-thirds and double the nation’s median income — has shrunk considerably over the past few decades, a decline that has been greatly exacerbated by the recession and housing bust.” [“Lost Decade for Shrinking Middle Class,” Wall Street Journal, 22 August 2012] Although we can point fingers of blame at Congress for the fiscal mess in which the government finds itself, there is plenty of blame to go around in both the public and private sectors for why the middle class has declined.
As I have pointed out in past posts, there are good paying jobs going unfilled because of a lack of skilled workers. Who is to blame for that? The most obvious answers are America’s education system and America’s workers. I don’t mean to imply that America’s workers are either lazy or stupid. They’re not. But many have made career decisions that have left them unprepared to fill today’s technical positions. American businesses must also shoulder some of the blame. They could have supported apprentice programs, like those found in Germany, to ensure that they had a pool of skilled workers from which to draw; but, they haven’t. Dougherty indicates that regardless of whom you want to blame, America’s middle class families are less hopeful about the future. He writes:
“The recession has left many middle class families feeling more pessimistic about their future — only 23% said say they were very confident that they would have enough income and assets to last throughout retirement — and even eroded their faith in hard work. About two thirds middle class people believed most people who want to get ahead can do so if they work hard, down from 74% in a 1999 survey.”
Like many technology companies, Enterra Solutions® is looking for employees with the right skills who still believe that hard work does pay off and who believe that satisfaction can be found in creative and interesting work. Like most entrepreneurs, I’m an optimist and believe a brighter future lies ahead. The famous economist Adam Smith wrote, “Labor was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labor, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased.” I believe that still holds true and it is what we should keep in mind as we celebrate this Labor Day.