One of the reasons we have an illegal immigration problem in this country is the growing entitlement mentality among Americans of prime working age. Even in this era of high unemployment, there are jobs—lots of them— available for people who are willing to get their hands dirty. This fact is a major contributor to our illegal immigration problem. If Americans on welfare and in unemployment lines were willing to do these dirty jobs, the jobs would not be available to illegal immigrants. If illegal immigrants could not get jobs in America, many of them would stay home or go elsewhere. The fact that the availability of jobs is an enticement for illegal immigrants and the related fact that many Americans refuse to do these jobs should interest liberals in Congress who are so wedded to entitlement programs. Politicians might start by asking themselves why so many Americans are willing to accept government handouts but are unwilling to work. It’s as if some people are too proud to work but not too proud to beg.
It is tempting to blame the unwillingness of Americans to get their hands dirty solely on the debilitating effects of government entitlement programs, and there is no question that nanny government is a major contributing factor. But the root cause of the growing aversion to hard work runs deeper than the contributory negligence of social engineers in Congress. Government handouts reinforce the entitlement mentality powerfully and perniciously, but they do not cause it. The root cause of the entitlement mentality is an emerging tendency among some Americans to view work not as a way to improve their lives but as drudgery to be avoided. In short, the entitlement mentality is replacing the traditional American work ethic in which work is viewed as an inherently good, inherently desirable, and inherently worthy enterprise. For those who have a positive work ethic, work is more than just a way to earn a living, it is also a way to earn self respect, self worth, and self sufficiency. Make no mistake, misguided politicians who claim to help people by providing government entitlements are not helping them at all. They are robbing them of the opportunity to develop the self respect, self worth, and self sufficiency individuals need to become fulfilled human beings and contributing citizens. In the long run, the price America is going to pay for robbing people of these things will outweigh by far the billions of dollars wasted on the entitlement programs that rob them.
The aversion of Americans to work shows up in more ways than just the growing number of people who don’t work at all and don’t intend to. It also shows up in the types of careers chosen by people who are willing to work as well as in the types of careers avoided. For example, even at times of peak unemployment in America there have been an abundance of jobs in the broad career category of skilled labor. This category of dirty hands careers encompasses such jobs as plumber, electrician, carpenter, welder, machinist, HVAC technician, auto mechanic, heavy equipment operator, diesel mechanic, electronics technician, and aircraft power and frame mechanic. These are all high-wage/ high-demand career fields, but there are problems with every one of them; at least in the eyes of many Americans.
The first problem is that Americans have come to look down on jobs that involve hard work. Too many Americans don’t want to work hard and they certainly don’t want to get their hands dirty. Worse yet they look down on people who do these jobs as somehow lacking in social status. In the vernacular of the times, skilled labor jobs are just not cool. The second problem is that Americans have come to view a college education—no matter how expensive and irrelevant—as a necessary box to check for social acceptance. For many Americans, college is no longer a means to an end. It is an end itself, a provider of social status separate and apart from any career value it may or may not have. The convoluted thinking of many Americans toward college and work is almost too bizarre to grasp.
Young Americans are now willing to borrow thousands of dollars they will never be able to repay to finance college degrees that society does not need just so they can say “I am a college graduate”; an attitude colleges and universities encourage, support, and nurture. But these same people are unwilling to enter dirty hands careers that pay good money, are in constant demand, and allow their practitioners to contribute the betterment of society. What is even harder to grasp is that the federal government not only encourages but enables the convoluted thinking that results in the growing disconnect between what society needs and what Americans are willing to do. We have spawned an entire generation that is willing to accept government handouts while spurning jobs that are readily available and we wonder why we have an illegal immigration problem. What a country.