Those of us with full-time jobs we enjoy and an ability to generally pay our bills likely spent Labor Day weekend enjoying hot dogs and a cold drink with family and friends while lamenting the end of summer.
But for millions of Pennsylvanians and millions more of our fellow citizens around the country the Labor Day weekend marks another month or another year out of work. They are not sure how the bills will get paid, or when opportunity will come and are wondering what happened to the American dream.
Losing a job and being unemployed for any period of time is certainly difficult for the individual facing a job search in this difficult job market. Research shows that long-term unemployment–unemployment lasting more than six months--undermines the quality of life for workers and their family. Higher divorce rates, poorer health and depression are more prevalent among those who face long-term unemployment.
Millions of Americans sitting on the sidelines, unable to find work or create opportunity undermines the vitality of our nation and is a terrible waste of human potential.
Work is at the core of the American dream of earned success. Work gives each of us the opportunity to pursue our own happiness. Having the money to pay the bills is one thing, but having a purpose, a job you enjoy, the ability to create new things and assist others through meaningful work is what provides America with a dynamic society of thriving individuals creating and enjoying new paths to success.
Work is also vital to a free-market society where individuals are able to choose the goods and services most meaningful to them and purchase from other individuals who offer the best goods and services at the best price.
Yet, our elected officials in Harrisburg and DC continue to support policies that undermine opportunity and the individual entrepreneurial spirit that gave generations of Americans the ability to earn their way into the middle class or beyond.
Government that has its hands in every facet of our lives stunts our individual opportunity and limits job growth. Examples are plenty.
Unnecessary licensing requirements make work harder to find and small- businesses more difficult to start. Cosmetologists must meet more training requirements to be licensed by the government than emergency medical technicians. In Washington, DC it takes fewer training hours to become a realtor than to provide professional hair-braiding services. Here we have government licensing regulation limiting the opportunity, mostly for women, who want to serve others through their own small business.
Prevailing wage laws in Pennsylvania make it harder for small businesses to compete in the open market for state funded construction projects. Because the law requires these jobs to pay workers a higher wage than the market actually demands, school construction or repair costs are higher than they need to be, school taxes go up and individuals have fewer dollars to invest in their own education, job training or small business plans.
And as our government expands both its scope and tax collections, more money is taken from the pockets of individual Americans while corruption and poor management increase at the agencies we fund. Year after year, more Americans are left behind in failing schools or in a welfare system that helps pay the bills, but does little to help individuals achieve their dreams or find their own path to earned success.
Labor Day is a good day to remember that the spirit of individual Americans with new ideas, lofty goals and drive are the cornerstone of a strong, dynamic country. Americans are capable and smart and they are driven by millions of different visions for how to pursue happiness. Each of us deserves to be free to pursue our own vision and find our own earned success. Our representatives in Harrisburg and Washington, DC have a responsibility to stop getting in the way.
(Beth Anne Mumford is Pennsylvania State Director of Americans for Prosperity.)