Tuesday, May 16, 2023

God bless people who work at useful jobs

Millions of Americans don’t work. Some are unemployed and looking for work; others simply refuse to look for a job. In fact,12 percent of men in their prime working years aren't in the workforce and aren't looking for work. Millions of healthy men are living off relatives, surviving on government benefits, or working side hustles in the underground economy and not paying taxes.

Millions more have jobs but are not doing anything useful. I spent 25 years in higher education, and I can tell you that many professors have retired on the job. These professors don’t do research, teach their classes poorly, and don’t show up at their offices except for mandatory office hours (maybe six hours a week). Hardly any university schedules classes on Friday, which means that a large percentage of university faculty members are working four-day weeks.

All across the national economy, we see Americans doing nothing more than pushing paper around. People in the advertising game are blitzing us with inane commercials for products we don't want or don't need. The gaming industry is promoting gambling, which is a pernicious and addictive pastime,

Thankfully, millions of Americans are working hard at jobs that need to be done. I suffered a stroke last month in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I dialed 911, and six EMS professionals showed up at my location within five minutes, despite the fact I had given them an incorrect address. I was able to unlock the front door even though I was partially paralyzed, but the 911 dispatcher assured me that my rescuers were willing and able to break down the door to get to me,

Those people work hard and are well-trained. My EMS team got me to a hospital in time for me to receive a time-sensitive drug that limited the long-term damage from my stroke.

Now I am in rehab, working with a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and a speech therapist. All my therapists are highly skilled young women who are enthusiastic about their jobs and full of energy. They assure me I will make a full recovery and walk again.

Our economy is changing drastically, and many college students are taking out loans to get an education that will not lead to a good job. A bachelor's degree in the humanities, liberal arts, or social sciences is a dead-end degree. A young person taking out student loans to get a degree in these soft disciplines may be committing financial suicide.

Most young people want a satisfying career in a field that pays well. Most of them seek work that is useful and meaningful. Today, smart young people don’t go to college to get a liberal arts degree. Instead, they choose majors that offer a clear path to a well-paying job and a satisfying career. 

I am grateful that some of these intelligent young people are choosing to work as first responders and healthcare workers. Our society needs them. I'm not sure it needs humanities professors.


  1. Dave Ramsey and Mike Rowe (the "Dirty Jobs" guy) recently held a 2.5 hour presentation and panel discussion on "America's Labor Crisis" that highlighted this issues.
    But one thing no one seems to want to talk about are deteriorating work conditions. No one wants to work because -- even in health care -- the workplace has become unendurably stressful, where power struggles and open conflicts play out, day after day.
    Arnie Kalleberg and others refer to this as "job polarization," with upper status positions drifting higher and higher, and lower status jobs sinking into the mud. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM7wMX9SeCU

    1. Having spent a week in an Oklahoma hospital and 25 years working at universities, I can affirm your observation. Working conditions have deteriorated, reducing the incentive to work.

    2. My own experience with physical therapy also turned up something else -- credential inflation! Many of the PTs on staff now sport "Doctor of Physical Therapy" after their names, which means they spent extra time and extra cash on producing a "capstone" study working with patients on a special project. The distinction is omnipresent in the everyday routine because the it is used when calling patients, but ultimately insignificant other than ranking staff hierarchically. I hesitated to ask the UN-Doctored PTs what they made of it, or how much in student debt it added to the DPTs aggregate burden. But my observation is that DPTs have greater resources including social capital and were motivated in some way to go the extra mile. I found the constant announcements over the PA of "doctor" this and "doctor" that annoying and distracting.

    3. I spent almost three weeks in inpatient physical therapy and was impressed by their dedication, skill, and energy, Several racked up considerable debt while in grad school, and I didn't ask their views about doctoral degrees in PT. Personally, I agree with you.

    4. Sorry to hear about your ordeal, but I'm happy to hear about your recovery.
      Just one more wrinkle to this topic -- SUNY Buffalo School of Management monitors "job quality" over time, a rating system of some kind that clearly depicts the decline in job quality that I am referring to. Check this out! https://ubwp.buffalo.edu/job-quality-index-jqi/
      The only thing missing, of course, is a graph showing what jobs were like in 1900, until now. And even attempting to do this kind of analysis might be impossible, given the massive shifts in living styles, changes in types of occupations, rise of the white collar worker. But it is certainly something people need to be talking about. I married but never had kids because of this mess. I NEVER felt confident that I could support a family, at least as well as my Dad did, sad to say.

  2. The most common major is Business Administration. That's a degree you can get without doing much more beyond listening to professors read Powerpoint slides. Most college graduates have no real job skills.