The Complications of Employment

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“The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” – Oliver Wendall Holmes

Realistically speaking, looking for a job should not be complicated. In order for society to succeed, it would only make sense that everyone should be able to find decent paying work. Unfortunately, far too often the work available (I’m looking at you service industry) doesn’t even pay enough to allow someone to pay the bills required to live in the area the job is located, let alone have extra money for savings and bit of entertainment from time-to-time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have to work to get ahead in life, I just think anyone who puts in 60+ hours of work or gets the requisite education should not need to spend years of their life worrying about how to pay the next bill or whether they’ll ever find employment in the field of their choice. And this complicated job market isn’t just bad for the individual, it is bad for society as a whole.

Take the millennial generation for example. We grew up being told a college education was the key to a successful career, but thanks to an economic crash coupled with more efficient work procedures, there are fewer jobs available than in previous years. Not only do you have a crop of individuals who are struggling to find work, but many of them are starting out at a financial disadvantage that averages around $25,000. How is that good for the economy? How can this generation of workers be expected to take any of the innovative risks necessary to address the challenges of the coming years when they are forced to spend a vast amount of their mental capacity just finding a way to break into a job market that expects more productivity for less pay? Unless we find a solution to this problem, we’re going to end up with a generation of individuals who choose to play it safe, rather than make the big leaps forward necessary for a brighter future.

Then of course there are those, who simply can’t afford the higher education to even compete in the tight job market. These are individuals who work lower-skilled (albeit just as necessary) jobs for wages too low to live on. If someone puts in 60-hours a week at Taco Bell, why shouldn’t they make enough money to pay their bills and still have some left over to save for their future? Instead, by not having higher pay for lower-skilled workers we create a gap that will never be bridged, making it not only difficult for this group to survive, but for their children to have the opportunities to climb the ladder of success. Is there are simple solution to this issue? Probably not, but in the meantime we must find ways to raise the minimum standard for income in this country and around the world.

Say you’re one of the luck ones. You have a successful job and make an ample amount of money. How is this complicated job conundrum bad for you? Well, there’s the idea that a well-educated, employed population makes for safer society. More people making money, mean more tax revenue at the local, state, and federal level, which can they be used to improve everything from infrastructure to security. Furthermore, there’s a moral imperative here. Is it right to allow society to continue to drift apart financially? So much so that the wage of the lower earners becomes further separate from the top earners, even while the economy improves. We owe it to future generations to find a way to maintain not just our personal financial security, but that of the country and world as a whole. No one should have to go to bed worried about how they are going to pay this month’s rent, or find a job that pays enough to do so. As former U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone once said, “we all do better when we all do better.”

Ultimately, finding a job that pays enough to survive falls on the individual. We need to be proactive in gaining the necessary skills. However, that does not mean the governments and corporations of society can’t do better to makes things a bit easier for those not born into immense talent or wealth. We ought to find a way to employ those of all skill levels. Furthermore, the job search should not be so difficult or hard to break into. Practices like, rejecting applicants because they’ve been unemployed for 6 months or more need to stop. We also need to be balance out the proportion of executive to employee pay a little bit. In the long run it’ll be better for everyone, and give future generations something to look forward to.

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Devious Disenfranchisement

” If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” ~Noam Chomsky

The American dream is something often touted by both political parties as they craft a vision for the future. The pursuit of happiness is ingrained in this country’s constitution. Idealistic freedom is the core tenet many politicians rely on as they speak out about their plans for moving this country forward if they are elected this November. In order to truly embrace these concepts we must have a population that is enfranchised to engage in upward mobility and engagement in their communities. Sadly, the rights of Americans are under attack on a variety of fronts, that if left unchecked, threaten the core of our Democracy.

The proposed amendment to the Minnesota constitution that would legally define marriage as between one man and one woman undermines the social freedoms that are necessary for a healthy society. Many proponents of this amendment would argue that by allowing same-sex partnerships the government is ignoring their rights to religious freedom. However, this is simply not true. Even if same-sex partners were allowed to receive the legal benefits of marriage, churches could still choose to refuse to officiate and/or recognize said partnerships. On the other hand, if this amendment were to pass it would be singling out a specific demographic of society and denying them fundamental rights that other citizens currently enjoy. A decidedly backward violation of civil liberties that should not be allowed to stand.

Sadly the marriage amendment is not the only disenfranchising attack being put into our constitution under false pretenses. The Voter Identification amendment (or perhaps more appropriately the Voter Restriction amendment) would require anyone interested in exercising their basic right to vote to show a government issued photo identification in order to vote. The supporters of such a requirement argue that anyone can easily get a government identification and the integrity of our election system necessitates such a law. What is ignored by such oversimplification of this proposal is many American’s do not have a photo ID and would have a great deal of difficulty obtaining one. For the millions of impoverished and homeless workers obtaining such an ID will either be impossible (homeless people have no address) or not important enough to justify the time and resources such an extra step would take. Not to mention the many college students and other young voters who are still learning the importance of electing their representatives that may be turned off from the process if they are turned away from voting where they live. Creating barriers to voting that unfairly target at-risk demographics under the guise of preserving voting integrity is simply unacceptable to a functioning democracy.

Perhaps the greatest danger to the future prosperity of America and health of the world at large is the continued disenfranchisement of the millennial generation. Graduating college with over $25,000 in debt on average, according to study by the Project on Student Debt, they are starting their professional lives at a disadvantage. Many state budgets look to higher education funding to deal with budget deficits, further increasing the burden placed on this generation. In addition, efforts at slashing programs meant to prepare this generation to compete in an ever-competitive world economy to reduce the national debt while ignoring those programs that are far more costly (e.g. medicare, social security) show a bias towards the older versus the young. Leaving many of this emerging generation to question whether their elected officials care about their future.

Between the efforts to prohibit same-sex couples from experiencing the same legal rights as their opposite-sex counterparts, making it more difficult to exercise one’s right to vote by requiring a government issued identification, and budget solutions placed on the back of younger generations so many groups in our society are falling victim to policies that are leaving them feeling disenfranchised. Unfortunately, many of these efforts seem to be by design. Both overtly, in the case of the marriage amendment, and covertly, in the case of the Voter ID amendment. It is vital, we do not allow these efforts to succeed if we truly believe in the principles that govern a prosperous democratic society.