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Lauren and Rob Hudson: Positive messages about America’s exceptionalism through work ethic

Columns for families based on the book “It Can Be Done” @studentsleadusa

Last week we covered how crucial work ethic will be for our individual success. Now we cover the importance of work ethic to the entire country. Instead of skipping over the positives as some people do, let’s begin there.

We can learn about America’s positive work ethic by studying America’s productivity and quality of life. America ranks well among countries on poverty and quality of life measures, such as the United Nations Human Development Index. America ranks at or near the world’s best in jobs, income, and housing, three of the top economic indicators on the International Better Life Index. From the 1950’s up until the end of the century, our economic output per citizen tripled, which meant higher living standards for Americans.

According to the United States Census Bureau, most low-income households in America have a standard of living which exceeds the middle class in other countries. Many Americans who live in poverty continue to suffer, with unmet needs. However, the federal government assists about forty million Americans with food each month. America’s work-related success has provided resources to help many more people through churches and charities.

Overall, we’ve done so well that many people think we’re entitled to have our needs met simply because we’re in America. We’re not. Following the Great Recession in 2008, our country experienced many years of high unemployment. Fewer Americans worked in full-time jobs and the country experienced its lowest percentage of people working in more than thirty-five years.

What happens when fewer people work? Fewer people earn their own way and more people rely on government for help. By 2014 nearly half of Americans received a federal government benefit or payment. Our various government programs help many people, but government programs typically involve payments of money, through government, by some Americans to other Americans.

In recent history, more than 40 percent of our households paid no federal income taxes. At times most households received more from the federal government than they paid in federal income taxes, which would not work very well for America in the long run.

America’s youth will debate government and our work ethic. Should Americans, through their own work ethic, be generally responsible for paying taxes and covering their own finances? If we have a strong culture for helping people, should we have an equally strong culture favoring work ethic? What do we need to do to be more independent, to have more people doing well and not needing government payments?

As with most of the “pillars of exceptionalism” covered in these columns, what works in our individual lives also works for the country. If Americans favor work, more businesses will want to do business in America. More families and neighborhoods will succeed. More people will work in the nation, with less poverty. And if more and more people work, we will have the resources to financially assist people who can’t work. That’s a good recipe for a high performing nation.

President Abraham Lincoln commented on the responsible approach for people who can work. “Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another but let him work diligently and build one for himself….” It’s common sense that all of us should rally around a work ethic ingrained in America’s culture. After all, it’s one of the great qualities upon which we built the country.

Join us next week when we explore the common ground of avoiding debt and saving money. Frost Brown Todd LLC Member Rob Hudson is a Past Chair of the Northern Kentucky Chamber and a recipient of its Frontiersman Award. 2018 Independent Author of the Year Lauren Hudson is a Singletary Scholar at the University of Kentucky.

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