There is No American Work Ethic: It’s Too Easy to Do Nothing for Free

There is No American Work Ethic: It’s Too Easy to Do Nothing for Free
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Yes Sir, No Ma’am

Do a Google search on the “American work ethic” and you’ll find plenty of opinions—some folks think it’s fine and others feel it’s lost forever. If you’re a baby boomer, you probably remember your Dad (or Mom) heading off to work, never late, didn’t complain to the boss, worked hard, understood the boss was the boss and came home every night. These were the “yes sir and no ma’am” U.S. workers and for sure this generation is having a hard time understanding today’s youthful workforce.

I am of the baby boomer generation and if people aren’t determined and dedicated to making their life a good life, it’s really easy to find other ways to fund your lifestyle—all without working.

Politically conservative Lord Neuf of the Nolan Chart (see references at end of article) offers up a great piece on U.S workers and a shocking realization on American workers and ethics: “Americans should think like immigrants." I agree with him emphatically.

As a business owner for many years, I too wonder why employees seem so ungrateful, dislike me and think I’m offering up a raw deal—which I’m not.

While I can try and blame this on Generation Y and X only, that’s really not true. Those in their thirties and forties also amaze me and want more money to perform less.

You Owe Me!

Can I Get That for Free

I don’t want to delve into how workers today expect more money, want the latest in technology at the office and demand plush benefits—that’s not what’s hurting the work ethic.

People expect handouts today whether it’s free government aid or disability benefits forever because a person has a bum thumb. And when they can’t meet their mortgage payments, they want to be forgiven for all debt and move on—and they can and do!

And it’s not hard to get these freebies either. In the northern New Mexico town I live in, more than half of our citizens (mostly the young without even a high school diploma) receive what we jokingly call here, “the blue card,” or a total free ride on dental, medical, pregnancy care and hospital visits. When the babies arrive, they’re covered too.

Federal and state governments don’t help either as they make it easy to achieve unemployment benefits without even searching for a job, giving the unemployed an easy out by simply answering a question or two on the Internet—yes sir I did look for a job. In fact, many never left the comfort of their home watching their no-credit rental HDTV or surfing the net, also on a bargain rental.

They collect their unemployment checks (now electronically sent to bank accounts or via loadable debit card), cash disability checks before they head to play in their local softball league and stop by the grocery stores with a handful of food stamps. With all these freebies, why work? Why work at all?

Meet the Parents

I also find it hard to blame these youngsters. After all, most of them learned this lifestyle by example—from the moms and dads I spoke of before who are thirtyish or fortyish and live the same lifestyle. Find a way to live free on taxpayer money and you too can be today’s average American. Although these folks claim they’re not qualified to work at a conventional job of any type, they sure are smart enough to work the system—and win.

If your own parents live this free and “cheat instead of work” lifestyle, why not you? It’s very sad really.

Six Hours a Day

Six Hours Instead of Eight

This brings me to another thought on the American work ethic—no one wants to work for more than six hours a day anymore but everyone does want the pay associated with eight or nine hours of work. Workers can’t seem to make it to the workplace on time, need an hour or so to start the day and when three o’clock comes, they’re pretty much clock watchers waiting to end their non-productive day.

As Lord Neuf points out, immigrant workers are hard workers and are paid little, but to them, they are living the American dream, Even if they need to pool their paychecks together to sustain a family, to them, it’s all good. In fact, it’s great.

Still, we hear the angry yells of American born workers who hate immigrants, legal or not—“They’re taking our jobs!” or “They work for less than minimum wage, I can’t live on that,” or the one I hate the most, “The jobs they take are beneath me, I’d never deliver pizzas, drive a taxi cab or, God forbid, work on a hot farm all day doing manual labor!”

The Rich Have It All!

This is another complaint from today’s under achievers—they blame the rich for taking all of the pie leaving them little. I’m not sure what the percentage of rich Americans have “family” or “old” money, but I do know the percentage of Americans who came from nothing and worked their way to the top is a higher percentage. Think Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates here folks and quit blaming the rich for your misfortune. You have created your own misfortune all by yourself.

America—It Is Time to Wake Up!

Freebies are Better

When my parents found out a fourth child was coming and the money wouldn’t stretch, my Dad took a job at a gas station working every evening. He didn’t do this because he expected to be “noticed” and given some free handout—he did it to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. It was morally responsible so he did it, each and every day.

Today’s educators find it hard to get the responsibility message across because they’re constantly battling today’s parents who aren’t working but instead, seeking out the optional free way of life. America makes it too easy to live this lifestyle.

What’s sad is even if every American factory opened back up offering millions of jobs and the United States got back into the building something game, Americans wouldn’t be interested in these jobs. Why? It takes energy to work and living off the government is easy—it’s just a short walk to the mailbox to retrieve a check, after all.

The next time you shout about immigrants taking the jobs away from American workers, look in the mirror. If you see any of the points made here looking back at you, you’re the reason the work ethic is gone. And you know what? No job is beneath anyone. A job is a privilege, not a right, so indeed that face staring back at you is the guilty one.


Neuf, Lord –The Nolan Chart -The Problem with the American Work Ethic retrieved at

Image Credits:

American Gothic - Wikimedia Commons/Grant DeVolson/The Art Institute of Chicago Museum

Free Samples -

Number Six - Wikimedia Commons/Battroid

Food Stamps - Wikimedia Commons/US Dept. of Agriculture