Unemployment: A Conservative’s Perspective
By: David Bozeman
Although I have devoted much of my life to preserving America’s defining values and institutions, through activism, party leadership and as a columnist, I have always held a day job. The ideas I advance, including the ones extolling capitalism, individual initiative and self-sufficiency, are the results of my life experiences and observations. I have never been employed by a think tank and have never walked the steps of the US Capitol, except as a tourist.
I tell this because, in just under six months, due to my primary employer’s restructuring plan, I will join the ranks of America’s unemployed. For the first time in my life, unemployment is not some abstract bone of contention on a political roundtable, it is real and it is personal.
That is the glaring truth of being without work that we seldom learn unless it hits home. Unemployment is an intensely personal crisis and, as a political animal, I don’t even ponder the political causes or ramifications of my situation. Amazingly, I don’t even curse President Obama (though some tell me I should). Unemployment is unsettling, but it is life, and I alone must chart my ultimate course.
But, curiously, at the same time, I find myself tempted by what the state may have to offer. . . Money for school and job training is an option worth considering. Should I keep my unemployment benefits or take the first opportunity that comes along, even if it pays less? For the modern job seeker, these and other questions and numerous what-ifs riddle our brains pretty much around the clock. Once we are banished from our comfort zones and our livelihoods are threatened, state-provided benefits seem to offer the safest ports in the storm.
So, yes, I do confess a degree of titillation at what the state might have to offer, and I don’t rule out drastic measures to keep myself off a busy intersection pleading ‘Will work for food’ via a cardboard sign. But at the same time, my family and friends are my anchors, and I am most uplifted by the words that spark my talents and individuality. The situation bites, no sugarcoating it, but so does wallowing in self-pity and wasting precious brain cells pondering ‘what if’ and ‘if only.’ If modern conservatism is buoyed by the belief that individuals are capable of far more than they realize, then that is what we unemployed (and soon to be unemployed) need to hear. Don’t tell us that the system stinks — we already know that life is unfair. Don’t tell us where ruthless corporate America is taking us, tell us where we can lead ourselves.
A while back I said that I wasn’t mad with President Obama. Well, I kind of am. He recently declared that, unlike the Romneys (though he didn’t mention them by name), he and the First Lady weren’t born with silver spoons. And so what? Your disdain for the wealthy does not comfort or inspire me, Mr. President. It is not the vast wealth of men like Mitt Romney that I covet, though I would like to borrow just some of his drive, focus and market savvy.
Finally, I write this to offer hope to the unemployed. We will survive, though we are plagued by the uncertainty of how. Now is not the time to give up on ourselves, and though the promise of America seems shaky at the moment, we as a people tend to shine brightest when the chips are down. I know that trite pick-me-ups won’t pay the rent (and I’m already tired of the one about how when one door closes a window opens), but let us pool our optimism and goodwill, as we will all need to dip from that reservoir periodically. And to the politicians, don’t seduce me with what you have to offer me, bank your policies and America’s future on the greatness I can achieve without your help.