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Make America work again

by Ryan Zinke
| May 3, 2023 2:00 AM

There’s dignity and honor in work.


I was raised to value a good day’s work and to have pride in what you do. To be skilled at a craft is an honorable way to make a living whether you are a dishwasher or a surgeon.

My father was the youngest master plumber in Montana history. He came from three generations of men who valued and mastered their trade. I still feel pride when a Whitefish old timer stops me in town to tell me about the time my dad or grandad repaired their home.

But now, well passed COVID, our workforce has shrank to levels not seen since the 1970s, far lower than during the Great Recession of 2008-2009. A third of men are out of the work force — the lowest in recorded history — thanks in-part to the massive welfare state created under COVID.

Not a day goes by in Montana that you don’t see a restaurant or shop with a sign that says “closed today due to staff shortage,” or have to wait four months for a vehicle repair. That isn’t the sign of a strong economy. It’s the sign of a struggling workforce.

Requiring able-bodied adults who do not have children to work 20 hours a week if they receive unemployment and welfare benefits is prudent and hits at our core American value of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps. Plus, it saves taxpayer dollars and grows the economy. According to the Wall Street Journal, “work requirement for childless adults ages 18 to 64 could save the federal fisc nearly $170 billion over 10 years.”

You’ll see the President taking victory laps touting low unemployment. It’s low because under his policies people are being incentivized to drop out of the workforce and to stay at home and not contribute to our community and economy.

That has to end. COVID is over. Our nation is tens of trillions in debt, facing crippling inflation, a broken supply chain and labor shortage, insolvent senior benefits, and about to run headfirst into a financial crisis. 

House Republicans have put forth a plan to make America work again, reduce the deficit, and put our nation on a healthy fiscal path. It’s called the Limit, Save, Grow Act.

This act, sometimes described in the media as a debt ceiling plan, addresses the looming Democrat-created debt crisis by capping future spending, recouping unspent COVID funding, cutting regulations, and implementing pro-growth policies like a work requirement and energy permitting reform.

The work requirement, originally known as the America Works Act which I co-sponsored, falls under the “grow” area of the bill by requiring those who can work to contribute to the economy and pay into the programs seniors rely on.

Work requirements aren’t new – they were implemented in 1996 and helped pull people up and out of poverty and give them the experience needed to build a career. It encourages independence through employment and makes able-bodied Americans a part of our economy. Expanding the workforce also has the added benefit of improving the supply chain and strengthening Social Security and Medicare by feeding into these programs.

There are a handful of vulnerable Senate Democrats in states that value a good day’s work – Montana’s senator included. Even voters in Wisconsin overwhelmingly voted in support of able-bodied adults without children working in exchange for benefits. It passed with nearly 80%. The House is set to pass this plan this week (ed’s note: It did pass) and I encourage the Senate to get on board.

Those who built my hometown taught me that that the ability to achieve success through hard work was a core part of living the American dream ­— that if you had the capability of working, you should, and to do otherwise was un-American.

When Americans work our economy is strong. Our communities prosper and the programs that rely on strong employment like Medicare and Social Security are strong. Not to mention, the quality of life for those who get jobs improves for the long-term.

Ryan Zinke is the Congressman for Montana’s First District. He previously served as Secretary of the Interior and Congressman for Montana’s statewide district.