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Congressman Ryan Zinke: Make America Work Again

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There’s dignity and honor in work.

I was raised to value a good day’s work and to have pride in what you bring to the table. To be skilled at a craft was an honorable way to make a living whether you were a dishwasher or a surgeon. Work gave each of us a greater self-worth, purpose, and pride.

My father was the youngest master plumber in Montana’s history, and he came from three generations of men who valued and mastered their trade. I still feel pride when an old timer stops me in the street to tell me about the time my dad or grandad helped repair their home.

But now, well outside the global pandemic, our workforce has shrunk to levels not seen since the 1970s, far lower than during the Great Recession of 2008-2009. More than a third of men are out of the work force – the lowest in recorded history – thanks in part to the massive regulatory and welfare state created under COVID and the public health emergency.

Not a day goes by in Montana that you don’t walk down Main St and see a restaurant or shop with a handwritten sign that says “closed today due to staff shortage” or have to wait four months for a vehicle repair. That is not 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 government 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, “Medicaid 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 because unemployment is low; well, it’s low because under his policies people are being paid not to work. People are being incentivized with lax unemployment benefits and other welfare 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 of dollars in debt, facing crippling inflation, a broken supply chain and labor shortage, insolvent senior benefits, and is 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 cutting excessive COVID spending, cutting regulations, and implementing pro-growth policies like a work requirement and energy permitting reform.

Limit, Save, Grow pulls back unspent COVID funds, saves money in areas where Democrats have continued to be frivolous which has caused spikes in inflation, and increases the flow into programs like Social Security and Medicare.

The work requirement, also known as the America Works Act, which I sponsored, falls under the “grow” area of the bill by incentivizing those who can work to pay into the programs to the caliber of their capability so they can continue to serve the purpose they were created for.

Work requirements aren’t new – they were implemented in 1996 and helped pull people up and out of poverty, lending folks a hand up while giving them the important work experience they need to grow a career and the American Dream.

It encourages independence through employment. It makes able-bodied Americans a part of our economy and feeds the Social Security and Medicare programs until they are at least 65 and are eligible for benefits themselves. Reestablishing and enforcing the original system provide security for those who have continued to persevere and keep those programs alive and gets able bodies on the manufacturing and shop floor and off the couch.

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.

There are a handful of vulnerable Senate Democrats in states that value a good day’s work – Montanans included. Voters in Wisconsin were just asked in a ballot question if able-bodied adults without children should look for work in exchange for benefits. It passed with nearly 80 percent. The House is set to pass this plan in the coming weeks, and I encourage the Senate to follow our lead.

Those who built my little hometown in Montana taught me that the ability to achieve success through hard work and enterprise was a core part of living the American dream; that if you had the ability to work, you should – and to do otherwise was un-American.

Ryan Zinke is a Republican congressman for Montana’s First District. He previously served as U.S. secretary of the interior and congressman for Montana’s at-large district. This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.

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