Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush caused a stir in July when he exhorted Americans to work more: “We have to be a lot more productive … It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families.”
Bush’s remark was immediately attacked for its insensitivity. Where does this privileged ass get off lecturing us? In the words of one Bloomberg writer, “Who is this rich, elite guy to tell us we should spend more of our time slaving away? Why should elites make our personal economic choices for us?”
He said that Bush’s comment demonstrates ignorance of economic facts and recent history. After all, we Americans have been taking his advice for years.
The mass entry of women into the workforce in the 1980s and 1990s dramatically increased the total number of hours that the average working-age American spends toiling in the formal marketplace (as opposed to the home). When we compare across countries, we find that the US is very hardworking. In 2013, it ranked 12th among countries in terms of the number of hours worked by the average employed person. Most of the countries compared to the US were middle-class countries like Mexico and Poland; among rich countries, only South Korea and Ireland—both of which became rich rather recently—came out ahead of the US.
Lest you think that these statistics are merely a substitute for the whining of a workforce dead-set against doing its part to cope with the realities of modern life, this morning on the radio I heard two examples of how Americans are already working hard enough, thank you.
The first was a report of a growing trend of how owners of small family farms are turning to new “farm-to-table” strategies to justify higher prices (and more profit) for their farms’ products. At Stoney Acres in Athens WI, the farmyard is transformed every Friday night between May and October—as hundreds of people come to order organic pizza. Two large, wood-fired ovens dominate the outdoor area between the barn and the farm’s commercial kitchen. Old picnic tables are scattered across the yard.
“You’re just seeing that farms are having difficulty covering their costs of production,” says Sarah Lloyd of the Wisconsin Farmers’ Union. “The prices that are being paid to them in the market is not enough to cover their costs. One bright spot is you see people venturing into direct markets, and that’s a way where they can have more control over their pricing.”
Kat Becker and Tony Schultz, the owners of Stoney Acres, have been selling a proportion of their produce through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. They also produce honey and supply vegetables to a local school. But pizza is opening a new frontier for their farm. Becker and Schultz started making pizza in 2012, exploring it as a new way to both connect with consumers and infuse some cash into the farm. Becker says that on very busy nights they have made between 230 and 240 pizzas. It’s estimated that there are now a few dozen farms in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa offering similar pizza nights.
The second story was about the Lafayette CA-based band, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, who happen to be opening their current tour in Minneapolis tonight.
The thing that got my attention is that the band became widely known after its “Van Sessions” videos, where the band performs cover songs in a tour van while driving between gigs. It became a surprise viral hit in March 2012. Their cover of the Hall & Oates song “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” was viewed over a million times the week of its release (2,909,151 views as of today). It gained celebrity fans like Cameron Crowe, Ryan Adams, Melissa Etheridge, and even John Oates and Daryl Hall themselves.
The Van Sessions (all of which are presented here) establish Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers as a hard-working band that breaks many stereotypes which plague the music industry.
You’ve gotta love ’em, as well as all hard-working people who refuse to become also-rans.
Groove of the Day
Listen to Nicki Blume and the Gramblers performing “Waiting on Love”
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