Politicians have plenty of time off. Should they judge how much the rest of us should work?
SAN DIEGO -- This Labor Day, I'm looking for a job. To be honest, I've been looking for a job for the last 20 Labor Days.
In 2000, after graduate school, I went hunting for a newspaper job. When I found one, I went looking for another job in media -- on nights, and weekends. And when I had two jobs, I wanted three. I was juggling five gigs -- serving on an editorial board, writing columns, giving speeches, hosting radio shows, doing television commentary -- before my wife and I had our first child. After that, life had other plans for my time.
This was long before phrases like "side hustle" or "gig economy" entered the lexicon. But that was my reality back then. I was always on the move, trying to drum up business. Now that my kids are older, and my schedule has loosened, I'm on the move again. Whether it's in journalism or communications, my next opportunity is just around the corner.
Many years ago, at a youth leadership conference, I heard a fellow participant say that he had three jobs just like his father did. Of course, there was a difference. The father worked days, nights and weekends at back-breaking manual labor jobs. The son was an attorney, an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a state legislator.
Looking back on a career spent on the hustle, I realize that I didn't do it for the money. I was ambitious, and something of a workaholic. Early on, I wanted to get my voice out there, on as many platforms as possible. I also liked the independence that comes from not having to depend on just one employer or one source of income.
The issue of how many jobs Americans have at one time is a very personal decision that we all make for ourselves, as we try to balance our financial obligations with our familial commitments. Government has zero to do with it.
Which is why I was so surprised to see that the concept of having multiple jobs has worked its way into the 2020 Democratic primary. Politicians used to promise a chicken in every pot. Today, they promise that if we vote for them, they'll create an economic reality where you'll only need to have one job.
Leading the chorus is California Sen. Kamala Harris, who raised the issue of multiple jobs several weeks ago during the first Democratic debate.
"People in America are working, they're working two and three jobs," Harris said. "When we talk about jobs, let's be really clear. In our America, no one should have to work more than one job to have a roof over their head and food on the table."
The crowd loved it, roaring its approval with thunderous applause.
But I don't love that this has suddenly a campaign issue. It's high risk, low reward. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about 5% of American workers hold down more than one job -- a figure that has remained steady for the last decade, under presidents of both parties.
It's also nobody's business how many jobs we have, or why we choose to have them. What if we want to start another career, or earn extra money, or learn new skills, or find a productive way of spending our free time? Why does the government have to put in its two cents about what we do with our time-- and where we do it?
Ben Shapiro said as much a few weeks ago. He insisted that -- for people who have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet -- this constitutes a "you problem," not a problem for politicians to solve. The liberal Twitterati tore into the conservative radio host, unfairly twisting his words to suggest that he was telling people: "You're the problem."
That's a cheap shot. Shapiro later made clear that he admires people who hold down more than one job. He has a half-dozen jobs himself. Meanwhile, other radio and television personalities are holding down seven or eight.
Are we supposed to feel sorry for these folks? Not me. I envy them. They've earned our respect. What they do is not easy. You have to be a good juggler. Luckily, that skill set comes in handy in a job market that can be a real circus.
Ruben Navarrette's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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