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Photo by Timothy Krause, licensed via Wikimedia Commons
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The Bottom Line Bernie Sanders’ Plan to Reduce the Work Week to 32 Hours Will Lead to Nowhere

Originally published at New York Post

Self-described democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the “Thirty-Two Hour Work Week Act” recently that would mandate the standard workweek be reduced from 40 to 32 hours.

Under the law, employees would not receive a reduction in pay despite the 20% drop in labor.

Additionally, employers would be forced to pay overtime at the rate of time and a half for shifts exceeding eight hours per day, and double pay for time more than 12 hours daily. 

According to Sanders, “Moving to a 32-hour workweek with no loss of pay is not a radical idea.”

He argues that the “financial gains from the major advancements in artificial intelligence, automation, and new technology must benefit the working class, not just corporate CEOs and wealthy stockholders on Wall Street.”

While Sanders may sound like he’s rooting for the little guy, he’s actually attempting to redistribute wealth by forcing employers to pay for work employees don’t actually have to perform.

Imagine the implications for small business owners, the backbone of the American economy, whose businesses account for 44% of the nation’s economic activity and create two-thirds of new jobs (not a mere reallocation of jobs).

Approaching work as a burden instead of an opportunity to serve leads only to despair rather than a vehicle for increased purpose and satisfaction. 

Keri D. Ingraham

Sanders’ mission is clear.

He seeks to imperil America’s long-standing successful free-market model and begin to replace it with socialism.

Under a false guise, Sanders asserts, “It is time to reduce the stress level in our country and allow Americans to enjoy a better quality of life.”

However, mandating a shorter work week could, in reality, add stress to employees attempting to complete their entire jobs in significantly less time.

And this, in turn, could increase business staffing costs, and result in lost full-time jobs and greater inflation.

Mandating employers to shorten the work week is not the cure for the crisis of despair and depression plaguing Americans.

More than 11 million US adults have reported serious thoughts of suicide, nearly 30 million are abusing alcohol, more than 37 million regularly take antidepressants, and upward of 700,000 have died from drug overdoses since 2000.

Sanders’ low opinion of work — paired with a worldview centered on entitlement (canceling student debt as one example) — is entirely off base.

Not only does his thinking further the existing economic and societal crises, but it has negative personal implications, as well.

Approaching work as a burden instead of an opportunity to serve leads only to despair rather than a vehicle for increased purpose and satisfaction. 

Work is not merely transactional — put in the time and get a paycheck.

There is inherent purpose, meaning and value work.

We were created to be productive as contributors.

As author and financier David Bahnsen explains, the skewed modern-day definition of work is “what you do so that eventually you won’t have to do it anymore.”

The contrary, rather, is more apt: Work is an avenue for individuals to exercise their gifts and skills, employing sacrifice, exertion, and resilience while contributing to a larger goal.

Bahnsen warns that the work less — or not at all — position espoused by folks like Sanders is “killing the heart and soul of our country . . . It has put downward pressure on productivity, intensified social alienation and anxiety . . . and ultimately, exacerbated societal divide.” 

Instead, he explains, “we must stop enabling a far greater epidemic in society—not of overreaching, but of hating achievement.

Not of workaholism, but of “no-aholism” — no passion, no purpose and no plan.” 

Today’s labor market participation rate is a mere 62.5%, down 5% over the past two decades.

This downturn translates to more than 13 million working age people — predominantly “prime working age men” — who have simply opted out of employment.

This must change.

K-12 education is the place to start cultivating a new mindset that helps students discover vocational passions while encouraging them to identify their unique purpose.

This would benefit not only individuals, but their communities — and ultimately our country — as well.

A short workweek is far from the solution to societal ills and personal despair.

Instead, we should encourage people to pursue greater service and higher aspirations — both at work and at home.

Not only would this lead to increased purpose and meaning, but able-bodied Americans would ultimately contribute more, not less. 

Are you concerned about educating the next generation?
The American Center for Transforming Education is a program of Discovery Institute, a non-profit organization fueled by its supporters. Will you help us advance the timely and vital work of transforming our K-12 education system so that it better serves students and their families?