It’s Labor Day: a holiday that has been set aside to provide a day of rest for the American worker. Today, most of us will relax, perhaps spend some time at Ute Lake or Ned Houk Park or barbecue some steaks. Tuesday morning we’ll return to our work, as past generations did after their Labor Day rest, forced back to one inevitable reality that most can’t escape — the need to labor for a living.
It’s a good day to reflect on the state of our personal balance sheets. Congress officially declared Labor Day a national holiday in 1894. In the later years of the 19th century, when the industrial revolution reconstructed American society, and talk of honoring workers first arose among union organizers, workdays could far surpass the current eight-hour standard. Many people worked hard for modest “personal profit.”
Nineteenth century founder and president of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, acknowledged the importance of profit when he said, “The worst crime against working people is a company that fails to operate at a profit.” We agree. Workers prosper when businesses do.
Of great concern, however, is that the average worker’s after-tax profit is being reduced dramatically by an overwhelming tax burden. By one measure, each American worked a total of 193 days this year, or 52 percent of the year, from Jan. 1 to July 11, simply to pay for the cost of national, state and local governments. The number includes all taxes, regulations and government deficits, according to the advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform. As a national average, 52 percent of what Americans earn, a little over half the profit of the workday, goes directly to the government.
Think about that. Half of all your productive labor is in service to government.
Given the tax burden, consider the amazing creativity the marvelous work ethic the average American has. On about 48 percent of their pay, workers pursue an education, pay their way through life, raise kids, provide for their retirement and help others by giving to charity. What further generosity and grace would be possible from average workers if allowed to keep more of their hard-earned money?
The average citizen’s profit margin after taxes isn’t good enough. Americans have learned to live with less and less take-home pay over the years. This Labor Day we encourage the government to live on less. America’s personal balance sheets deserve a brighter future.