Review of The Once and Future Worker

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  • Controversial
  • Hot Topic
  • Engaging


Conservative Oren Cass’s best-selling indictment of American labor and social policy since World War II attacks his fellow conservatives almost as much as it excoriates liberals. His central argument – that policy must help and encourage employed workers instead of idle ones – surprisingly offers more support for the displaced and unemployed than exists currently. Cass’s advocacy of an end to unskilled immigration and a shift from welfare for the idle to assistance for the employed, for example, is controversial. Yet, his suggested remedies don’t seem punitive. He holds a strong conviction and makes a strong argument that two-parent, working families are the cure for almost all that ails society. Yet Cass cherry-picks statistics throughout and underestimates how new and emerging technologies will affect work. He will provoke debate. Cass offers interesting – if at times outmoded – ideas to all concerned with the future of US society.

About the Author

Oren Cass is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Previously, he was the domestic policy director for Mitt Romney’s US presidential campaign. He’s also a former editor of the Harvard Law Review


It All Boils Down to Jobs

Oren Cass believes that purposeful work that pays enough to support a family is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, but seems to disregard the idea that access to meaningful work has eroded steadily in America since the 1970s. He says Republicans believe too strongly in the market’s ability to lift all boats while Democrats put too much faith in the government’s ability to create and regulate jobs. In his view, successive governments have pushed one-sided trade, immigration, environmental and union agendas too hard.

Cass argues that, increasingly since the end of World War II, politicians have sacrificed jobs and productivity to encourage the flow of cheap goods to stimulate consumption. He regards this as a misguided effort to boost GDP and raise everyone’s fortunes. The resulting poverty rate, on the rise since the 1960s, means the United States spends more than $1 trillion annually in transfer payments to low-income individuals and families. He finds that these policies have led to an epidemic of able-bodied but idle workers and soaring national debt. 

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