THE BLOG
09/09/2010 06:18 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

So, You Think You Earn an Honest Living?

While Tea Partiers, pundits, lobbyists and mid-term candidates are out-shouting mantras on how to fix the system, the one thing almost everyone agrees on is we needs jobs. Now. Jobs at any cost, right?

Joblessness, after all, not only affects individual survival, but directly relates to our national economic standstill.

So, why do I feel compelled to throw the following, somewhat personal, monkey wrench at you, the American worker, and right after Labor Day, like a misbegotten hangover?

My apologies, but, do you earn a dishonest living?

That is, have you ever wondered if your own job is culpable, even in some small way, in creating -- and continuing -- this mess of joblessness ? By corollary, is our economy, and all the new jobs we're creating, dishonest? And does it matter?

Oooo, question the integrity of your work? You strive to do the right thing for your self and family. Everyday a bigger bill comes in the mail, and predictably something in the house, the car, even your health breaks down; all with an income that shrinks, and lifelong assets that keep devaluing. How dare I ask this dribble about the honesty of your work? Blame government and corporate corruption. Not us working stiffs.

Actually, the concept of worker citizenship is somewhat inherent in the idea of democracy itself. You know, we get what we vote for (G.B. Shaw and Will Rogers) and our silence serves as guilty proxy to the deed (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis, a few months shy of the end of WWII).

Interestingly, both Alan Dershowitz and Joe Klein have used war as illustration for citizen's overall responsibility to question governments. Dershowitz's coinage of "the continuum of civilianality,"which he preposterously proposed be used to identify individual victim's levels of culpability for being bombed on during the Israel-Hezbollah War, appears not so bizarre and irresponsible a concept when applied instead to the levels of accountability for those of us in a representational, yet participatory, democracy. Back in our own war, Joe Klein said in '07 that it was time we, the American citizenry, admit our "nostra culpa" for having given our majority blessing of patriotism to the engagement into the Iraq war. Few voices, including the media, questioned the war in the heady days of embedding.

Is our home grown American economy equivalent to an act of war on ourselves? And are you part and parcel, embedded into, the collective blame? Even worse, could your job description have included some degree of "economic terrorist" without you realizing it?

Under the right light, looks like it, doesn't it? Do take it personally, but it's not just you -- I'm including myself, too, and our parents and grandparents got lassoed in, too. Let me define it more clearly.

Our jobs, no matter how hard we worked, or skilled we were, helped continue industry standards that recklessly disregarded the need for infrastructure and were not accountable to outcomes. Corporations, and even many small businesses (and therefore us) weighed immediate, often skewed and fraudulent profits over real value, making loads of quick bucks instead of investing in long term efficiencies or considering the loss of other people's livelihoods and sometimes even actual lives. If that's not enough, our local, state and federal government officials allowed it, and even depended on it. And we completed the loop by buying the services, goods, and investments of this cycle. Not pretty stuff, what you and I have condoned.

Together our work props up a fantastically big balloon investment of a band-aid patched economy with our own unquestioning tepid air. Rather than insisting that our leaders surgically correct the causes of our collective irresponsibility, we agreed to let them just camouflage the symptoms, so we all can go on hoping for some more of that business same as usual American dream.

Some of us have been intentionally dishonest. We're the "it's the price of business" crowd , or the somewhat lesser sidekick, "Everyone else does it, how else can my business/ job survive?" Then there's the rest of us. Some of us have felt the little nag of culpability all along, others of us, just blindly flowed with the patriotic stream, or for sheer survival. Regardless of our culpability, we're all floating, doing somersaults and backward flips in the same polluted fish bowl. Talk about family values.

Don't believe me? Follow your own trail.

1) Your education -- Was the educational institution you attended -- your college or even your public kindergarten through high school -- dependent upon taxes or funding that unfairly advantaged those who played the system? Come on, you say, everyone's has. Exactly.

2) Your job as a worker -- (If your job isn't listed, just add your own culpability below.) If you're in banking, insurance, real estate, Wall Street, accounting, or any business that helps makes money from money, even if you're just a clerk and got paid little more than minimum wage, is there a reason why you didn't wonder how the good times were doubling? If you're in agri-healthcare-pharma, you've seen Sicko, Food Inc. and Super Size Me, right? Utilities, energy -- does your company follow the same standard "safety" protocols and profit margins that BP followed ? An educator or clergy -- really? Entertainment, sports, services and retail -- fun is good, but when you all lay in bed together, you get Tiger Woods. In the military, industry, science -- follow the money and who we're killing. If you're in media, print, TV and the hallowed new media, tele-com, the Internet -- transparency, do no harm, who are your sponsors? If you're a laborer -- stand up for immigrants, they're really not your enemy. Law, government, academia, think-tanks and marketers -- if you're about social consciousness, can you please think up something that out- talks Palin's mouth? If your work is green, organic, locally produced etc. -- congrats! Is your business plan ethical, too? If you don't earn a living -- you're absolutely not immune, you're as culpable as who you depend on.

And last, but certainly not least, if you're a billionaire or even a half-a-millionaire, or just plain filthy rich -- shame on you. You know why.

3) Your job as consumer -- In a market-driven economy what you buy is part of your job. It's part of your "living." If you buy anything from above, you've helped those industries prosper. Remember what Bush said after 9/11? Go shopping (and let's make war) .

You and I are stuck deep. Nostra Culpa. Now what? How do we preserve , conserve, progress -- create an honest economy -- and still stay alive? Can we just set up some sort of job offset exchange or a sin tax based on the level of dishonesty inherent in your job or industry? And then get on with it. Or is the only true path to earning an honest living to work entirely off the land in some commune? (You might want to check how the land was paid for, first.)

Must we turn to the dreaded socialism? Maybe. But there is already precedence using good ole capitalism hybrids as a model. A few quickly googled examples -- The city of Kalamazoo's Community Capitalism , Australia and New Zealand's concept of Social Capitalism and the Maldives Carbon Neutral Stock Exchange.

In many ways an honest economy is simply a good democracy. Focus our values, intellect, talents, and laws toward doing good for all instead of giving high fives to predatory winners. An honest economy, like a 12-step program, is not going to happen over night.

Start by taking an honest look at your own job, your boss, your vendors. Then, try making just one small economically honest adjustment at work, and tell others why you're doing it.

As a consumer, fairly value who you deal with. Hold companies accountable for unfair practices. Apologize, and remedy, when you've been wrong,

Imagine if 200 million adults called just one local, state or federal official, demanding, "I deserve to earn an honest living. I insist that you personally take immediate measures creating benchmarks that ensure America values an honest economy."

Want a zippy slogan?

"An Honest America Values Honest Work."

Idealistic? Nope. It's just honest.