Help Wanted: Menial Labor. Dead End Job. No Health Insurance. Fun Place to Work.

05/25/2011 12:15 pm ET
  • Peter Smith Author, 'A Porch Sofa Almanac' and 'A Cavalcade of Lesser Horrors'

Here's a help wanted ad from the local newspaper:

"Order Picker/Packer
Someone to do a variety of tasks in small warehouse, no forklift. Must be able to lift and carry 50+pounds, day hours. No health insurance."

The ad ends with a slogan: "A fun place to work."

Maybe, if there's a compressed air hose, they let you make fart noises in your armpit. Or maybe there's a TV bolted to the wall above the grease-spattered microwave in the break room. And that, "No health insurance"? Sounds like a regular laugh riot.

Maybe you have to be able to lift 50+pounds because they stack the irony so high. Wouldn't it be ironic, for example, if the front office person who wrote and placed the ad weren't eligible for health insurance herself?

The up-by-the-bootstraps set consider jobs like this to be opportunities -- a chance to grab that bottom rung and make something of yourself. And maybe that's true. For all I know, this job is a rocket to the top of the heap. You're picking and packing one day. You're running the whole show the next.

But experience would lead you to believe that, for every individual who can turn a job like this into a rocket, there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people who can't. They don't have the intellect. They have other responsibilities. They get injured on the job. They've got a kid with health issues. Whatever.

The reality is that for the vast majority of Americans -- especially young Americans -- jobs like this offer little chance for advancement and no incentive to work hard. The company doesn't care. It's just a job, no matter how assiduously you apply yourself. It's a paycheck without benefits. It's day labor, nothing more.

Meanwhile, out in Washington, the anti-universal health care lobbyists and politicians -- people who eat lunch off white tablecloths in four-star restaurants, not break rooms -- say employers, not the government should provide some form of coverage.

And elsewhere in America, CFOs and CEOs of companies that do provide health insurance discuss the crisis over lunch at the club and decide to increase the employee's share of health care costs 50 percent. "We need to do it to remain competitive. And besides, the employees can afford it. We just gave them a 3 percent cost of living raise, didn't we?"

This is the job market the Bush Economic Miracle has created. This is the future we are providing for Generation Screwed -- and future Generations Screwed.

Help wanted. Menial labor, dead end job, no health insurance, no future.

In America -- a fun place to work.