A Nation of Social Workers (and the Victims Who Need Them)

To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. To a community organizer, every citizen looks like a victim entitled to someone else’s money.

The Obama campaign and administration has proved that again and again. But both the president and his wife put a fine point on it with commencement addresses this month. (Joe Biden also gave one, but it’s a safe bet that nobody – Joe least of all – knew what he was talking about.) To the Obamas, grads should opt for the virtue of what Michelle has called “helping” careers, and eschew the vice and corruption of the private sector.

Just as the president famously said his ideal Supreme Court nominee would have “empathy,” and his May 26 speech nominating Sonya Sotomayor emphasized her  “common touch and a sense of compassion,” the Obama’s make it clear that America doesn’t need strong minds and backs so much as shoulders to cry on.

Lost among controversy surrounding Obama’s Notre Dame address is what he said in the parts of the speech that weren’t verbal slight-of-hand on abortion. According to the president of the United States, the world those young Americans are entering is a mess thanks to free enterprise:

This is the generation that must find a path back to prosperity and decide how we respond to a global economy that left millions behind even before this crisis hit – an economy where greed and short-term thinking were too often rewarded at the expense of fairness, and diligence, and an honest day’s work.

In that nightmare world, “The strong too often dominate the weak, and too many of those with wealth and with power find all manner of justification for their own privilege in the face of poverty and injustice.”

Bracing stuff. Bet those kids couldn’t wait to shed the mortarboards and tackle life head-on.

Of course, it was worse for the grads at the University of California, Merced. Their speaker was Michelle. The Ivy League-educated lawyer regaled them with a vision of a world teeming with Dickensian waifs:

 … the millions of kids living all over this world who will never come close to having the chance to stand in your shoes – kids in New Orleans whose schools are still recovering from the ravages of Katrina; kids who will never go to school at all because they're forced to work in a sweat shop somewhere; kids in your very own communities who just can't get a break, who don't have anyone in their lives telling them that they're good enough and smart enough to do whatever they can imagine; kids who have lost the ability to dream. These kids are desperate to find someone or something to cling to. They are looking to you for some sign of hope.

Indeed, because they’re apparently not going to get much hope from Mrs. Obama. We get it. The world sucks. America sucks. Capitalism really sucks. And grads shouldn’t contribute to the suck-fest. Instead, they should … (wait for it!) “give back.”

A week before his Notre Dame speech, Obama told Arizona State graduates that, with their hard-earned sheep skins, they “have no excuses not to change the world.” How? “You can help our struggling non-profits … teach in a high-need school …help us lead a green revolution, developing new sources of clean energy that will power our economy and preserve our planet.”

Of course, struggling non-profits are generally dependent on struggling for-profits, and we have hundreds of thousands of high school teachers and wretched public education, and in all likelihood any true “green revolution” is going to come from the private sector. But in socialism, nobility resides only in the public sector.

Here’s the Missus at Merced again: “Now, let me tell you, careers focused on lifting up our communities – whether it's helping transform troubled schools or creating after-school programs or training workers for green jobs – these careers are not always obvious, but today they are necessary.”

And they were necessary last year when Michelle, who earned north of $316,000, talked to a group of low-income mothers in Zanesville, Ohio (median household income of $37,192 in 2004, according to National Review's Byron York). “Don’t go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we’re encouraging our young people to do that.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2006 the “median annual earnings, including bonuses, of wage and salary financial analysts were $66,590 in May 2006.” The Bureau states that that same month the median annual earnings of all social workers was $39,877. Shoot for the moon, kid. Be a social worker!

We’ve reached the logical terminus of Camelot. JFK’s “ask not” phrase is a bell rung so often by liberals in the last 50 years that its cold war context has been vibrated away. We’re left with the sham “paid volunteerism” of Clinton’s AmeriCorps, and the absurdity of a millionaire community organizer shamelessly berating those who create wealth and proscribing the career choices of educated young people.

The Obamas are just giving free reign to their ideological imaginations. After all, they must know their vision can’t work – at least not for long. They must know that someone has to foot the bill for all this. Someone has to produce. Someone must refuse to join a Democrat constituent group. There’s no future for a nation of social workers and their clients.

So they should just give graduates advice more in line with the way life actually works: “Go find a decent-paying job that you don’t hate doing, get married, raise a couple of kids and spend a fortune educating them so that when they graduate you can listen to wealthy socialists tell them not to do what you did.”

Matt Philbin is managing editor of the Business & Media Institute.