‘Reclaiming the American Dream’ Focuses on the American Worker

America’s status as “the land of opportunity” is unique in the history of the world. In this country, people from any background can start their own companies or rise to the top of their chosen career fields solely on their own merit, hard work, and determination. Anything is possible here, and everyone can achieve his or her own “American dream.” 

As conservatives, we understand that however each dream may be defined, it is based upon two essential ingredients: liberty and opportunity. Both are necessary for people to pursue and achieve their goals—empowering individuals and strengthening their families and their communities. The open door to upward mobility in our free enterprise system has been key to making and keeping America great. 

Unfortunately, decades of often well-intentioned but ill-conceived government policies gradually have restricted liberty and narrowed the door to opportunity for too many. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic and its related economic fallout have created even more obstacles.  

Before the pandemic began, President Trump and our previous Republican majority in Congress made great strides and enacted policy reforms that produced a record-breaking economy and unprecedented opportunities for all Americans. To return to that prosperity, we must reject the Left’s dangerous calls for socialism and instead commit ourselves even more to advancing reforms for the good of the American worker. 

To that end, the Republican Study Committee’s American Worker Task Force has published a new report, “Reclaiming the American Dream: Proposals to Empower the Workers of Today and Tomorrow.” Our report, which is the product of more than a year of concentrated study and collaboration, includes more than 100 policy ideas to accomplish three major objectives—refine existing education goals, refocus labor policy, and reimagine the welfare state. “Reclaiming the American Dream” recognizes that work gives purpose and meaning to people’s lives, enabling Americans to achieve their God-given potential and turn their own American dreams into reality.

Our suggested reforms are based upon the belief that each individual has inestimable dignity, value, and potential—and that everyone deserves better than a lifetime of public dependency.

Our approach will remove more barriers to achievement by reducing government overreach and returning the power of self-determination to the people themselves. In education, for example, we present ideas to better equip students to succeed in a changing economy—recognizing that there are more pathways to success than just a four-year college degree. Instead of allowing millions of students to incur mountains of debt earning degrees that do not offer a significant return on their investment, we would shift the strategy to ensure that America’s workforce is better prepared for in-demand jobs through career and technical education apprenticeships as well as skills-based education. 

In labor policy, we would eliminate more of the senseless regulations, counterproductive tax policies, and labor laws that suppress freedom and hinder individual achievement. The status quo is failing the American worker, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our approach would unleash the full potential of the American people by refocusing labor policy to provide workers more control over their futures.  

We also believe that reimagining welfare is long overdue. Instead of measuring success by how many people become self-sufficient, our current system defines success by measuring the growth of each government assistance program and the taxpayer money spent on them. This backward approach has trapped too many Americans in a hopeless cycle of dependency, deprived millions of their true potential, and hamstrung the full power of our economy. The fallout from the pandemic now threatens to ensnare millions more. Our suggested reforms are based upon the belief that each individual has inestimable dignity, value, and potential—and that everyone deserves better than a lifetime of public dependency.

Times of great challenge reveal the character of a nation—and our character is the strongest on earth. The same strength and determination that built this country will bring us back to prosperity after the pandemic. The hardworking people of this country don’t ask for much—just a fair shot at their American dream. We owe them that, and we can ensure that opportunity and expand their freedom by enacting policies that will unleash their full potential. Our report explains how.

About Mike Johnson and Andy Barr

Mike Johnson represents Louisiana's 4th congressional district and is chairman of the House Republican Study Committee. Andy Barr represents Kentucky's 6th congressional district.

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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