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July 1st, 2012
09:07 AM ET

Letters to the President #1259: 'Hard work...hardly working'

Reporter's Note: President Obama receives a letter from me each day. I never get even a postcard from him, but you know some folks are just that way.

Dear Mr. President,

This is proving to be an enormously busy summer in our household. In yours too, I guess. Ha! That said, I’ve been thinking a lot about work lately, in particular about a poll. Earlier this year, the Pew Hispanic Center released a study which found that 75 percent of Hispanics in the United States believe you can get ahead by working hard, compared to only 58 percent of the general U.S. population.

I don’t know about you, but I find that worrisome. Not the Hispanic part, but the general part. Think about it. 58 percent. That suggests a deep and very troubling movement in the population. If these people do not believe in hard work, where do they think success comes from? Luck? The benevolence of others? Inherited wealth? Government?

Here’s a second question which I think is just as important: Why do they think this way?

I have several guesses. Chief among them, we’ve allowed certain patterns of behavior to permeate our government, our workplaces, and our society which strike many people as inherently unfair. We have decoupled hard work from its rewards in too many ways, and people see it.

What I hear from friends in all sorts of businesses is that promotions are being based on office politics, not on merit; that people are getting ahead not because of what they do, but because of how well they flatter the bosses; that the manipulators are treated like kings, and the hard workers are treated like saps.

If we want to put our economy back on a firm setting, I think we all need to take an evening to watch “Moneyball” and apply the lessons. After all, the chief principle extolled in that film is simple: The person who gets results is who you want on your team…not the one who is flashiest, gets the most headlines, or just looks like a winner.

I’d love your thoughts on this. Give a buzz if you can.

Regards,
Tom