Does Ashton Kutcher Show Us Why The AFL-CIO Is Declining?

Ashton gave a short speech the other night, and yesterday Fox News reported on the decline of a major union,

“It was an unexpected and blunt admission by one of the nation’s most powerful labor leaders: ‘We are in crisis, and we have to do things differently,’ AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told USA Today last week. His candid assessment heralds a change in strategy for the one-time labor giant.  It is now seeking to partner with other left-leaning organizations such as the NAACP and the Sierra Club to bolster its influence, and its lagging membership.”

One major reason for the “crisis” was explained by Chris Edwards, a Senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

“‘Americans have rejected unionism,’ Edwards says. ‘Particularly young people. If you look at the overall unionization rate, it’s seven percent but among young people, it’s just four percent which is remarkable.’”

Recent political outcomes often make me want to be pessimistic. But I wonder if this declining willingness to join a union should give us hope that the “weird” speech of Ashton Kutcher at the Teen Choice Awards reflect a real trend. I’m no fan of Ashton. Hollywood Life pointed out several ways (not all!) in which his life is incongruous with his advice. But he started out by pointing out his own hypocrisy between his public life and the way he managed to find some of his success.

But the fact remains he pulled back the curtain to show his fans the importance of a work ethic. My favorite part:

“I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. When I was 13, I had my first job with my dad throwing shingles up to the roof. Then I got a job washing dishes in a restaurant. And then I got a job in a grocery store deli. And then I got a job in a factory sweeping Cheerios dust off the ground. And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. Every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job and I never quit my job until I had my next job. So opportunities look a lot like work.”

He also said some other things that were good, though a bit more clichéd. He encouraged his audience to discount appearances, either their own or anyone else’s, and shared some success inspiration from Steve Jobs. It was OK but the material about work was great.

Which makes me wonder: dare we hope that “Conservativism” (or free markets or freedom or whatever) is winning? I know that politicians still make promises and still get people who pretend to believe them. But are American youth really going to believe that National Health Care is actually going to efficiently and affordably provide medical care for the US population? Are the ones who work at bettering themselves going to think it is fair to make them support others who don’t work? Do they see what has happened over the years with bailouts and stimulus spending and quantitative easing and think, “the world is run by really smart people, we just need to give them more unfettered power.”

I’m hoping not.