Rush Limbaugh, Scott Walker and College: What is a career path?

Rush Orders: I’ve listened to Rush Limbaugh for over 22 years, at 36 I’m a Rush baby. El Rushbo has influenced my thinking greatly; he got to me before I was corrupted by any public school system or college professor. And over that time I’ve struggled with a major theme in his show: What is the Glory of the American Enterprise?

Rush Limbaugh is constantly preaching to us, his audience, to follow his advice. For many conservatives his recommendations and suggestions land on fertile ground. These are not deaf ears he is speaking to; we know where he’s coming from when it comes to the economic and political implications of our choices. We agree with his position that Capitalism is the best alternative to any economic system and unleashing human ingenuity in business is a necessary component of a free country. This is a fundamental aspect of the traditional American value system that needs to be upheld.

But Rush Limbaugh misses the connection between his views and how people take his advice. Because of his deep conviction and how he promotes his career path through entrepreneurship he could lead people to make poor career choices. He has almost admitted this confusion on the air recently.

During the week of 2/23/14 Rush stumbled to explain how Scott Walker did not need to finish college because he, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn’t. He has told the story many times about his ball room dancing course requirement at the University of Missouri. But that does not lead to the conclusion that students should abandon college, as he freely admits.

However in many previous episodes of his show he has recommended to countless callers to find their passion and follow it. Rush knew he wanted to be in radio since he was a kid. He was fascinated by the technology and raised by a father that taught him to have a commitment to the greatest American values and principles. He pursued his dreams and these merged to form one of the greatest media franchises in history. But, the plain fact is that most people will not have that experience. Most people will work the way Rush did as he was earning his stripes and fired seven times. And most of us will never escape the employment of other people to pursue our own businesses. Our priorities of family stability, risk aversion, our character, professional strengths and weaknesses, the market for our talent and personal qualities may lead to the conclusion that a pay check is the way to go. And that is okay!

When Rush Limbaugh talks about how he knew what he wanted to do at an early age, most listeners will take this as advice that we should have figured out what we want to do by the age of 10. When I was 10 I wanted to be a NBA basketball star, but that didn’t happen. I worked my butt off for 8 years. By my senior year of high school I knew that I wasn’t going to get a scholarship and I was okay with that. Over my young life I had found other passions, reading a variety of books and learning about business.

When Rush Limbaugh gets a phone call from somebody who is struggling with unemployment his advice has often been start a business. The same advice applies for someone who is working for a corporation and who is frustrated by limited options. Rush often approves of college as a way to build skills that can be used by corporations, employers, investors and entrepreneurs. But he also rightly points out that in most colleges the professional benefits of a degree will be drastically outweighed by the political costs of indoctrination. Therefore I believe many listeners will not conclude that they should go to college and be on guard but instead become skeptical of the entire process of education.

When Rush talks with someone working in K-12 public education he will often gently take them to task for being a part of a corrupt system. I think this is on target. But many conservative teachers are trying to do their best job and should be recognized more often. We have an army of parents who desperately want the best education for their children and will find a way to provide it with or without the public school system. At the same time, we have portions of the country (especially the inner cities) that are literally crumbling because of the cancerous poison of weak public education. Most people in education say that they are not attempting to become independently wealthy like evil businessmen. But they set up a pension that sustains their lifestyle indefinitely post retirement. They have found a way to achieve a level of financial stability that most Americans will never see, short of becoming a $400M tycoon like Rush Limbaugh. The vast majority of Americans will die without a penny to their name. And while I would like to leave an inheritance to my children I recognize that I may end up supporting my parents who want to leave something for me. Instead, my priority has become to leave a legacy of faith, character and responsibility. The rest will come out in the wash at the end of time.

Rush, why do you set up business ownership and wealth as life’s ultimate goal? I’ve listened to you as long as you’ve been on the air, and this is the distinct impression I get. Is it because this was important to you? I know that my father worked his butt off to provide for my family. He was raised with nothing and because of his sacrifice I was able to go to a great Conservative private Christian college. I learned from my 12-year business career the way you did, trial and error. While working I eventually earned my Ph.D. to become a conservative college professor like Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell. I did this because I am not abandoning our culture to those fools in the ivory tower who will destroy the next generation of Americans. And, while I generate income through a variety of channels I believe that wealth is a byproduct of good decisions and not a goal. And honoring God and the freedom to use my time are more important to me that my bank account. I will fight for the hearts and minds of students in the classroom. And if I am persecuted for it, so be it!

Most people don’t have the ability to earn a substantial income doing what they’re doing. And while Rush would never slight anyone’s skills, abilities or choices, like Ayn Rand his views can come off as elitist. It seems that the John Galts and Howard Roarks of the world are to be admired and revered; while everyone else needs to get off their butt and be more independent. This is simplistic; we are motivated by other things than reckless self-expression. Rush seems to believe that monetary gain is the measure of success. While you can earn a lot of money without a college degree, that is not the clearest path to the most fulfilling vocation for most people.

I could go on, there is always more to say, as Rush would say. But I want to caution Rush and other people who rightly believe that we need more business men and women, those businesses need people who value their work for its God glorifying duty and honorable provision to their family. This is a great ambition as well, even if it doesn’t produce confiscatory profits or publicly traded corporations.

My advice to students is this (with slight modifications depending on the audience): look at your career as a Roman building with three pillars. The first column is your Passion or those personal traits that make you who you are. Cultivate a love for Lord and through that develop your purpose which will allow you to use these gifts and talents. The second column is an Industry. What most people don’t tell you is that business and organizations pay for experience and expertise in a specific field. Banks need bankers (with finance or accounting skill). Snowboard companies need shredders who know wax and steel inside and out and go beyond the mountain to the craftsman’s table and the materials etc. The music industry is filled with people who had a passion for music but figured out how live, love and learn about the industry that brings great music to the ears of millions. So pick an area of life, and take it beyond a hobby to learn about an industry. Thirdly, you need education. It can be on the job, but since you are here in the classroom consider this. Every job has qualifications or certifications you need to get in the door. Many of these require a college degree. This is your ticket to ride, it get’s you in the door. But even then, once you have a job – the learning never stops and the on the job education will be different that books. But if you have learned how to learn, you can integrate these lessons with your educational foundation and absorb the advise of other and synthesize the new books and articles you read to become wildly successful. That is my goal for you, build the life you want. Create a life for you and your family that is glorifying to God, meaningful and fulfilling.