July 23, 2010
The phony social security crisis-7: Who are the hard workers?
As I said in the previous post in this series, the elites who work in comfortable conditions in well-paying jobs have no idea of what work is like for the vast majority of people. And they live in this cocooned world where the media feeds their inflated sense of self-worth. The ever-oblivious New York Times columnist David Brooks is one of those people who serves the needs of such people, someone who can say with no sense of irony: "I was going to say that for the first time in human history, rich people work longer hours than middle class or poor people. How do you construct a rich versus poor narrative when the rich are more industrious?"
The rich are more industrious? How clueless can you get? Does he have any idea how hard manual laborers like farm and construction workers or waiters work, on their feet, each and every day? I'll let Matt Taibbi dissect him:
I would give just about anything to sit David Brooks down in front of some single mother somewhere who's pulling two shitty minimum-wage jobs just to be able to afford a pair of $19 Mossimo sneakers at Target for her kid, and have him tell her, with a straight face, that her main problem is that she doesn't work as hard as Jamie Dimon. [Dimon is CEO and chairman of JPMorgan Chase whom economist Simon Johnson calls the most dangerous man in America for the harmful effect he has on the economy-MS]
Only a person who has never actually held a real job could say something like this. There is, of course, a huge difference between working 80 hours a week in a profession that you love and which promises you vast financial rewards, and working 80 hours a week digging ditches for a septic-tank company, or listening to impatient assholes scream at you at some airport ticket counter all day long, or even teaching disinterested, uncontrollable kids in some crappy school district with metal detectors on every door.
Most of the work in this world completely sucks balls and the only reward most people get for their work is just barely enough money to survive, if that. The 95% of people out there who spend all day long shoveling the dogshit of life for subsistence wages are basically keeping things running just well enough so that David Brooks, me and the rest of that lucky 5% of mostly college-educated yuppies can live embarrassingly rewarding and interesting lives in which society throws gobs of money at us for pushing ideas around on paper (frequently, not even good ideas) and taking mutual-admiration-society business lunches in London and Paris and Las Vegas with our overpaid peers.
Brooks is right that most of the people in that 5% bracket log heavy hours, but where he's wrong is in failing to recognize that most of us have enough shame to know that what we do for a living isn't really working. I pull absolutely insane hours in my current profession, to the point of having almost no social life at all, but I know better than to call what I do for a living work. I was on a demolition crew when I was much younger, the kind of job where you have to wear a dust mask all day long, carry buckets full of concrete, and then spend all night picking fiberglass shards out of your forearms from ripping insulation out of the wall.
If I had to do even five hours of that work today I'd bawl my f------ eyes out for a month straight. I'm not complaining about my current good luck at all, but I would wet myself with shame if I ever heard it said that I work even half as hard as the average diner waitress.
What is even more annoying is when well-to-do people express annoyance when they discover that people doing what they consider low-skilled and demeaning jobs (like sanitation workers) may sometimes earn enough wages to provide a modestly comfortable life for their families and even take vacations or drive a reasonably nice car. They seem to think that a job that requires low entry-level skills should always pay poorly. When people say such things in my presence, my response is always to tell them that if they think those people have got such a great deal, whether they would consider giving up their current jobs and in exchange for those, or at least encourage their children to seek those jobs. Of course, the thought had never even crossed their minds.
What is perfectly understood but left unsaid by the oligarchy is that if all jobs, however menial, paid a decent wage, then the cost of things would rise and the rest of us would have to pay more for clothes, food, and other services, leaving the rich with slightly less disposable income for restaurant meals, and hotels, and to pay for tee-times at their country clubs. As Voltaire said, "The comfort of the rich depends upon the abundance of the poor."
The attempt by the oligarchy to get their hands on the social security trust fund is spearheaded by people who have consistently lied about its viability. The reality is that the founders of the social security program back in 1935 were not stupid or innumerate but were mathematically savvy people who anticipated most of the demographic changes that subsequently occurred (including the likelihood of increased lifespan) and took them into account in their actuarial planning, making social security one of the best programs ever. The one thing they failed to anticipate was the post-war baby boom, which is what necessitates some tinkering now. The 'zombie lies' (to use Digby's words) that are spread about social secuirity must be combated.
POST SCRIPT: Parody of Old Spice ad
There are some things that just cry out to be parodied and one of them is this ad for Old Spice that I am sure that everyone must have seen because it has received so much publicity.
The Brigham Young University Library (of all places) has produced one of the best parodies.