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.


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Honestly--it's pretty ridiculous how people can even believe the notion that the rich work "harder" than the low and middle class.

People at WalMart make minimum wage and have no benefits--you can't tell me that a Board Member at Exxon, even if they worked the same amount of hours, worked harder than the WalMart employee.

This is ridiculous. The rich will always have the ability to make more money than the US lower and middle class, and thus the cycle is perpetuated. But with the times being as hard as they are the lower and middle class have to work double as hard just to keep up with necessities and luxuries that were much easier to sustain in the 90's.

Remember mall's in the 90's they were actually PACKED! Imagine that...this is funny because Ben Stein actually just insulted the middle class recently.

Anyway--THAT OLD SPICE PARODY was HILARIOUS! Great job from those students who made that!

Posted by Business Coach Calabasas on July 23, 2010 03:05 PM

The notion that rich people are working harder than middle or lower class Americans is absolute hogwash.

Out there--there is a single mother working 90 hour weeks at WalMart for minimum wage, with no benefits for her or her children. Yes this is one extreme of the spectrum; however, many are in a similar position.

The fact of the matter is--in this harsh economic times, neccessities and luxuries that were easily affordable in the 90's have become the dreams of the normal working class citizen.

Rich people will always have the ability to make more money than the lower or middle class, but by no means do these people work "harder." Harder based on what? That they wait in an airport more than they're in an office? That they have their own office and don't work in a store?

This is absolute ridiculousness. And the rich "hard workers" best hold their tongue before they find themselves in a French Revolution-esque situation in the year 2010.

Posted by Business Coach Calabasas on July 23, 2010 05:16 PM

I totally agree that there is no harder work than that which you hate. When in a low paying job that you dread going to every day it makes it so much harder - harder to do and harder to bear. In my last job I was on my feet the whole time. It paid badly, no holiday or sick pay. No thank you. My feet, my legs and my back ached constantly. I worked my backside off and was constantly stressed. All this for about $400 a week. Then I was let go with no warning - no prior notice.

However, the 'rich' also work hard. Some of them have huge responsibility and if they make a mistake, it's not only a boss they may have to contend with - it may be the media and the eye of the whole country.

We all have the same ability to become 'rich' as the next person. Whether we take that opportunity and run with it or stay in our low paying job, is up to us. The only one who holds us back is ourselves.

Posted by Sue @ Scrapbooking Shop on July 23, 2010 09:59 PM

I think Sue you may be confusing entreprenuership with " college connection " driven success. And even so the expression, " only you hold yourself back," is an invented line of BS from the motivational speaking profession. And where is your proof that we all : have the same ability: ( sounds like Bill Oreilly speaking. And another thing why are so many " self made people," so vague bout their " humble " beginnings.
Well there i go with a generalization. The real problem with being rich is you really don't have to give a f**k bout anyone now do you.

Posted by Peter on July 23, 2010 10:37 PM

Somebody asked Billie Holiday what she thought about being rich and her answer?

I've been rich and I been poor, and rich is better.

Sure the rich work hard but it is different and they are richly rewarded.

The poor work to get by.

Posted by Retriever trainer on July 24, 2010 04:35 PM

This is a great post and I agree most wholeheartedly with the general tone of the author, though it seems to be that there is certainly a disconnect and mutual disrespect between the "haves" and "have nots". Both parties seem to resent the other for what they have. The poor certainly have not been given the social "tools" to "succeed", most of which seems to be focused on a "privileged" mindset.

Posted by Jesse from Team Building Information on July 24, 2010 04:37 PM

There is something to be said about the quality of work. Rich people don't sit and answer phones all day or dig ditches. "Work" to a rich person is still something that seems very much like leisure to the rest of us.

"Golfing" is work, flying to some other place to be part of a grand opening/real estate deal/something in your industry is "work," etc. The rich people that I know (I'm talking mega rich) are always "working" but always are doing something different and interesting so it doesn't necessarily seem like they are.

Posted by Dan - Magazine Subscriptions on July 24, 2010 10:34 PM

Like the author I spent much of my younger life performing hard labor, real jobs involving real work.
While I make more money doing what I do now, I by no means work harder. And I thank my lucky stars everyday that I don't.
Some of these CEO's and "cacooned" rich would have a better understanding of the real world of Mr and Mrs Everyday America if they spent just a little time in our world.

Posted by Rich in Shelby County on July 25, 2010 02:29 PM

The value placed upon manual labor is much lower than the value placed upon skilled labor, opportunity and education are key factors.

Posted by IT Support London on July 26, 2010 06:48 AM

Rich people will always have the ability to make more money than the lower or middle class, but by no means do these people work "harder." Harder based on what? That they wait in an airport more than they're in an office? That they have their own office and don't work in a store?

Posted by Scotty on July 28, 2010 02:01 AM

There are so many limiting beliefs that prevent us from moving forward. If we believe that we need to work hard for money, we will. Others believe that we need to work smart for money and they make the same of even more money by doing that.

A belief it's something we have invented long time ago and if it doesn't serve us we can always change it.

Posted by Sean Borokovsky on July 28, 2010 03:24 AM

There are numerous stories of people who have come from nothing and made fortunes because of their ingenuity, but mostly from hard work.

Bill Clinton didn't start from a lot and didn't really know his father. Tony Robbins is another one who came from nothing and made a vast fortune. There are millions of stories like them.

I do believe that the people who work in the financial community are payed 1000's of times more than the value they put back into society, but the only people who can change that is the US Congress.

If you have a dream, you can pursue it. But it takes sacrifice and hard work. The vast majority of people want to be led and therefore they end up in jobs that allow them to be led.

Everyone also needs help. So look for a coach of some kind. Stop complaining, and look for the work that will satisfy you. There are many books and tapes to help anyone become better.

But it does take work and sacrifice.

Posted by Ian Dainty on July 28, 2010 09:30 AM

I've worked both types of jobs. As a kid in high school, I hauled hay. Now I work as an Executive Coach and University Professor. Trust me, I prefer the latter.

While I may work more hours now, the work clearly is not as demanding.

Great parody!

Posted by Dr. John McGinn - Executive Coach on July 28, 2010 11:07 AM

I also don't agree that rich people work harder than the middle class. I do however happen to have some experience... coming from nothing and building a successful practice or business is very difficult. Once you achieve wealth or success things get a lot easier and everything seems to sway your way. The truth is, wealthy individuals have it much easier that the middle class, but breaking out of the middle class into the upper crust is a long, long hard road.

Posted by Boston Academy of English on July 29, 2010 12:57 PM

Thank you, Mano! This post is brilliant and necessary. Yes, the creators of Social Security knew what they were doing, and they knew what its enemies would always try to do, and time passes, and too many forget. And I'd trade the 100 hour weeks in the law firm that I used to do for the 40 hour weeks in the lumber yard in any life!

Posted by Peeeter on July 29, 2010 09:10 PM

I commend you for writing such a truthful article. I agree that the corporate world has completely lost touch of what their own business is all about. As for putting in a lot of hours that is of no consequence, what physical labor is performed between those hours is.
My story worked the crappy jobs for 35 years and now I have disc problems in my neck. This is forever, I work online now 7 days a week for at least 14 to 16 hours a day just so I can make some kind of income. Most of the time it's much less than minimum wage.
But at this point what else can I do.

Posted by Motels Near Airport on July 31, 2010 12:29 PM

Thank you for working hard to expose the Social Security fraudsters. I get so tired of hearing about how the system is going broke and it needs to be "taken over" and privatized. The television and print media houses are filled with people who clearly don't understand what it's like to be the "small people." Keep at them!

Posted by Inspirational Sayings by Kurt on August 5, 2010 11:16 PM

What really makes me mad is the situation after the so called credit crunch. Now we have governments all round the world putting in austerity measures saying how we all must cut back and pay for all the spending that went on.

It´s a bit like a neighbour having a lavish party and you getting the bill. It´s the big bankers with the huge bonuses that should pay things back not the average man and women.

Posted by Nigelinspain on November 25, 2010 07:16 AM

I think no matter what socioeconomic class you belong to, everyone works hard. Some just get paid more.

Posted by Sally on December 7, 2010 05:21 PM