Keeping in mind that everything Right Wing demagogues, “pundits”, and shills say is propaganda intended to keep the rubes riled up, angry and afraid with nowhere to turn for relief but to the Republican Party…
Also keeping in mind that a lot of it is also contrived to keep the suckers on the hook, the point being to sell them alternatives to what Liberalism is offering them for free---good schools, comfortable retirements (Invest now!), personal safety (Guns!), a secured income (Own your own business! Call now!)…
And keeping in mind that to them words have no meaning, they’re just sounds to convey feeling, which is why it’s so easy for them to switch positions from week to week without wincing at their own hypocrisy, self-contradictions, and doublethink---one week Obamacare is killing jobs, the next week it’s murdering the work ethic---both “mean” the same thing: We hate, fear, loathe, and despise Barack Obama…
But keeping all that in mind, I’m about to do something that’s probably foolish.
Take a Right Wing pundit and shill at her word.
Just for the sake of argument, though. So please bear with me.
Greta Van Susteren is another member of the Amen Corner now claiming that the evil of Obamacare is that it’s bad for the soul.
After loudly and falsely claiming that a new Congressional Budget Office study reported that the Affordable Care Act will "kill" more than two million jobs in coming years (it did not), Fox News talkers and the right-wing media industry quickly opted for a second (and equally phony) line of attack this week. They condemned the sad state of the American worker, suggesting they're shiftless and lazy and blamed the Obama administration is turning them into ungrateful sloths.
Focusing on the CBO projection that Obama's health care reform may prompt two million workers over the next ten years to voluntarily leave their jobs, or cut back their hours, Bill O'Reilly announced the administration is "creating a class of layabouts." Stuart Varney compared the worker choice trend to "extending the hand-out society." And Brian Kilmeade bemoaned how "the whole work ethic and self-esteem" thing was being undercut by Obama.
A miffed Greta Van Susteren was also deeply offended by the prospects of American workers choosing to work less in order to strike a better balance in their family lives without living in fear of not being covered by health care insurance. "Do you know anyone who has gotten successful by working less?" she asked Staples CEO Tom Stemberg, a longtime critic of Obamacare.
There are plenty of people who had to work their way up the ladder from the very lowest rungs, and so of course they place a lot of value in hard work, self-denial, perseverance, and sheer grit. But most people who are well-off were born lucky, if only in having been born white and middle class in the United States of America.
Van Susteren was born lucky in the way I just mentioned but she appears to have worked hard to get where she is, as well.
I don’t know much about her except what Wikipedia tells me and what Wikipedia tells me is she was born with family and political connections of a kind that might have been helpful to her when she was getting her career started, nowhere near of the breadth, depth, and reach of Mitt Romney’s (who nonetheless thinks of himself and sells himself as a self-made man) but with enough pull and sway, at least locally, that she better not dare think of herself as having been on equal barefoot footing with a coal miner’s daughter.
But those connections and the attendant benefits are modest enough and unexceptional enough that she can be excused for not having noticed them while she was growing up and making her start in the world. (It’s a different story if she’s unable to recognize them or admit to them now.) In fact, they are of a kind that she really might not have needed to get where she got that got her to where she’s gotten today.
Her CV up till she went to work for Fox could be that of any smart, talented, ambitious, and hardworking young lawyer on the rise---a degree at a good state university leading to a JD at one of the top law schools in the country---and she has reason to think working hard and working more made her successful so why shouldn’t others be encouraged to work hard and work more for their own good?
I’m taking Van Susteren at her word and assuming she’s really thinking along these lines and actually cares. Like I said, this is all for the sake of argument.
Where her thinking falls apart is in her not realizing she will never have to work that hard again and hard work is a relative experience, anyway, with a less than equitable distribution of benefits, rewards, and payoffs.
It sounds reasonable, nobody got successful by working less, except that it depends on your definition of successful and your sense of what work is.
For most people successful doesn’t mean being a rich and well-known television news celebrity.
In fact, for most people successful means being able to work less. We’re working for the day when we won’t have to work anymore. That goes for lawyers and bankers and stockbrokers as well as waitresses and Walmart greeters. We all want and need more time to spend with our families, to take care of sick parents, to tend our gardens, to rest and relax and enjoy being human beings instead of mere worker bees.
Beyond that, we’re working to get a little ahead. Successful means the car’s paid off, the tuition’s covered, the vacation can be taken, the doctor can be visited and the hospital avoided. By letting some people cut back a few hours a week and some even quit their jobs, Obamacare lets more of us achieve that modest measure of success.
Of course, that’s one of the reasons conservatives hate Obamacare. It treats health care as something you don’t have to deserve.
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, one of the most loathesome qualities of conservatives is how they feel virtuous by forcing other people to practice virtues they don’t have to practice themselves.
But it’s not only rich Republicans and Glibertarians who think like this.
Think of all the Democrats you’ve heard with an austerity fetish who’ve blithered pious nonsense about us all needing to tighten our belts. One of them is President of the United States.
Van Susteren is securely entrenched in that blessed Inside the Beltway professional world where it’s only possible to fail upward. But let’s suppose she lost her gig at Fox and no other job in the news biz opened up for her. She is a woman and over fifty, two strikes against her. She has her law degree, but what if she was disbarred or made a pariah, two things that could happen because her tort lawyer husband is a sleaze of the type who tend to drag their families and friends into their messes and it's easy to imagine him getting into such a mess. Or suppose they get divorced and he chisels her on the alimony. She’d still have thirty years of professional connections and friendships to call on, thirty years of favors to call in. But, still, let’s suppose there’s a chance---because it has happened to many formerly, high-salaried, up-till-last week successful professionals seemingly set for life---to make ends meet, she’d find herself having to take a job waiting tables---for the dignity labor bestows---and then being given the option of slinging hash for forty hours a week to pay for her health insurance or going online to sign up for Obamacare.
Forty hours? Try fifty. Sixty. Eighty. I haven’t seen it discussed much, but a lot of those jobs people will now be able to give up thanks to Obamacare are second jobs, even third jobs.
Working hard at driving the Weinermobile to help pay your way through college is different from driving the Weinermobile on top of putting in forty hours at your other job to meet the mortgage this month or buy health insurance.
Working hard to get yourself through three years of law school is different from working hard to get yourself through your shift at Walmart just for the privilege of being allowed back tomorrow to do it all over again.
Working hard to make partner is different from working hard to make your quota with no promise of a raise or a bonus or a promotion or even of long-term continued employement, just the relief that comes from the boss leaving you alone for a few weeks. Or days. Or day.
Working hard at a job that has purpose, worth, and meaning in and of itself is different from working hard at a job with the sole purpose of collecting a paycheck that will let you and your family eat this week.
Van Susteren belongs to a class of people that includes a high percentage of over-achievers, Type-A types, workaholics and perfectionists from a very young age, who as kids committed themselves to a level of academic and then professional success that their friends and classmates and early career colleagues not only couldn’t match and didn’t aspire to but probably couldn’t even imagine as mattering.
Most of us settle and settle young. These types never settled and never will.
Their work doesn’t give their life meaning. Their work has meaning because it is their life.
It’s not surprising, then, that they don’t know what work is for most everybody else or, if they ever knew, they’ve forgotten.
Work means showing up and taking it, whatever the bosses choose to dole out, day in and day out, week after week, year after year, with your driving hope being that you’ll make enough money to get by until the day when the bosses decide time’s up. You’re too old, you’re too sick, you’re too expensive to keep around. With luck, that day will come the day after you qualify for Medicare and Social Security.
Anyway, this feels like a good time to post this poem by Philip Levine again.
We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.
--- What Work Is