Sunday, August 2, 2015

It's The Vacations (Or Lack Thereof), Stupid!

Thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and the raw financial power of corporate media, we drown daily in a sea of conservative Op-Ed pieces by authors of varying levels of accomplishment.  Accomplishment, that is, when it comes to dishonesty or stupidity.

I mean, sometimes--hell, most of the time--it's hard to tell which of those two weaknesses are responsible for some of the "views" these pieces express.  Is it one or the other?  Is it both?  Either way, they do little more than illustrate the inability of modern conservative thinking to articulate an honest, defensible approach to solving the nation's problems.  And, at the same time, they crowd out of the marketplace voices that could offer such an approach.

Take Jonah Goldberg's recent syndicated lament for the death of the summer job.  After spending several narcissistic paragraphs about how summer jobs built his character as he, admittedly, worked for "beer money," he launches into a tirade about the alleged immorality of making the minimum wage a "living wage."  He follows this up with an extended ad hominem argument that internships, immigrants and unions form an unholy trio whose support for the minimum wage is, ipso facto, proof that the concept should be rejected without discussion.

Let's tackle the question of the alleged "immorality" first.  Goldberg's argument here depends on the idea that employers hiring inexperienced workers are burdened by the risk that inexperience poses to their work.  That statement, alone, makes me wonder about the veracity of his own alleged "experiences."  I worked a number of summer jobs in my high school and college years, and none of them offered any kind of guarantee of employment.  If someone working a summer job for one of these employers screwed up, guess what?  He or she was out the door, and someone else took their place, just like that.  Tell me, Mr. Goldberg:  in that scenario, who's really bearing the risk?  Hint:  not the employer.

As for the vision of all those entrepreneurial, Reaganesque, morning-in-America employers desperate to hire inexperience workers who just might be the next great Horatio Alger story--well, good luck finding those employers, then or now.  All of the employers I applied to were looking for experienced employers.  Two intriguing exceptions:  the Baltimore County Public Library system (oh horrors!  A government employer gave me my first work experience); and two concessions companies within the National Park Service, which only hired me because I was sponsored by A Christian Ministry In The National Parks to lead worship services for park visitors.  Employers hiring the inexperienced?  Might as well believe that tax cuts balance budgets.  Oh, that's right, Mr. Goldberg; you believe that too.

When it comes to wages, the only immorality is asking people to work for a living at a level that forces them to depend on government handouts to get by.  Ever heard of Wal-Mart, Mr. Goldberg?  And it's not the only offender.  On the other hand, Henry Ford, no one's idea of a knee-jerk liberal, took this view.  And consider this quote:
I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth or shapes it into a garment will starve in the process.
That was said by Benjamin Harrison, Mr. Goldberg.  A Republican President.  Would that we had more Republicans like that nowadays.

But the real culprit in the decline of the summer job?  Fewer workers going on vacations.  The death of the summer job is inextricably linked to the death of the summer vacation.  With fewer workers going away in the summer, there is less need for summertime help--and hence, fewer opportunities to earn "beer money."   And why are fewer workers going on vacation?  Thirty-five years of union-busting, worker-crusting, employer-loving public policy, that's way.  All delivered to all of us with the help of apparatchiks like Mr. Goldberg, to whom I offer two parting thoughts.

You claim to have been a mail room "flunky."  Don't insult people who work in mail rooms; their work is sometimes more valuable and more crucial that the work of some so-called executives.  You also claim to have been worried about men from the Stonewall Inn flirting with you.  Don't worry, your a Republican.  None of them would have wanted a good piece of elephant.

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