Monday, April 12, 2010

Unpacking ...

Stays on top today - G

Matt Taibbi takes the suck-up David Brooks apart:


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.


I've worked like a dog since I was fifteen years old. There are parts of my body that are just about at the end of their service life. My orthopedist can't wait to get a hold of me so he can send his kids to MIT (I need a new shoulder, hip, and surgery on both knees). I've worked in shops where 12-14 hour days were the norm, for not much money and fewer benefits and if you were thinking of calling in sick, you might as well take the day to look for another job. I never broke six figures; getting halfway there was the best I ever did.

It would have been a lot easier to take if I was making a salary where I knew I could afford what I needed when I needed it, if I had no worries about having to pay a hospital bill if I got sick, if I could afford to fix the piece-of-shit car I had (that I got from a customer who was junking it), so I could get to work. If I didn't have those worries then, it would have been easier to take working with broken ribs and fingers (I can reset a break like a pro now), or sicker than a dog, afraid to take a day off in fear of losing my job.

Yes, the Mrs. and I have made a good life for ourselves, thanks not so much to our employers. It took a lot of scrimping and saving and not having kids (not that having a comfortable life was a factor in the choice not to have them). We have a nice house because I've done all the work myself instead of having to worry about paying contractors. We live pretty well thanks to hard work on both our parts and foregoing a lot of things those more well-off deem necessary.

So, for David Brooks to say that some rich guy works harder than I do makes me want to throttle him. Believe me, it's easier to spend 80 hours a week at work when you know your kids will be fed well, clothed well, educated well, and want for nothing. It's easier if you know you'll have enough to pay the bills at the end of the month and, god forbid, if you get hurt somehow, you won't go bankrupt paying the bill.

I've been very poor (to the point of living in a van for a while) and I know what average people go through just to put food on the table. A lot of folks work 80 hours a week and there's still not enough money. I'm sorry, I can't shed too many tears for people who pull down six or seven figures and not break a sweat, regardless of how many hours they put in. No matter how hard the average person works, they'll never make as much, nor enjoy the rewards the rich do.

What Brooks did with his latest column was give a couple hundred million hardworking Americans a slap in the face. Thanks to Matt Taibbi for slapping him back.

Great thanks to Cookie Jill for the link.

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