I been thinkin’. It’s not my strong suit, but all my other suits are dirty. So’s this one, but it’s the cleanest dirty suit I’ve got. Oh, hey, what’s this in the pocket? Why, it’s a matchbook from the Tradewinds Hotel in lovely Fremantle, Western Australia. That’s how long it’s been since I did anything like thinkin’, I guess. I was last there in… holy shit, 1989. That must be, gosh, more fingers than I have. 25 years! Well, almost. It was late November, so call it twenty four point something years.
Math isn’t my strong suit, either. Which leads naturally to the question of what, precisely, is this heathen’s strong suit? The honest answer is that I truly do not know. I might not even have one.
Just so it’s said, I am aware that “strong suit” refers to a hand of cards rather than garments. Irregardless, I’m not one who could care less about a long road to hoe. 😀
So, I been thinkin’. And if I been thinkin’, I’m surely fixin’ to piss some people off and make a fool of myself. I don’t know why it works that way, but surely it does. I ain’t figgered that out yet, might never. It could remain a mystery. But here’s what I been thinkin’ anyway:
People are full of shit.
I heard on NPR news yesterday while driving along in my old pickup truck that the Oh-blah-blah madmenistration is pushing to revise the overtime rules so that fewer workers will be exempted from provisions requiring overtime pay. Some folks whose voices were heard were in favor, some were opposed. One guy who was opposed said that it would be “a job destroyer”. I hurt my hand when I flipped off the radio receiver a little too aggressively and bashed my knuckles against the face of it. The radio itself, thankfully, is undamaged.
I’m sure that some relatively large number of people are frightened and convinced by the argument that paying people for all of the work they’re doing in the furtherance of their employers’ interests would be a bad thing. The usual arguments are always trotted out, the same ones we hear when there’s talk of bumping the minimum wage: Jobs will be lost, jobs won’t be created, prices will rise, the economy will suffer, people will lose their homes, children will go hungry, crime rates will soar, income won’t be redistributed to the ruling elite so rapidly, god will get hemorrhoids, goats will have sex with sheep, and a revitalized middle class economy will hamper the military’s recruiting efforts which will bring aid and comfort to our terrorist enemies.
Just now, corporate profits, stock prices, and cash reserves are at record highs, levels that have never been seen before in all of human history. Executive compensation is even higher, so high that the corporate raiders of the Reagan era didn’t even dare to have wet dreams so fantastic. The stock markets are booming, also at levels never before seen in all of human history. While the news media might be okay with saying goofy shit like “investors are feeling encouraged by the jobs numbers”, the truth of the matter is that there is tremendous competition for ownership of stocks because the financial elite are practically drowning in money. Financial investors whose charters strictly limit how much cash they can hold are being forced to make investments they don’t even like because it’s the only way to keep the SEC off of their backs. Corporate investors, with no such concerns, are sitting on their reserves intentionally allowing their value to be eroded by inflation. There’s so much money under the control of the financial elite that they literally do not know what to do with it all.
But if they lose the right to force people to work for free, it will be “a job destroyer”.
I work in a field in which many of my (former) peers are salaried/exempt, as I was for many years. I could be required to work as many hours as my employers demanded, with no additional compensation and no right to be free from reprisal if I refused. I usually worked over 60 hours per week, and there were times when it was remarkable, and remarked upon, when I caught a slow week and could get it down to just 60 hours. “Going home early?”, I would be asked, as I made my way out of the building at eight o’clock in the evening. “Where were you on Saturday?”, they’d ask on Monday morning, if I had managed to snag a two day weekend. Of course I got comp time, which if you’re unfamiliar with it is a game we play in which we pretend that for every hour of overtime I work today I can take an hour off at some point in the future. I was very rarely allowed to take my comp time, and it was not convertible into cash. Not by me, it wasn’t. It was converted into cash by my employers.
It seems like legalized slavery, to me. You work for free, and if you don’t you’re fired and become at risk of losing everything you’ve ever earned. If you can’t find another master quickly, your house and your most valuable possessions are taken away. You lose your access to all but emergency medical care. If you’ve got a family member with a chronic condition, get used to saying “I’m sorry” and meaning it like you’ve never meant anything else in your life.
I don’t remember the numbers any more because it’s been 15 years or more since I put them all together, but once upon a time I sat down with all of my employment records and added up all of the comp time I’d put on the books and what those hours would have been worth as overtime pay, using my annual salary in each position divided by 2080 to determine my straight time rate. The result was that in the span from 1984 when I gladly took my honorable discharge from the US Air Force until the day I got fed up and swore to never again work for wages, I had given my employers a house. I found the representative house in the newspaper, a four bedroom, two and three-quarter bath home with a family room and formal dining room, a two car garage and a detached workshop on a large lot in Loveland, Colorado. The value of my comp time would have paid full asking price, taxes and all, and left a few thousand for the housewarming party. I went into town and pulled up across the street from the place, admired the mature and well kept landscaping and the signs that the home had been loved and cared for by the owners rather than prettied up for sale.
I sat there for a while, at first, just admiring the place. I love seeing a property that’s been loved, especially a large rural property, but a place in town can have something akin to that look to it, too, and that place had it. But the admiration quickly turned to anger, as I considered that I was looking at a tangible asset whose value was the equivalent of the work I had performed for free. Hours of my life given away as charity to commercial enterprise. Or taken away, depending upon your point of view. I reflected upon some conversations I’d had with managers and executives over the years, who always took the easy way out: No one’s holding a gun to your head.
“You have a choice. You don’t have to work here.” A choice? Show me my choice. Show me how I’m going to meet the basic human needs of my family and myself if I don’t work in this place or one just like it. Tell me there’s no fucking gun to my head when my choices are eat your shit or explain to my family that we’re going to be without shelter, food, and clothing now because I’m too prideful to work for free.
Fortunately, I found my other option and I don’t have to work for wages any more. But most people cannot do what I do. They’re grown-ups. I can tell. Most of them are taller than children and, unlike children, can communicate with you for hours without expressing even one original thought or insightful question. Most of them will confirm the assessment of grown-upness by claiming that they’ve earned everything they’ve got without help from anyone else, and then drive the point home by becoming agitated and aggressive if you try to point out all of the help they’ve received along the way. Part of the indoctrination that changes them from children to grown-ups is the delusion of independence and self-sufficiency they’re all given which enables them to be real dickheads, and so well suited for jobs in the range from front line stuporvisor to muddle management.
The saddest part of all about being a grown-up is that adults won’t hang out with you. That leaves you no role models to emulate so you end up parroting the shit the television spews into the space where your brain used to be.
The rest of us, those of us who are adults rather than grown-ups, can figure out that the “job creators” are full of shit. It’s easy for me because I’m just old enough to remember a different world. I might not be real bright but I have a memory or two. Way back in 1963 my parents bought (took on a mortgage for) the house I grew up in, which was then a brand new house in a brand new subdivision that would smell like cow shit for the next decade or so until the city finally succeeded in driving all of the dairymen out. Way back in 1963 the typical family had two adults in it, only one of whom worked. My family was typical in that way; my father worked, my mother was a stay at home and wouldn’t earn a dollar in wages until after I was grown and quite happily gone. Dear Old Dad was a truck driver, though not a very good one. He could have made a higher wage if he’d gone over-the-road, but he couldn’t be trusted outside of radio range of the office because he required almost constant supervision. The salient point here: His one shitty little job that he wasn’t so very good at was sufficient to buy a new home in a new subdivision (albeit one that smelled of cow shit), put an in-ground pool in the back yard a few years later, and then put RV’s, boats, dirt bikes, cars and other toys around the outside of it, take month-long vacations every summer, and provide medical, dental, vision, and life insurance and a generous retirement plan, too.
The national average wage for a truck driver right now is $16.90 per hour. The same job that would buy a house and load it up with toys 50 years ago leaves a family of four just a mite above the poverty level today. Where’d the money go? Again: The ruling elite have so much money that they don’t even know what to do with it all so they’re sitting on enormous piles of it intentionally allowing its value to be eroded by inflation. Those piles remain even though they’re being well beyond outrageously generous with their own salaries and bonuses and perqs.
Tell me again about income redistribution, job creators, free markets, and that mind melting blow job the tooth fairy is going to give me later on if I eat all of my broccoli without complaint.
Like I said, this thinkin’ stuff just ain’t my strong suit. Every time I give it a go, I get different answers than those all around me do even though we’re all getting the same questions. I must be doin’ somethin’ wrong here, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is. When I was a kid, back when a guy as stupid as wet newspaper could buy a house, some earnest professional people examined my head and somehow concluded that I was pretty smart. I wonder what happened between then and now to make me so damned stupid.
I mean, I read a few articles online this morning that explained in fairly simple terms how paying people for the overtime that they work is going to just fuckerize things all over, but it all seemed just like bullshit to me. Somebody here is an idiot and it might just be me.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my cannabinoid receptors are in need of some attention.