Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The bizzaro workplace
A few others have already pointed out the excerpts from the new Santorum book over at CapitolBuzz. Santorum's opinions on the status of women are indeed creepy, but I wanted to point out how out of touch with normal working people one of the same quotes shows him to be.
In far too many families with young children, both parents are working, when, if they really took an honest look at the budget, they might confess that both of them really don’t need to, or at least may not need to work as much as they do… And for some parents, the purported need to provide things for their children simply provides a convenient rationalization for pursuing a gratifying career outside the home. (It Takes a Family, p. 94)

To Santorum, modern women are selfish monsters who fling their children aside in order to have fun, fun, fun in workplace.

Santorum's job provides the best health insurance in the country for him and his entire family. He makes $162,100 per year. He also collected $70,000 from the State of Pennsylvania Penn Hills School District to home school his kids, even though they are full-time residents of The state of Virginia. He is one of the poorest people in the Senate. His brother is a CEO. Given that environment, I suppose it's easy for him to believe that a married woman's only reason to work outside the home would be for the fun and prestige of it.

Santorum probably would be shocked and amazed to discover that many people--educated, middle-class men and women--do not have gratifying careers. They have miserable, soul crushing jobs that they are afraid to leave because they are only one or two paychecks away from financial disaster. Many families need two payckecks to own a home. Many families aren't paid $70,000 to keep their kids at home.

Many workers--men and women--regard their lives as in hock to the employment world. They work forty hours a week in order to earn enough to ransom back two days a week and, if they are lucky, three weeks a year. They live this way, year after year, in the hopes that if they follow the rules in good faith they will be rewarded with a few years all their own sometime before they are completely worn out.

Tom Friedman thinks those workers have unrealistic expectations and a bad work ethic for wanting those two days a week for themselves. John Tierney thinks those workers are selfish and spoiled for not staying at work as long as their employers can still wring some work out of them. When asked to explain that crack, he added that the elderly were also out of line for not accepting lower pay as their energy declines. Such contempt for life experience seems like an odd position for a fifty-something writer to take.

Friedman and Tierney have highly respected, well rewarded, and satisfying careers. They can't imagine why some people look forward to the end of the day, to the weekend, to vacation, or to retirement. They're doing what they want to do, so a sixty hour week or a career into their late seventies doesn't seem like something to dread. If either of them ever was trapped on the "work to live, live to work" treadmill, it was so long ago that they have conveniently forgotten it.

Most of the people that I know who have jobs that they love, jobs that are a source of self-respect and satisfaction, do know that they are lucky. They have had bad jobs on their way to the good one. They remember trying to make ends meet, employment that was irrelevant to their interests and skills, and ego destroying bosses. They recognise that some of their friends and kin aren't as lucky as they are. They have a sense of perspective and live in the real world.

Santorum seems to think that all work is so satisfying that women would neglect their children to partake of it (and he clearly thinks not staying home IS neglect). Friedman and Tierney seem to think that all work is so satisfying that only great character flaws explain not wanting to do more of it for less pay. They are all living in a parallel world and working in a bizzaro workplace. Their world bears little resemblance to one the rest of us work in.

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