Perhaps out of a combination of peevishness and thirst, John Boehner recently blurted out, “I need this job like I need a hole in my head.” Of course, the job he was complaining about, Speaker of the House, third in line for the Presidency, happens to be well-paid, prestigious, and quite evidently can be performed, after a fashion, even when drunk. That is, it’s decidedly not like the jobs that the vast majority of Americans toil away at, should they be lucky enough to have a job at all. Call me crazy, but I find this attitude more than a little offensive, and depressingly common.
Far too many of our political and corporate overlords harbor feelings like Boehner, but most are smart (or sober, anyway) enough not to say so in front of the servants. The cherished myth is that these types enjoy their exalted positions due to a marvelous combination of hard work, talent, and brains that the rest of us “takers” supposedly lack, but the truth turns out to be pretty much the opposite.
When BP’s then-CEO Tony Hayward whined, after killing 11 people and permanently befouling the Gulf of Mexico, that he wanted “his life back,” ordinary people were rightly appalled; shortly thereafter BP did just that, but do you think he’s driving a cab now? Unlikely. Once you’ve joined the 1%, the game is so thoroughly skewed in your favor that even the most execrable job performance carries no consequence whatsoever, and chances are you’ll end up drawing hefty fees as a corporate director, doing even less work for more money. Failing that, there’s always a spot as a Fox News “contributor” or, worst case scenario, wingnut welfare will step gallantly into the breach.
Though they all like to threaten to go Galt, the fact is that most of them already have, long ago. It caused barely a ripple when corrupt toad Dick Armey fleeced FreedomWorks out of a cool $8 million, and indeed would have hardly registered at all, had not a gun been involved to add a little color to the story. No one was the least surprised, either, when John Breaux left congress to work for PhRMA before the ink was dry on his and Bush’s historic giveaway to that industry known as Medicare Part D.
There are two main reasons why conservatives in both parties are as slavishly devoted to shredding the threadbare social safety net as they are callously indifferent to the lack of decent, well-paying jobs: they are absurdly well paid to do next to nothing, and if they don’t even want to do that, their social safety net is quite secure, thank you.
The New York Times performed a valuable service this week when they analyzed the web of conflicts ensnaring the loudest austerity fetishists at “Fix the Debt,” but what was most revealing was that all the money its officers were paid by various interests slopping at the Government trough were the types of fake jobs only available to the predatory rich: multiple directorships paying hundreds of thousands annually for doing, well, nothing. Well, obviously not nothing; influence peddling is indeed something, but would not appear so to the bricklayer being told he should suck it up and keep working until age 70.
What made Boehner’s remark so infuriating is the complete lack of self-awareness it took to make it. Like Leona Helmsley explaining that only the little people pay taxes, Boehner just can’t help but remind Americans that, unlike them, he can quit anytime he wants, and continue in luxurious semi-retirement until he tips over, this time for good. Earth to Boehner: STFU. Please.
Image by don relyea under Creative Commons license