What Do You Work For?

Many of us work in jobs that are, at least remotely related to a field that we enjoy. Maybe you went to college in a scientific field or to be an engineer. You started out in that field and were successful and competent enough that you were promoted to management. You may not LOVE your job as a supervisor, but it pays the bills. Alternatively, maybe you didn’t go to college and you work in a service sector job, or you were able to get trained in a trade. You may not LOVE your job, but there are probably some aspects of it that you enjoy, whether it is helping people or small-talk, or the opposite (in the case of a career in carpentry or electrical work). At any rate, many of us strike off on one path, end up on another and cannot necessarily reevaluate due to financial obligations. I’m sure there is a technical term for this and I don’t know what it is, but I would call it “capitalism lock.”

While the US Congress was debating the $1.9b stimulus package that was just signed into law, the primary argument the Republicans gave for not wanting to continue with the federal support of increased unemployment benefits is that paying people NOT to work is a disincentive to work. I wholeheartedly disagree with that premise. I am certain there are people who have jobs that they do ONLY for the money. To me, that means there is something greater that person is meant to do. It also means that those jobs, the jobs that are available for unskilled workers, do not pay enough. There are plenty of people who would be happy enough to work at McDonald’s if the pay was a base living wage. It would 100% NOT be the exact same cohort of people who work at McDonald’s now. McDonald’s would not fall prey to socialism if they were forced to pay a living wage. They might replace workers with kiosks or something, but if money wasn’t an issue, would that be the worst thing?

Similarly, I have a job at a software company and I make a reasonable wage for my locality. I can afford a house and I do not want for anything, really. As I have had to reevaluate my relationship to my employer over the last few years, I am trying to decide what I am working for. Yes, money, but what if I would rather be doing something different, more aligned with my values, and what if I was willing to give up some money to do that? Money is not the ONLY thing people work for. But companies rely on people needing money to lock them into less-than-optimal employment situations.

I think the Republican Party is blind to the fact that there are many more reasons people work than just money, or possibly it is just an act. People who own and operate small businesses are mostly content to be sustainable. They are not interested in being the next tech billionaire; they would rather use their skills to provide goods and services to their community in whatever way they can. They would rather do what they love.

In fact, wouldn’t we all rather do something that we loved? Something we were good at? Somewhere we were appreciated? I mean, what do they think would actually happen if everyone worked at whatever they wanted for exactly $75k/year? Do they think every single person in the country would just lose all interest in being productive and instead just run around naked and do drugs all day? (Maybe for a couple weeks, that wouldn’t be so bad.)

I think this is a great experiment. If/when we decide, as a society, to value every person’s life the same amount as every other and stop rewarding bullshit jobs over those which would ask us to actually serve one another, we COULD have a wholly different society. No longer would those who actually do the least work and badly be promoted to management just because they suck up to the boss or are cis white men. I know several cis white men who would be the ones withdrawing from the productive workplace altogether. They are the ones who will fall into alternative realities on a screen instead of contributing to society by sharing their knowledge, skills or abilities with others. They are the ones who would look TERRIBLE in the new world where everyone makes the same amount of money and the hierarchy is determined solely on a non-financial basis.

Whoa.

Does this mean capitalism itself is the primary support mechanism of the white-supremacist, patriarchal, abusive-to-all society that we have been enduring? We COULD choose something different, better even?

All it would take is a universal basic income of $75k/yr and a 100% marginal income tax on all income above $250k/yr. I’d even say it could be on income above $400k/yr.

We would see VERY QUICKLY who are those who deserve to be supported, promoted and praised and who don’t. And something tells me that it would most definitely NOT be the same people who are making 6-, 7- or 8-figure incomes now. They would probably be playing video games.

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